This is why school reunions are important

School reunions prove that the child who dares to be different will survive the cruelty of youth, says Beth Cooper Howell in her Woman on Top column today

Yesterday I received a copy of The Riebeek, my alma mater’s annual school magazine.

It was obvious, trawling through pages celebrating its 140-year-old history, why Riebeek College in Uitenhage continues to churn out media stars, doctors, architects, journalists, lawyers – and other sterling women. A good school is a lifetime of experience.

For logistical reasons, I missed my 25-year reunion, despite having promised (publicly, in a column) that I wouldn’t.

I’m all for reunions. I missed my 20-year one, too, but for that I blame the baby and my poor parenting skills since I hibernate until my children are well over two.

I did go to my first one and come hell or high water, I wanted to be at the next. But, if you can’t, there’s always Facebook.

It struck me while browsing my magazine that reunions are not only a fun distraction and excuse to roll kid-free of an afternoon – they’re actually quite vitally important milestones in our general evolution.

You may ask why and the answer is: simply because they prove, beyond doubt, that those who march to the beat of a different drum – those who were rebels, or creative, or a bit shy – have turned out more than okay.

They’ve won the world over with their absolute, steadfast refusal to bow to the god of mediocrity.

It’s true. Look at your own hall of records. There’s one in every class: she wore her hair funny, or had giant glasses, said little and was cast as The Nerd from year dot; or she eschewed sport in favour of dramatic stage roles and listened to The Cure while everyone else was in fluorescents, bopping to Wham!

I checked on two of those girls and yes, ma’am, they take the cake.

Lila – she had no friends and used to sit outside the music rooms doodling and singing to herself – is head honcho of a creative arts company with a multi-million-rand turnover.

Bella, who used to float down the corridor and wear dreamy gypsy skirts and be labelled “strange” is an executive TV producer who owns a string of farms along the coast.

And there are more. I like to think that I’m one of them, but in truth, I’m not. Everybody knew I would be “in English or something” and do “writing or something” and, oh look, I was predictable. As were most of us.

But not those classmates with a secret rhythm beating in their heads while you and I were plucking our eyebrows and scribbling love notes.

That’s why I love reunions – at schools and on Facebook. Anywhere really. They prove that the child who dares to be different will survive the cruelty of youth. And blaze a trail for the rest of us who need to be reminded that we still have time.


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