Few experiences generate the combination of excitement, anguish, fun and dread as the high school reunion. No matter what we've accomplished since graduation, the prospect of reuniting with old high school classmates can instantly transport us back—for better or worse. Before the big event, it may serve you well to brush up on a few etiquette tips to help you take on the reunion as the mature, wise adult you are today.
1. Remember who you are today. You may have felt like the mayor of Geekville in high school, but with the perspective of age and experience, you now realize that that many of your peers felt the same way. Maintain a firm foothold in your life today and resist falling back into your perceived social standing, whether you were a wallflower or the head cheerleader.
2. Step out of your comfort zone. Mingle with others, even those classmates you never talked to back in the day. Pretend you are meeting people you've never met before—everyone has changed since your high school days, even you.
3. Show respect for significant others. If you see your high school flame and his or her spouse, it's fine to say hello and chat. Be friendly without flirting and keep conversation focused on the present; it is not the time to reminisce about all the wild and crazy times you shared. If you are bringing your spouse, don't leave them stranded alone at the punchbowl while you pal around with your old field hockey team.
4. Take stock of your personal accomplishments. Give yourself a lift by doing a written inventory of everything you've achieved since high school: college, travel, family, career, whatever your "personal bests" have been. It's hard not to compare ourselves to others and think about where we are now versus where we thought we'd be when we were in high school. If you were voted "Most Likely to Succeed," but find yourself currently unemployed, don’t let that be a deterrent from going and networking with your former classmates. You will be surprised how the economy has affected your past group of friends—it’s not just you.
5. Practice your poker face. While you may feel shocked at how your peers have changed, make an attempt to keep your jaw from dropping and not openly display the shock you feel: "Oh my gosh, what happened to you?"
6. If you were a donkey (a.k.a. an ass) then, you don’t have to carry it over now. Maybe you were the class clown and feel the urge to make jokes at someone else's expense. You may have some lingering resentment toward the snotty teen queen who made fun of you for four straight years. Now is not the time to make up for it. You're wise, witty and well balanced… remember? Be civil. If you find someone evokes bad feelings in you, even after all these years, do your best to move on or just avoid them.
7. Dress the part. You'll give yourself an extra boost of confidence by dressing well and looking your best. If you have a couple of months’ notice, a reunion can be a great motivator to exercise and eat well. If you're going with friends, it might be a fun to get a makeover or shop together. Do not, under any circumstances, try to fit into the same clothes you wore in high school, even if you are the same size.
8. Keep it in perspective. There's no need to blow your budget on designer clothes or completely reinvent yourself to impress people you haven't seen since high school and will likely not see again until the next reunion.
9. Don't brag. Even if you are wildly successful and fabulously wealthy, stay humble, ask questions of others and don't bore people with a long list of your accomplishments.
10. Liar, liar pants on fire. Don’t fabricate any elaborate stories about your past or present life. Remember that the truth is only an internet search away.
11. Give your old classmates a break. That nerdy guy from homeroom may have gone on to be a rocket scientist and the girl who always managed to do just a little bit better than you on every assignment may be suffering from a recent divorce. You never know what has gone on in the past several years. Take the time to build a new and improved relationship.
12. Take it all in stride. For better or worse, the reunion will come and go and you will go back to your life better off for attending. Take advantage of seeing old friends and making new ones. Relax and have a great time.
Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @: www.twitter.com/DianeGottsman.