Monday, March 19, 2012

Conversation Etiquette For Your High School Reunion

My 15 year high school reunion is coming up and I have to admit that I am excited about it, for the most part. I had a great time in high school and was actually really sad to graduate. I went to an all girls private school in the suburbs of New York, and it was the best decision my parents ever made for me. I am looking forward to seeing my classmates, some of which I haven’t seen since graduation.

The part I am not that excited about is the inevitable awkward questions that may arise from people I don't really know anymore. Recently hit with the knowledge that I cannot have any more biological children, I am dreading the seemingly innocent question, “So are you going to have more kids?” That got me thinking about all of my other classmates. I am sure there are painful and taboo topics that they all are struggling with in their own lives. Life is really hard for everyone for all different reasons. I am sure they have questions that they may be dreading getting asked themselves. It is not uncommon for women in their thirties to deal not only with infertility, but divorce, unemployment, illness, and loss of a parent, among other things. I came up with a list of ten questions to avoid asking others when mingling at your high school reunion.

Questions to Avoid Asking Others At Your High School Reunion

1.“Do you have kids? Are you planning on having kids (or having more kids)?” You never know who is struggling with infertility, lost a baby, had a miscarriage or just decided for whatever personal reasons they are not having kids. If people have kids, they will share it; if they don’t have kids, your high school reunion is not a good time to explore why, because this topic could be painful.

2. If someone has multiples, don’t ask them, “Did you have fertility treatments?” Even if you are undergoing fertility treatments yourself, that is still a highly personal question to ask someone else. The truth is that many multiples exist without treatments. And many people who have multiples with the help of fertility treatments do not want to share their story.

3. “Oh you have a baby? Are you married? Are you getting married?” People have babies and do not get married to the biological father for a multitude of reasons. Again, the school cafeteria is not a place to grill these hard working single moms about their personal lives.

4. “You have how many children? Oh my goodness you must have your hands full!” Don’t make moms who have big families feel alienated. Congratulate them on their family and ask them how they are doing, rather than assume how their lives are going.

5. “How are your parents doing?” I know many friends who have lost parents since graduation. I also have friends whose parents are dealing with serious illnesses. A better question is, “How is your family doing?” This allows room for the person to say, “They are doing great” without feeling like they have to open up.

6. “Where do you work?” I know it seems like an innocent question, but for someone who may be unemployed, whether recently or not, it could be painful and awkward conversation for them.

7. “Oh my goodness have you lost weight?“ “Have you had work done, you look so different?“ Don’t comment on people’s looks unless it is to say, “You look great.” Some women have gained weight since high school, some have lost weight. Some people have not aged at all, and some may have had a hard couple of years and look much older. Best not to say things like, “You look so skinny now” “You were so skinny in high school” “Wow I wouldn’t have even recognized you.” We all try to look our best at the reunion and we all have insecurities about how we looked in high school and how we look now. It is best not to bring any of those insecurities to the surface.

8. Don’t ask single people, “Are you dating someone?”. If there is someone special in their lives, they may talk about that person, but they also may choose not to. It is also a possibility that they just got out of a relationship or haven’t found the right person yet.

9. If a single person is dating someone, don’t ask her, “Do you think you guys will get married?” If the couple is planning on getting married or moving in together, she will choose to share that information if she wants to. I remember when a friend of mine was waiting for that engagement ring while everyone else around her was getting married. It was torture. The only thing more torturous was everyone asking, “When is he going to propose?”.

10. Finally, don’t ask questions like, “Remember when you fell off the bar with your pants down and vomited all over the police officer?” or “Remember when you got your period in gym and we called you “Bloody Mary” for the rest of high school?” Chances are that person will NEVER forget the most traumatic or embarrassing day of their life, but through therapy and personal growth they have moved on from the experience. It is probably best not to re-traumatize that person.

High school reunions are one of the only times the policy, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a good idea. Instead of talking about the present or asking about the future, it may be best to talk about the past memories and good times you had with these people in high school. Have fun and keep it light!


  1. I think back to my high school reunion, and I know now that I asked a girl if she had any kids when she was suffering from infertility. I didn't know any better then. I feel really bad about it still (though she has triplets now and probably has no specific recollection of me doing that among all the times she was probably asked that question that night).
    Great list, my friend!

  2. I love this. I'm going to a wedding in May and dreading #1. If asked, part of me wants to say, "I don't have any LIVING children," and just let the questioner squirm. But I'm sure you will have classy answers if any of these come up. You are so much more classy than I am! -- Brianne

  3. Thank you both for reading and commenting. @missohkay I know for sure I have asked those same questions. Struggling with this stuff changes your view and gives you such an awareness. @Brianne Lol. I am just classy on paper! Depending on my mood who knows what I will say in the moment.

  4. Just came across this - I chose not to attend my own HS reunion (after paying for tix!) because I knew I would break down if asked about kids. I really wanted to go and see everyone, but I simply knew if I were asked about kids more than once or twice, I would begin crying ... and I knew people would inevitably ask.