I Hear Billy Ocean Is Looking for a Gig

This year is my twentieth high school reunion (let’s hear it for the class of ‘88!). Or I should say it would be my twentieth reunion, if my class were actually marking the occasion.

A couple of my good friends are ostensibly in charge of organizing the event, but their enthusiasm for a celebration has ranged from apathy to outright hostility (one of my friends said that he “could give a piss less about a reunion” – ouch). Considering these responses, and the fact that it’s already late summer, I doubt I’m dressing up and sucking in my stomach to hobnob with people I haven’t thought about in two decades — alas.

I’m not exactly sad there will be no reunion. But the fact that it’s not happening provoked me to leaf through my old yearbook for the first time this century. I was struck by something that I had never noticed before.

Most of the people I went to school with had names that fell into one of two categories.

There were the Meyers, Millers, and Schultzes – good hardy Germanic stock, usually tall and/or big.

There were the Zelewskis, Swiecichowskis, and Kocorowskis – Eighth-generation Polish kids.

The exceptions, in turn, usually fell into two subcatagories:

There were the Radovancevics, Stojsavljevics, and Videkoviches – basically, the Serbs (my hometown has the biggest population of Serbs outside Serbia).

There were the Washingtons, Jeffersons, and Carters – obviously, the black kids.

As odd as it seems, I had never noticed the lack of Hispanics in my school. We had one Martinez in my class of three hundred or so. Even I didn’t stand out back then, because I had a different last name (see my earlier post on this).

I don’t know if my awareness of this fact is because I’ve embraced my Hispanic identity more over the last twenty years, or if I simply was more focused at the time on teenage obsessions like girls, music, and girls.

Or maybe I was a unknowing pioneer in my city, a stray Latino who was a harbinger of a more diverse, multicultural future. I’d like to think that this last option is the truth, and that the class of ’08 has so many Hispanics that the place is up to five categories of names.

But to verify this theory, I would have to wander the halls of my old high school, and I don’t believe anyone wants to see an unaccompanied Gen X guy skulking around, asking random teenagers racially loaded questions. No, I don’t think that’s such a good idea.

Regardless, perhaps it’s for the best that I’m not having a reunion. I’d probably just spend the time talking to the friends I’ve stayed in touch with (defeating the purpose of a “reunion”) and scouring the event for that Martinez kid so that I could share my insight. And I just know that, eventually, a group of aging jocks would get hammered and start singing “Welcome to the Jungle.”

So yes, perhaps it’s all for the best.


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August 2008
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