Rules for Surviving Your High School Reunion

High school is terrible to those who suffer under its defining principle: transformation is impossible in real time. With the exception of miracles occasionally wrought by summer — good day, fat camp! — few escape the personality they rode in on freshman year.

Life is high school, except you get a few years to work on your inner Heather before she makes her debut into society. And by "society," I mean the ecosystem that is your high school reunion.

It's an environment you can thrive in. The key to any reunion is that these people don't actually know you. You just have to remind them of that. Because now you're a woman of taste. A woman of reason, even. You're accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and you've figured out how to maintain that lifestyle at all costs. Oh, yes, you're an adult. The rent gets paid, you have places to go, you've learned to dress yourself. You have a style. And friends to match. (Oh, the friends you have.)

Who cares if you were Election's grade-grubbing Tracy Flick? Certainly not your former classmates — unless they want to be on the wrong side of history. Last weekend I swung by a New York meet up for my all-girls boarding school and gleaned a few rules for your future foray.

Rule #1: Less is More

Instead of talking to anyone who'll listen, drink in your surroundings like that cocktail in your hand. Don't check your phone. This isn't an elevator. Need a sanctioned activity? Play with your lighter. If you need a role model, think Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. There is no one better to emulate than Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. Seriously, I don't see why you shouldn't wear a sleeveless turtleneck. The glasses on the shrink in that movie aren't bad either. Leave the Romy and Michele ditzy bit to someone else. You have a brain. Even if you don't, looking bored will give the impression that you do. Eyes at half mast, kids!

Rule #2: Be Discreet

People are going to want to talk about your job. If you have a cool job, you have a cool job. Whatever. What's more important is your lifestyle. Don't talk about money. If you get conned into a conversation about the mechanics of your situation I'd go with a deadpan, "I never work." Keep them guessing — and also keep in mind that most people will be accountants and paralegals. So.

Rule #3: Dress the Part

If you wore a Coach bag in high school, I understand the impulse to overcorrect. Don't. If you didn't inherit a Louis Vuitton piano bag from your mother, it's silly to purchase one now. Wear black. In Now and Then, Demi Moore comes back in menswear buttoned to her chin, talking fast and chain smoking.

Ditto for John Cusack in high-school reunion flick Grosse Pointe Blank, but with the wise addition of sunglasses — and a body count — to his funeral ensemble. Feel free to steal his line: "I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How have you been?"

And don't overdo your look. You can show skin on top or show skin on the bottom — never both. Choose which end wisely. In the end, a generalized malaise is the perfect topcoat to a well-tailored outfit.

Rule #4: Closing Time

Ideally, like in The Big Chill, someone is going to give you illegal stock advice (culled from their father) right before last call. Take it.

And finally, don't accept invitations to "do brunch" that slur around as people try to flag down off-duty cabs. Because that's the real redeeming aspect of adulthood: You don't have to hang out with anyone you don't want to.

[Photo Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images]

Kaitlin Phillips is a writer living in Manhattan. Her work has appeared in Vice, New York, and n+1.

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