High school wasn’t the happiest of times. There’s no way I would want to go back to those pimply, angst ridden, arrogant years.

I thought I knew everything. I couldn’t be told I was wrong, and nobody – especially my parents – understood me.

Like all teenagers, I believed that I was the only person in the world to have been heartbroken, have acne, have a curfew and have embarrassing parents. (Well, Mum could be embarrassing, she had her own red stop sign made, which she would wave at the cars when we had to cross the busy road in front of our unit block. And she would threaten to wear her badge declaring, ‘I’m Jessica Rowe’s mother’, if we didn’t cross the road with her and that wretched red sign!)

Apart from embarrassing mothers, I do believe that being a teenager can be the pits. You believe you’re far more grown up than you really are, you’re trying to fit in with the cool group at the same time that you’re attempting to rebel against all the sensible people in your life.

Just combine that with the hormones raging through your system. I don’t think I was always a very nice person during those years, so I’m not in a hurry to go back there.

And it’s not just because I want to forget those 80s fashion shockers. My mother would frequently tell me there was no way I was going out in that boob tube and fluoro pink bubble skirt. Mum could have grounded me for crimes against fashion, but she told me I couldn’t wear my ensemble out the front door because the skirt, “is barely covering your bottom, my darling!” I just simply stashed the gear in the garbage bin and got changed huddled behind our front fence.

So recently when the invitation came for my 25 year school reunion, I deleted it. I rationalised my decision by telling myself that because I had to get up early for work the next day it would be ‘smart’ not to go out. What?!

There have been plenty of times when I’ve turned into a pumpkin, resorted to litres of Visine eye drops and extra concealer to get through a work shift because I wasn’t going to miss out on a good party. The real reason I didn’t go to the reunion? I was a chicken; a scaredy cat. It didn’t matter that 25 years had passed, just thinking about school makes me feel like that sometimes vile, insecure, and acne-covered student I had been.

It’s bizarre how I can constantly forget what day my eldest daughter has library at school, but I can remember exactly how I felt when I was the new girl in year seven. Nervous. Lonely. Afraid.

I feel ashamed recalling how in year nine, we would terrorise our Indonesian teacher, mock our music teachers because of her crossed eyes and swing on our chairs in Latin class and yell out absurd pronunciations to another frazzled teacher. I’ve still got a letter that my best friend wrote to me, explaining that her decision to smoke drugs at school was hers alone and since I wasn’t into that, we shouldn’t be friends anymore.

I can still feel my elbows resting on the wooden benches in the science labs and the despair I felt during physics lessons. I thought my dorky science teacher was speaking Latin when he explained velocity, speed, and torque… or something like that. Then and there I decided I was a failure, that I would fail the HSC and be a failure in life. Oh, the drama of being a teenage girl!

I still have those recurring exam nightmares where I believe I’m the only one who has forgotten to study. Even though I wake up from them, I don’t want to go back to that murky, scary teenager time – even for a night.

And that is why I’m happy to be a chicken and stay home.


Are you a school reunion “avoidant?” Did you go to yours?




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*Jessica Rowe is a broadcaster and writer who, in a career spanning 20 years, has worked at all the major Australian commercial television networks. She is has written the best selling book, Love. Wisdom. Motherhood as well as co-authoring The Best of Times, the Worst of Times with her mother Penelope Rowe. Follow Jessica on Twitter @msjrowe or visit her website at


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  • Reply November 5, 2012


    Invitations to school reunions are like those letters from your GP telling you that it’s time to have another pap smear. Except I’d rather have the pap smear. What is the purpose of school reunions anyway? I have never understood why a bunch of complete strangers want to get together in a room and pretend that they once all liked each other. Most articles about school reunions, including this one, tend to focus on how much everyone did whatever they could to get out of doing any school work, or how naughty they were, compared to their now mature selves. I was a very boring, lonely teenager who actually liked studying, reading and exercising intellectual muscle. I still do. I did well at school. It was the only thing that I had that I could clutch onto to make me feel that I had something positive in my life. I was not allowed to go out much, and was not allowed to wear trousers (of any kind), or anything black. High heels were out of the question. I had 3 sisters which in itself, had plenty of positives, except that I had to wear their hand-me-downs. I rarely had new clothes. At my school, all of this made me at best a curiosity, at worst a freak. I really don’t need to go back to those memories.

  • Reply November 5, 2012

    Wendy Harmer

    I am SO with you, Jess. The thought of a high school re-union ( I went to three), where I always the funny-looking kid in the wrong colour uniform, makes my blood run cold.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I avoided all reunions until the 30th. I am so glad I went and also content with not having gone until then. The consensus of opinion was that the 30th was the best (so far). Everybody was over the need to prove their life was in any way perfect, there were plenty of disastrous relationships, financial troubles, careers gone south and remade, happiness found in unexpected places with unexpected people and a wonderful warmth filled the old school hall. Girls who thought they knew it all turned into fully formed independent and opinionated generous hearted women. I remade some old friends into new friends with shared history.
    Start gathering your courage for next time Jessica.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I think it was Gloria Steinem who said of school reunions: “They (former schoolmates) will forgive you if you are rich but they will never forgive you if you are thin.” You should have gone, Jessica! That’s from someone who has also passed on school reunions this year, two of them from different schools. Alas, i am neither rich nor thin.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I am with you Jess! I’ve not attended any of the school reunions I’ve been invited to, and there have been a few. I didn’t have any issues at school, for me they were fun times. I from school I have gone on to have a successful career. I feel that if I wanted to spend time with anyone from school days I’d still be friends with them now, wouldn’t I? I’d rather spend that time with current friends and family. You do what you feel content about and don’t cave into pressure!

