High School Reunion Confidential

Friday, October 07, 2011

Question

After missing several class reunions, I went to my first one last month. In high school, I was the one that everybody called a creep and a nerd. Why would I ever want to see those people again? Then I looked up some of my former classmates on-line and discovered that, compared to most of these guys, I'm in good shape. I look better and have more money than the bullies who used to terrify me. So I bought my plane tickets and registered for the damned thing.

The whole reunion was surreal. People kept coming up to me and acting like we had been great friends. After a while, I stopped correcting them and just danced with a series of girls, none of whom would ever have dated me when I was 16 or 17. It felt like I was in a movie when one of the worst offenders tried to suck up to me to get a job interview. I put on a fake positive attitude and told him, “Send me your resume, I'll look it over.” I cringe when I think how pompous I must have sounded. He was pathetically grateful. I think I resent feeling sorry for somebody who used to shove me into lockers.

I was a little drunk by then. So it took me a while to figure out that the attractive woman I was chatting with was his wife. He left the event to go to his night job. She continued to pay attention to me, and eventually I took her back to my hotel room for an hour or so of hot revenge sex. She had been head cheerleader, yearbook editor, the whole nine yards. I don't know how many times I used to whack off, thinking about this girl, but she was awful in bed. Just laid there staring at me. Awful, awful, awful.

The next day, I felt terrible. Hung over, cranky, and guilty. I kicked her out in the middle of a story about how long her husband had been looking for work. Did he ask her to seduce me so that I would give him a job? That's disgusting, but it's even worse to think how desperate they must be. I can't remember if they have any kids. If my company could use his skills, I might have hired him just to make myself feel better.

She spent the whole night with me. She ordered breakfast for both of us from room service before I could get rid of her. So he's got to know she was screwing around on him, right? But this isn't all her fault. I was only too happy to get in her panties as if I was still a kid with out of control acne and a stammer. I have two voice mails from him, and I haven't listened to either one of them.

I'm not a monster. I don't know what came over me. Behaving that way is so out of character. Was I being sexually compulsive? Should I call him up and apologize? I live in another city, thank God, so I don't have to worry about running into them, but I think future high school reunions are out of the question.

Answer

Oh, dear. I'm not sure what's worse, the reunion itself or the aftermath. You are kicking yourself around a lot for acting like a human being. That said, I think the decision to avoid these people in the future is probably a wise one.

It is indeed weird how much power adolescence has over our supposedly adult selves. It sounds to me like you went there in part to heal some painful memories and see yourself in a different light. But the actions that were supposed to show how superior you were backfired. Instead of feeling successful, handsome, and mature, you are calling yourself pompous and a host of other names.

But isn't it pretty normal to get drunk at a reunion and have sex with someone inappropriate? The married woman who went to your hotel was a consenting adult. You may never know what her motives were, but you did succeed in clarifying that revenge sex is not going to help you to feel better.

I have no idea whether you were being sexually compulsive or not. I'd need a more complete history of other sexual behavior. Compulsion consists of many incidents of unwanted behavior that you feel powerless to stop even though the consequences are negative. For now, it's enough for us to know that on this occasion, you didn't live up to your own values. You behaved like one of the people who used to harass you. If you were sexually compulsive and went to a 12-step meeting, you'd probably hear that addicts in recovery make direct amends only when we can do so without creating further harm. Whether the job-seeking bully knows his wife was with you or not, once you apologize to him, he has to acknowledge it. Their marriage may be hanging together with a few thin strings of denial. If it's going to get fucked up, let them do it without your help.

Can you bring the focus back to yourself, and to the present moment of your life? You don't mention a wife (or any close relationship) of your own. Have you channeled too much of your energy into work, and forgotten to save a little for a private life? At various points in one's life, it's often helpful to sit down and figure out what agreements you have been trying to fulfill. It's amazing how much power these forgotten contracts can have over our quality of life. For example, an abused child might vow, “I will never trust anyone” or even “I will never love anyone.” Vulnerability or dependence has been equated with getting hurt. In a child's relatively powerless world, this makes a certain kind of sense. Feeling hostility toward one's abusers may be more healthy than getting suckered into loving them and trying to justify their behavior. But as an adult, when they have a lot more resources, this person might pass up chances to give and receive love because of that bitter and out-dated bargain.

You've proved you are able to be successful on a financial level. How about making a plan to increase the amount of happiness, love, and reciprocal desire in your life? As well as good sex, of course. If that sounds like an overwhelmingly tall order, feel free to write again.

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