Reunited -- and It Feels So Good?

(Photos By Jay Paul For The Washington Post)
By Julia Feldmeier
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 8, 2006

In Room 440 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Bethesda, Marnie Rode takes a last look in the mirror. Hair updo still in place? Check. Breath mint? Check. Feeling glam in the new black dress she purchased just for this occasion, her 20th high school reunion?

She smooths nonexistent wrinkles in the fabric.

Beside her is Yolanda Hester, a fellow alum from Montgomery Blair High School's Class of 1986 who flew in from Los Angeles for the occasion. Hester's outfit screams cool: black halter dress, knee-high boots, a men's tie slung fashionably around her neck. Her body language says otherwise: Arms crossed, she looks as if she might bolt for the next transcontinental flight. Her mouth curves into a half-smile:

"This is gonna be weird."

It is weird. Reuniting with classmates from 20 years ago, boogie-woogie-woogieing to the electric slide, reliving an adolescence that, frankly, most of us look back on with a fondness that comes only with a chapter closed. Why, then, would anyone want to reopen it?

Shelly Modes, co-owner of Capital Reunions, a Fairfax-based reunion planning service, says people attend because these events, bless 'em, are like high school -- minus the baggage.

"They go back to the reunion, and they still see each other as young," Modes says. "It makes them feel like they're right back in high school but without all the awkwardness, without the cliques."

Attendance varies with the reunion year. Sandy Gosper of Great Reunions, a Garden Grove, Calif., company that organizes about 500 of the events a year, says 20- and 50-year reunions typically draw the highest numbers, with about 25 percent of a class turning out. Roughly one-fifth of a class turns out for the 10-year reunion. The Montgomery Blair Class of 1986 reunion had 80 attendees from a class of roughly 350 -- a seemingly balanced cross section of alumni from the Silver Spring school: black and white, theater junkies and jocks, potheads and pompom girls.

Schadenfreude may be a motive for attending. "Everybody wants to find out what happened to the football heroes and the cheerleaders, and you rejoice when you see that they're out of shape," says Edith Wagner, editor of Reunions magazine.

Looks are an inescapably big part of reunions. For lack of initial conversation, there is much sizing up.

Rene Vacchio is standing by the entrance to the party room at the Hyatt, cocktail in hand, when she spots fellow Blair alum Charlene Yim. Their conversation goes like this:

Charleeeeeeeeeeeene! You are so beautiful!

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