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I’ve been too scared to go to my 15th & 20th just because I do not want to be judged by these strangers who I once spent some (forced) time with. However maybe by 30th after they have raised their families & dealt with their own teenagers that I can face the unfamilar faces.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    Jess, it’s never as bad as you think. Having said that, at my 30th it was said that those that didn’t attend, REALLY didn’t want to be there and those at the reunion REALLY wanted to be. By the 30th there is no competition. The women all look fabulous , the men…..not so much! Fun and then at the end of the night we all say goodnight only to see each other in another 10 years. (Actually by the 30th we made it in another 5 years as time is not kind)

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    Nope, I don’t do school reunions. It’s one of the few things I don’t even have to put any thought into – it’s just no.

    I didn’t like school but I didn’t loathe it either – it just was. I wasn’t in the cool crowd or the uncool crowd, just on the peripheral – always with one inseparable friend. We’d get on with all, without getting too close to any.

    I didn’t really dislike anyone – they just were – but I don’t have any desire to see them again. I’ve moved on, and they should have too.

    Jessica, I so relate to your comments on physics. I didn’t choose to do physics but had to because of the level of maths I was doing. There were about 15+ boys and 5 girls in the class. In my mind, if there was one thing in this world that epitomised the difference between the male and female brain, it would be physics. (… and I don’t need to be inundated with the names of wonderfully smart female physicists now, I know they’re out there. I’m only speaking from my experience in my physics class – although a different teacher might have helped.)

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I went to the two official school reunions. Yawn. Same old, same old. The bully bitch still sneered at me (but at least now I could laugh in her face and turn my back without worrying she would stab me). The social elite clustered together and compared their husbands’ incomes and the size of their homes and ignored everyone else. The socially inept blundered into conversations with people who did not remember them. The inbetween group caught up with old friends from all three groups, and ignored anyone who had been a constant bitch through six long years of high school and was showing no signs of having lost that bitchiness.

    Then we (the inbetween group) arranged our own unofficial “Revenge of the Nerds” reunion. Apart from a couple of people who weren’t invited but turned up anyway, it was fantastic to just be in our same old group from high school, just a few decades older.

    We had Chinese at the restaurant we used to go to for teenage birthday dinners (when we’d save up our canteen money all week to buy one Black Russian).

    Then we kicked on at a local pub with a live band who had been warned we were coming, so they played heaps of 80’s music. We laughed, danced, gossiped, reminisced and had a great night. And yes, we’re going to do it again and again.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I went to one school reunion, some 45 years after I had finished high school. There were several people there who were from my own school class – none of them recognized me, although i recognized all of them! That was something of a downer. Either I had changed so much over time, or I had made little impression during my school days. One woman knew who I was, and she was in a class one year behind me – thank goodness for her or I would have been totally flattened! There is another reunion coming up in the near future, which is 10 years since that last one; I haven’t yet made up my mind whether to go or not.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I’ve always said that were I to go to a reunion I’d hire an Aston Martin, a George Clooney look-alike to (silently and mysteriously) accompany me and outfit myself in something awesomely glamorous; stride in, look around, *be seen* and then leave.
    But thanks to Facebook grapevine, I already know who is married, divorced, doing well, not doing well, etc – and my care factor already hovers around -10. So if there is a reunion, I’ll be skipping it.

  • Reply November 5, 2012

    Jenny M

    I still see the people that are special to me from those high school years, the rest of them I have no connection and really no desire to see again. Haven’t been to a reunion and dont intend on going to any in the future.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    One of my brothers and one of my sister both married kids from our old school, with siblings I knew. When I go home to the area, I find out enough about those I once knew. I always had more interesting friends outside of school, not in my class. My class is also a bit slack and has no real interest in organising one.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I missed mine due to being away or overseas when they were on but the latest one I went to was my 30th and it was great. Everyone was mellow and friendly and the nasty bullies stayed away. I even had a guy come up to me and apologise for how he’d treated me at school and I could not even remember him being that nasty compared to a lot of other kids who’d terrorised a lot of girls at the school. Some of us compared notes and actually found that we were not the only victims of some of the bullies.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I went to several high schools so my experience is based on two reunions (plus one novel). At the first reunion I almost fled when I discovered that I was seated with someone who had made my nerdy, awkward high school existence particularly hellish (she was No 1 reason I truanted so much). It turns out she hated me for permanently having my nose in a book. As an adult she finally got help with dyslexia. Surprisingly, we ended up enjoying the evening -if only we could have had that talk 20 yrs ago….
    The other school reunion was miserable demonstration of ‘don’t peak in high school’ as doing so seems to set people up for a lifetime of reliving the ‘glory days’ of school. The ‘cool kids’, then well in their 50s, were still trying to be 17 yrs old (definitely the worst aspects of 17). Sigh. I left early to get home to some real teenagers, who were comparatively pleasant and responsible. By weird coincidence I picked up Ben Elton’s novel ‘Past Mortem’ at the library soon after – it summed it up so well!

