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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Internet Killed the School Reunion Star


Recently attending the alumni reunion at The Governor's Academy (formerly Governor Dummer Academy (GDA)), which is the oldest continuously operating boarding school in the U.S., aptly is prompting advocating ending high school and college reunions in the Internet Age. This does not reflect on the quality of the student experience and is not intended to influence any thoughts regarding financially supporting the school.

Any school reunion is obsolete in the Internet Age that allows easily connecting with classmates and meeting under circumstances completely of your own choosing. ANYONE from ANY GDA class is most welcome to reach out and touch me via tvdvdguy@gmail.com; we'll do lunch.

An analogy is a personal dislike of most company holiday parties. You must disrupt your weekend to talk to folks with whom you are in daily contact, and you do not talk to the people with whom you never interact.

Connecting online with good friends from GDA and staying in touch to varying extents over the past 10 years has been great. This includes valued communication with a friend with mutual support.

An offshoot of this is organizing local alumni meetup groups in which folks gather for fun activities at times and places of their choosing.

The broader analogy is video in the form of MTV killing the radio star in the '80s.

A sub-topic is the more longstanding issue of whether you can go home again. The sad response that is elaborated on below is that you often cannot return to your roots.

A prime example of a modern reunion is a mini-gathering in New York City regarding which I was the "spouse." I enjoyed meeting everyone, and especially liked a friendly NPR guy with a good sense of humor. Having outsider status was easier than if I had been on a somewhat isolated campus. I happily roamed the streets of Manhattan playing with dogs and getting a slice much of the time that the group reminisced.

Proposed Middle Road ground is my offer to organize an unofficial All-Classes weekend gathering at a luxury historic hotel near the GDA campus in mid-April 2019. The level of response to this thought will determine whether it is executed.

The initial benefit is that an April date does not conflict with other obligations during the "event" season of June. There are no graduations or official school reunions. Also, there are far fewer anniversary parties, weddings, and family reunions.

The primary advantage is that the heavy lifting falls on the hotel staff, which deals with events everyday. They will handle room reservations and other logistics. The simple model is that strict deadlines exist regarding committing to meals, and anyone missing out on the block of rooms must solely work with the hotel. Any member of the GDA community is welcome to help plan the event. The only rule is that you MUST check your hostility at the door.

Activities would include movie screenings (of course),  dinner at which members of various classes would openly mingle among themselves and with past and current faculty and staff, a talk and book signing on the history of the hotel, and faculty members discussing notable pursuits.

Of course, informal discussion of scandals (including the teacher and the hunky senior doing it in the closet during the faculty Christmas party) will provide additional entertainment.

The bigger picture supports either limiting communication with most classmates to the wireless variety or only physically connecting with kindred spirits. The answer to a classic question is that we cannot all get along in this era in which one half of the country hates the other half and vice versa. The added insult to this injury is that a few groups are the privileged elite with a true "safe space" in that they can lash out as violently as desired and ANY response makes that person the bad guy.

A gathering of high school or college classmates should be a safe space to the extent that it does not involve the hostility that can be a part of outside world interactions. This sadly is not always the case.

An amusing example of the ease of squabbling dates at least to the prior reunion. The class ubernerd posted a photo of faculty members; the class asshole responded "so what?" The rest of us did not care one way or the other, and at least one of us considered the entire incident hilarious.

An incident this past weekend is less amusing and better illustrates the national conflict. I was saying my goodbyes at a lunch when a classmate who arguably is an overly passionate activist got very angry and violently yelled at me because I was not attending an event centered around a classmate. This person did not apologize when politely told why there was no cause to even think ill of me. (The hilarious and unkind responses have been limited to my mind.)

The rest of the story is that I had already done my due diligence regarding the classmate hosting the event to the degree of paying homage and explaining why I was unavailable that afternoon. Even this is irrelevant in that my attacker ain't my 'rent, and I ain't five.

It is even more amusing that the Governor's Academy administration is keeping the tradition of varsity letters alive. A maroon "G" on a name tag is the opposite of a scarlet "A" in that it communicates that the wearer is a regular donor. A silver "G" indicates higher status. Folks without any letter are the hoi polloi.

The fairy tale ending with the moral is that the "bastards" :-) in my class deserting me by not staying for the class dinners opened the door for a subgroup from another class to adopt me and make that meal a reunion highlight. I also found out about the fabled "Gramby" wrestling move. The moral is that finding people who choose to provide love and laughter when your actual family does not is awesome.

As always, questions and comments are always welcome in this post, as email to tvdvdguy@gmail.com, or a Twitter connection via @tvdvdguy.