Gentle reader, your diarist hates going to reunions of any kind—unwilling to measure the sadistic passing of time by smudges under familiar eyes, or to get trapped by well meaning semi-strangers making small talk.
So despite strict orders from one good friend from the Philadelphia High School for Girls (I tease her that I think of her as “Napoleon”), I never for a moment considered attending the recent reunion at a slick hotel in Philly. I did write a quick essay for the reunion website about my happy memories. I added one sentence about my clueless reaction to an event that took place freshman year. It seems that three of my friends had sex with a youngish, substitute (male) science teacher. One of the three girls told me about it right before French class. Instead of answering her, I opened my textbook and began reading.
My reference to the long ago event in the reunion blog has to do with my current dismay about my numb response to my classmate’s casual confession. I recall having no emotional response whatsoever. Perhaps it was because I didn’t know or speak much about sex in any of its forms.
After the reunion, “Napoleon” grimly reported that my three unnamed former classmates didn’t cop to participating in the sexual event, but created a near riot about my poor taste at referring to it, however briefly.
I was upset, but soon collected myself—a writer must stay a little ahead of conventional morality in order to create the occasional frisson that develops into a ripple.
But here’s the good news: I then picked up the telephone to call Marcia Hoffman Hutchinson, also my former classmate, whom I hadn’t spoken to in years. Marcia had long, strong red hair, usually in a ponytail. She wore white blouses and had old-fashioned curves. She looked like an Italian cameo in her full-length antique cheval mirror. I loved watching her downshift her family’s mid-century Jaguar sedan.
When we were kids, Marcia frequently welcomed me for weeks at a time into her parents’ old Philadelphia mansion—with an elevator, a Delft-tiled fireplace in the breakfast room and a balconied ballroom containing a full-length portrait of Marcia (my family was, shall we say, occasionally unwelcoming to me).
I didn’t get that Marcia was rich. I thought she and her family simply had the most fantastic visual taste in the world. I now see both things are true.
Talking to Marcia, who lives in a rural enclave just outside Boston, was like lowering myself into a warming bath. I got the scoop on the reunion—and learned she was mildly irked that she hadn’t heard about the aforementioned potential sex scandal until now.
Here’s a little more background on Marcia. After doing graduate work in anthropology at Berkeley, she studied psychotherapy and wrote several successful books, including 200 Ways To Love The Body You Have. She also designed our superb reunion website.
Her soothing perspective turns out to be an antidote to negativity. I love hearing about walks in her woods with her dog, Roxie. In many ways, her wisdom about the human spirit exceeds my own. I am trying to convince her to come to Manhattan, where we will check each other out in person. She tells me her hair hasn’t grayed, but it’s not as bright. Nonetheless I know she’s brightened and deepened.
Indeed, that weekend in Philadelphia is the best reunion I didn’t attend—ever.
Susan Braudy is the author and journalist whose last book, Family Circle: The Boudins and the Aristocracy of the Left, was nominated for a Pulitzer by publisher Alfred Knopf.
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