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    You couldn’t pay me enough to go to my reunion. My ten year is coming up soon and I don’t even have to think about it. Hell no. I was tormented and ostracised for being “smart” for the first few years and then beaten for being smart and a lesbian for the rest of them. I had no friends and am in contact with no one. It is with savage satisfaction that I decline Facebook friends requests from cowardly tormentors who ten years later want to find out if I’m still smart or if being gay was just a phase. So no, I can safely say that in summary there is no way in hell anyone will ever catch me at a reunion. Why anyone would want to relive such pain and loneliness is beyond me.

  • Reply November 5, 2012

    The Huntress

    I was invited to the 10 year high school renuinion and I wondered what on earth could make me go. What would I achieve by fronting up to people who were complete bastards to me all those years ago and pretending they were fun times? School was nothing but torture and the only satisfaction I get now is knowing how far I have come, when so many of the people who made it their pleasure to make my life a misery are still in the same place, doing exactly the same thing. Very few have gone on to get a degree (I’m not sure if any actually have), some have a trade, but most are still where they started. Sometimes I can believe in karma.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    Last reunion I attended the kids in “lower” classes were excelling~ and I got to hear their back stories about how it was for them at school….

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    Not only did I go to our 20th but I organised it and we are about to catch up for our 30th next weekend. School was hard but going back was also the lesson for others, past wrongs were forgotten and forgiven. It was like being back but just all the nice parts. Nobody had fun at school at least when you are older you can choose to attend or not go, those that did not come to the 20th were the ones pushing me to organise our 30th. Facebook makes it so much easier to sneak a look at now whilst remembering the past. I also managed to snare myself my first husband from our 20th reunion, he wasn’t a interest at school but grew to be one of the kindest caring men I have ever met, so I married him.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I went to my 10 year reunion, and enjoyed it, but there was still too much reliving old days, making jokes that weren’t that funny ten years earlier. I got the DJ to play Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days”, just to see who had a sense of irony. It was okay, but 15 years later, I gave the 25 year reunion a miss. Just couldn’t be bothered.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    I missed a few milestones growing up, because of health issues, so I felt I had to go to my 10 year reunion or I’d be missing another one. I shouldn’t have bothered – we did a tour of the school (as if we cared that they’d refitted the science labs and renovated the dormitories) and then had an awkward morning tea. In the words of the philosophers, “meh”.

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    My 25th year reunion was one of the loveliest nights of my life. Everyone had dropped their previous competitive urges and there was a lot of love & hugs all around. It truly was a healing & heart warming experience.

  • Reply November 5, 2012

    Jodie Hill

    Poor Jess will look for the nearest table to crawl under. I am the one who sent her that invitation and I am the stalker who organises them. She isn’t the only one who feels this way and it is absolutely respected. They aren’t for everyone and some people have made some very accurate comments. The last one Jessica came to was the 10 year one. I agree that now, 25 years on, it most certainly is no longer about what you’ve done and where you’ve been. Someone else also commented that those who don’t want to go don’t, and those who do, do. In fact own best friend loathes them with a passion, feels they are contrived and only goes because of me. Those who elect to attend love it. We had girls who hadn’t been to any and thought it was a good time to do it. They weren’t happy years for some, and the last thing they want to do, is be reminded of them. That’s understandable. One of the girls lost a young child a few years ago. She had messaged me to warn me that she may not be able to handle it and may have to make a hasty departure. She stayed until 4am and had a ball. It can be healing for some. However Jess, warning you that the 30 year one will be back at school, in the hall, so I guess you are busy that night lol? BTW, someone else from school found this, not me. I’m not really a stalker! Be true to yourself and who knows, maybe one day you’ll be ready x

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    Well Jess I think you missed out on a great occasion. There were 55 interesting women there who all shared something in common, but little of the talk was about life at school…it was about life since school. Some have become doctors and pilots, lawyers and academics, teachers, real estate agents and midwives. Most are mothers, but some have chosen not to. They have travelled and seen the world, and contribute to the communities in which they live. As their teacher 25 years ago I was proud to see what fine women they have grown into. I hope you come to the 30th!

  • Reply November 5, 2012


    We didn’t even have one as all agreed it was a waste of time. At least we were on the same page.

  • Reply November 6, 2012


    I was just told, by someone from school, how insecure she also felt all those years ago. In fact, this is the first reunion she has attended and again commented on how nervous she was. She told me about how one of the girls in her year told her the morning after our Year 10 formal how nice she looked and how she has never forgotten that kindness. She says that girl was Jessica Rowe. There are many good memories too Jess.

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