Sunday, 31 August 2014

I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now

I went to a reunion and it got me thinking about life. Everyone else got pissed.

At the age of fifty-something, I'd never been to a reunion before. No school reunions, no college reunions. When I finally ended up going to a reunion it was for a punk club.

It was all Facebook's fault. I try not to do nostalgia: 'You can never go back' is one of my mottos. (The other's one is 'Life's too short'.) But one of my friends invited me to a Facebook group, and it was a laugh discussing questions like 'What's the best Clash album?' and 'The Stranglers - punk rock band or pub rock bandwagon jumpers?'

And others like 'Do you still feel like a punk?' and 'Who thinks they are old?' (So, it's not just me thinking about life after all - although you can usually rely on someone to lower the tone if things get too serious.)

At some point someone mentioned a reunion. And everyone got really excited. And then about a week before, the anxiety started creeping into people's posts. What do you wear to a reunion? What if we don't recognise each other?

And I started wondering: do you talk about 'then' or about 'now'?

I've always imagined that at 'real' reunions, people talk about status stuff like the number of children and cars they've got. I'd never want to do that. But I'm interested in the 'now' and 'then' of people's lives, and the connections. And as I joined in the handclaps on Do Anything You Wanna Do, I couldn't help wondering: how many of us did?

I imagine the answer for most of us is that we did some of the things we wanted to do, some of the time. My life's quite good now - I am grateful for my second chances - but it's more boring than when I was 18. Let's face it, everyone's life is more boring than when they were 18.

It's a good time to meet again: at our age, those of us who've survived have been through things and come out the other side. Everyone's got a story to tell, even if most of them were too busy partying to tell it.

And it was a bit like a real party - music (the best music), booze, people - but with the added bonus of saying 'Do I know you?' at the beginning of every conversation.

I didn't know many people back then - too shy to make friends. I'm pretty sure that I talked to some people for the first time, not in 35 years but ever. And they were nice people. I don't know what I was so scared of.

I talked to people I thought I knew, and people who thought they knew me. I failed to recognise some people I used to know. I got information overload from all the names and faces. And I tried not to revert to my 18-year-old self. Even if I did actually find myself staring at my shoes at one point. They're nice shoes, but... I'm a grown-up, I work for myself and I go to business networking events without being nervous. I don't actually want to go back to 1977.

And I shocked myself by how little I remember about 'then'. Someone asked me about my memories and I struggled to find any. There are more feelings than facts. Most of what I remember is an atmosphere, and the music.

The music was great, of course. There was dancing, and it didn't hurt til later. And there was something special about being in a room full of people my own age for a change. With no young people there to compare ourselves to, you could forget that we weren't all still 18. Some of us are stouter, most are greyer (except the bald ones and those with purple hair), but it was dark and  - for one night only - we didn't look old. We didn't feel old, either.

In short, it was kind of fun and kind of weird. And it made me think, which is a dangerous thing.  I've done the 'then' and 'now', maybe it's time to start wondering about the 'next'.