There is life after high school…

If it hadn’t been for Angie, i would have ignored the invitation.  A High School Marching Band reunion.  i played bass clarinet in the marching band for two years, before bailing out to drink and smoke weed focus on academics.

She was an enthusiastic clarinetist, a year behind me in school.  She was the reason i switched to bass clarinet.  As a second year student, i was “second chair, first clarinet” and Angie was “first chair, second clarinet”.   She wanted to move up, and i was in her way, so just about every week she would “challenge”.

i got tired of it, and asked to play bass.  i was a slug, but i wasn’t going to let her beat me!

i’ve gotten pretty attached to her through the eff-books.  An engaging woman, battling her lifelong problem with her weight, she has been one of the few positive voices in the cacophony that is facebook.  We’ve corresponded over a variety of things – from her challenges with her teenager, weight loss/gain, and medical issues.

She is a five-year survivor of ovarian cancer.  She was recently diagnosed with early stage MS.  She drove 500 miles to go to that damn reunion.  i wanted to give her a hug.

And i did…

We started collecting at the American Legion hall.  The reunion was for all years of marching band alumni, including the drill and flag team members, so there were about a hundred folks attending.

What?  No bar.  No beer.  Crap.  No flask, either.  Deep breath.  Realized it wasn’t the end of the world, but when dealing with ghosts of the horrid high school years, it’s a reasonable way to take the edge off.  Potato chips?  Close enough…

Angie wasn’t too far behind me – and i got to deliver that hug i’ve wanted to give her for the past few years.  It felt good.

The big surprise of the night?  The Band Director, retired after 30 + years, showed up.  Mr. P.  A wiry, hyper man. Yelled a lot.  Cute as hell, we all had terrible crushes on him.  Jazz musician, he’d won our hearts with his quirky sense of humor and crooked smile.

His greatest talent, however, was being able to bitch us out in a constant stream while pulling, packing, lighting and smoking a cigarette.  Throwing his clipboard to the turf, he’d stomp around, and give us holy hell for being losers…

These are, sadly, all things that teachers can’t do anymore.  A pity.

When Mr. P walked in with his wife, the place erupted in cheers!  Mrs. P, another band alumni, had been one of my pals from those years ago, and it was great to see her, too.  She was a couple of years behind me in school…

By the time i wandered over to say hello, Mrs. P’s eyes bugged out of her head as they moved from my face to my name tag, and back again.  “Daisyfae?  Really?”

They both dug around for words… but i saved them the trouble.

“Go ahead.  Say it.  i look better now than i did then.  Same weight as i was then, i just stopped giving a shit about it, and i own it… and i’m really happy.”

But given how i looked in high school?  It really doesn’t take much to look better….

In your own skin…

During a moment of exhaustion reflection on the dive boat last week, i realized that i was the second youngest person in our group.  Only the 40-year-old woman – married to the oldest man, aged 70 – was younger.

One of the most accomplished divers is 68 years old – she’s logged over 650 dives, and takes the most remarkable photographs!  She loves sharing her ‘finds’ underwater, and is a lovely coach and mentor.

SCUBA is a hobby that can last a lifetime.

Even more important, however, is the fact that we were all quite comfortable together in the barest of bare essentials on that dive boat.  Men AND women.  Not one hard-bodied supermodel in the bunch, yet not an ounce of apparent self-consciousness.

No whining about saddlebags, poochy guts, baggy boobs.  “Doing the Dance” to wriggle into our wetsuits and dive skins when the dive master called “Five Minutes!”, there wasn’t enough room on the boat for privacy.  It was a floating co-ed locker room.

There are many reasons i have gotten sucked into this activity.  But being around adventurous older women, who couldn’t give a fractional shit about being thin enough, trapping a man, or what they look like* in a bikini?  Sheer delight!

Here’s to shedding meaningless societal constraints, and living your own life!

* The technicolor diveskins serve two purposes.  In warmer water, a thicker wetsuit isn’t necessary for warmth, but having a 1mm “skin” to protect from reef rash, stinging ‘fire coral’, and other scrapes and scratches is nice.  The colors?  When you’re in gear, and underwater?  Everyone looks alike.  A distinctive ‘skin’ can help your buddy keep track of you…  Plus they’re just big damn fun!