Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Everything I still don't know about 1980s bands (but still have the chance to learn)

It was one of those threads within the CA Class of ’84 Facebook group that started small and then grew and grew and grew.

And this time it was really interesting.

With our thirtieth reunion just three months away, there’s plenty of planning to do, plenty of pep-rallying to attempt (It won’t be fun if we don’t all go!), and no end to the reminiscing. (The Development Department would like me to insert a reminder here that there’s also supposed to be plenty of fundraising happening. Reunion years are expected to inspire large donations. Unfortunately, we seem to keep straying off-topic when the subject of annual giving comes up.)

This particular thread quickly grew more interesting than reminiscences about who sneaked in whose window (it was a boarding school) or who spent which night in the boathouse (it was on a river) or who got drunk at Louisa May Alcott’s birthplace (it was in Concord). One of my classmates posted that she was putting together a playlist, and that got everyone talking about music.

But it wasn’t quite what you might expect from the class of ’84. It wasn’t all Madonna or Wham or Culture Club. Because a lot of the people I went to high school with had truly sophisticated taste in music, and so listening to them reminisce is much more like taking a college-level class in 1980s musicology than spending an hour with the classic hits radio station.

X-Ray Spex. Mission of Burma. Adam Ant. Violent Femmes.  I remember some of the music. In other cases, I remember the band names but not the songs. Unsophisticated myself when it comes to musical tastes, both then and now, I certainly don’t have anything to add to the conversation about who saw which groups live (not to mention who ended up drinking in a London pub with which members of the British Invasion). But the conversation is interesting to me because it reminds me of what I like best about our high school reunions: the moments when we transcend the “Remember that night before the senior play” and “How did we ever get away with what happened on the class trip” to delve into cultural touchstones.

 Not that the reminiscing isn’t entertaining – it’s one of the main reasons people attend reunions -- but one thing that has always struck me about reunions is that by definition, they expose you to the remarkable experience of being in a room with several dozen people all born within a year of each other. Even without the shared memories of the boathouse, the sneaking-out-through-the-window, or the Nantucket class trip, I find it really interesting to share those cultural touchstone moments that define us merely by age, rather than by experience or high school popularity level.

I’m looking forward to our reunion in June for all of those reasons: the fun of being with old friends, the chance to connect with so many women and men with whom I have so much in common, and the reminiscing.

But it’s conversations like this thread about music that remind me I have always learned so much from this really interesting group of people. Thirty years after graduation,  I continue still to learn from them about music, and careers, and travel, and child-rearing, and difficult decisions.

And before our reunion weekend ends, I might even finally learn who passed out at Louisa May Alcott’s birthplace.

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