The other day an acquaintance (let's call her "Helene") from my high school graduating class emailed me through Facebook.
I use the word acquaintance loosely. Back then Helene, like her friends, rarely acknowledged my presence whenever our paths crossed in hallway or classroom. Helene, though average-looking, was one of those popular girls who hung out with the "mean" crowd and did things like somehow garner enough of a vote to get nominated for homecoming queen and ride on the homecoming football float, all with a Vaseline-lined smile and a painstakingly practiced wave that made most of us want throw tomatoes at her. But that was 11 years ago and people change, or so popular theory states.
"Hi Crystal!" the subject line read. I saw it in my inbox, along with her name. My first reaction was 1.) Why does this name sound familiar, and 2.) Ohh yes. Helene from high school. This is random.
After extending the obligatory formalities such as "How are you" and "Hope you've been well," she mentioned she had talked to my friend Laurel recently (the one I grabbed lunch with a few months ago) and "She said you live in ----- -------- now. How do you like it?" Insert various generic questions about why I moved here. "I lived there for five years cause I went to college at ----- -----, but now I live in --- -------- with my husband and our new baby girl..."
Okay, why all the chit-chat and background info? I did not know her 11 years ago, and to be completely honest I didn't care to get to know her now. And then the next line made it obnoxiously clear why she was reaching out to me:
"I work for J. Rockcliff Realtors as a real estate agent, so if you or anyone you know are looking to buy a house, please keep me in mind."
My audible reaction was a loud groan, followed with "You've got to be kidding me." Not only do J and I already have a realtor we are working with, but the fact that someone who just happened to walk the same halls as I did 11+ years ago thinks that's reason enough to give me a sales pitch and secure my business really irritates me. Probably because it's so blatant and contrived and desperate. It'd be one thing if it was an old friend of mine who I'd lost contact with, but for an essentially complete stranger who acts like they aren't a stranger to try and make commission off me feels tacky and in bad taste. Like a flagrant exploitation of the past.
Helene was not my past, though the people I occasionally wonder about were. Those who were good friends of mine, who I lost to either time or disagreement, rarely seek me out. Those were the people that knew me. They knew what I looked like at 9am on a Sunday after staying up all night watching the first three Texas Chainsaw Massacre films consecutively. They knew what boy broke my heart freshman year simply because he preferred blondes. They knew what my favorite type of pizza was at our preferred pizzeria by the beach, and that at 17 one of my favorite past times was cruising around listening to Third Eye Blind in my Miata. Helene was never one of these people. To her I'm just another face in her yearbook, some person she might recognize in "real life" now if our paths crossed again.
A very small number of old friends have reached out to me. I am just as guilty as not reaching out to them. Perhaps it's because those that matter and are lost in time would rather be content with the memories of who we were. Back when our biggest problems weren't mortgages and calorie counting and breast cancer, but rather which movie we'd see that weekend, or whether that cute guy from fifth period would be at a nearby house party. Our futures were ripe with possibility, and this excited us. But the lightness that comes with youth vanishes with age. Maybe its easier to cope with the passage of time by allowing your past to be exactly that -- the past.
And those, like Helene, who didn't know you before, back when you were a walking personification of invincibility, vulnerability, bravery, cowardice and contradiction?
Well, they'll be there to sell you a house.