I didn't want to go to my high school reunion. It sounded like torture. But two best friends talked me into it. "It'll be a blast," said #1 best friend. "You can finally get revenge on the Nasty Girl who said that nasty thing to you when you were 15 that you've never forgotten. Even your twins know about it, don't they?" said #2 best friend.
Yes, that's correct. The Nasty Girl said something nasty to me. Even today it makes me grimace and stew and boil inside. In my dreams, I plot acts of mass destruction. And yes, my kids know all about it too. "Are you going to punch the Nasty Girl?" they asked.
No, I wasn't going to punch her, but I was going to tell her to "rack off".
I wore my prettiest red dress. I debated whether to pull my hair in a ponytail or do something radical like get a blow-dry. But, at the last minute, I chose to stick to the Marcia Brady style that has served me well over the decades. Only this time I gave the bobby pins a miss. "You look pretty good," said one child. "You just look like you," said the other.
The School Beauty, the Nasty Girl, the Nerd and the Chubby Girl. They were all waiting at the entrance with trays of champagne. They were beaming with the snide satisfaction one gets having organised the event and getting to watch the arrivals while scoring them out of 10.
First shock of the evening: the Chubby Girl was unrecognisable. Stunning, in fact. She'd lost tonnes of weight and had a nose job.
The Nerd was a computer scientist and the only thing nerdy about her was the gold Rolex on her wrist. "I remember you," she said to me. "You were always in the library. Reading and writing. I read your work all the time. You're an author now, too, right? Once a nerd, always a nerd," she gushed.
Far out -- the Nerd was calling me a nerd! I was one of the cool girls. Hanging out in the library was cool, right? (The library was said to be haunted by the ghost of an old boarding school mistress who wandered the corridors with a ruler in her hand, ready to whack the desks of any chatterboxes.)
The once-chubby-now-stunning girl knew that I was a news reporter.
"I just loved that dog story you did on Channel Seven. The pink poodle in Double Bay. Hilarious!"
Great. I tried to explain that was the only dog story I'd ever done on TV. I've also been a political reporter, a Beijing correspondent and a finance journalist, but she just wanted to talk about the dog story.
"A pink poodle, hahaha. I bet that was a career-defining moment, hahaha," she snorted.
"Rack off," I said in my head.
Romy & Michele
Remember the scene from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion where the girls were so desperate to be seen as worthy by former classmates they lied and said they invented Post-it notes? Well, I wish I'd said I invented Youtube.
I stood with my circle of friends. The ones I'd chosen to stay in touch with. I clung to them and watched the others: the ones I'd chosen not to stay in touch with. Then the School Beauty, who was still very beautiful, made her way around the room. She approached all the old-girls, one at a time.
If one was not wearing a wedding or engagement ring, she'd ask, "Not married? What's the story?" Her next target: the women who were wearing a ring. These ladies were asked, "Any babies?" God forbid if the answer was negative because the next question was a simple, "Why not?!"
School reunions are a hothouse of angst and mistaken identities. Many people did not recognise me. At school I was tall with long blond hair. I am still tall with long blond hair. I was a book nerd and I became a writer. Simple, yes? One woman approached me and all I remember about her is she had a crush on an elderly (early 40s) maths teacher who walked around with a pocket full of keys. Jangle, rattle, jangle, rattle. We'd hear Mr Bath well before we saw him.
So, this lady accused me of being the daughter of a well-known filthy rich mining magnate. If only that were true. "No, you're thinking of somebody else. Sure, we lived in Mosman Park, but we're on the Red Rooster side. Not the Swan river side. Big difference, y'know," I said.
Another woman accused me of being the musical theatre star of the school. If only. "No. I think you're thinking of Jackie. I'm Libby-Jane."
"Um. I was the, ah, book nerd. My library was my best friend?"
Three champagnes under my belt. Finally it was time to approach the Nasty Girl. She was still quite pretty. The years had been kind. Word was out she ran her own interior design business and was regularly featured in Vogue Living. Big-bleeping deal. I bet she hasn't been on TV reporting about a pink poodle in Double Bay. I refused to be intimidated. Just before I approached her, one of my friends said, "Go, LJ. I'll back you up if you need me."
It was time to let Nasty Girl know that the nasty thing she said about me in Year 11 has haunted me all these years. Forget about time healing wounds. This wound is still seeping blood and pus and melancholy.
"Hello there," I said, cool as ice. The Nasty Girl looked me square in the eye. She said my name and threw her arms around me. She said it was great to see me again. Then, just as I was about to tell her that I have never forgotten the nasty thing she said to me -- she did something I did not expect. She said it again!
Yes, she repeated it, word for word. I was so shocked I almost choked on my smoked salmon blini. I quickly excused myself and rushed to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror. OMG, maybe she was right. I do look a little like the famous person she accused me of looking like who, at the time, filled me with horror in the way only a teenager could feel about her looks. I was trying to decide whether to laugh or cry when a small person appeared by my side at the mirror.
"Hello, LJ," said a sweet, tiny lady who I distinctly recall vomiting in a teachers lap during Religious Education. "I remember you. You dated football players. I saw you on the arm of a West Coast Eagle. Then you dated his team mate, right?"
Finally, somebody really remembered me. I hugged her. I think I even kissed her cheek.
Anyway, I'm not going to the next school reunion. Too busy re-inventing Post it notes.