Essay: On seeing someone you knew briefly twenty years ago.

“She hadn’t changed a bit”

 “He was exactly the same.”
From When Harry Met
Brace yourself.  If you don’t have a picture of the person, then the person today might not look anything like you remember.  Starting a decade or so ago, Facebook has made it impossible, for better or worse, to forget people from your past, however minor.  But for those of us who came of age before Facebook or digital cameras, having a picture of someone was not ubiquitous.  Sure, we might have a fair amount of photos of all your friends, but people on the periphery of our lives?  The people we worked with, went to church with or sat in classes
with?  We didn’t have photos of them.  In fact, a lot of people didn’t like having their picture taken, so sometimes it was difficult to get photos of some of your close friends.
If you don’t have a photo of someone, chances are your brain has airbrushed the image a bit, building up cheekbones, brightening eyes, straightening teeth.  Enough time has passed that the image that remains in your brain might look nothing like the person in question then, much less the person in question then plus twenty years.
Don’t worry that you have gained weight in the intervening years.  It’s been two decades.  How many people can say they weighed the same amount they did two decades ago?  You?  Well, you, my friend, are the exception.  Well done, I say.  But, for the rest of us, we all weigh more than we did twenty years ago, some of us substantially more.  And don’t forget that, in general, Americans are overweight.  If you’ve gained weight, chances are this person from your past has not escaped the same fate.
The hair.  The hair will be different.  Depending on which segment of life the 20 years encompass, hair will be markedly different.  I came of age when a lot of boys becoming men had long, sometimes very long hair.  Five years after I graduated from high school, most of it had been cut off.  And with men, especially, hairlines recede, or disappear altogether.  For women, the color
might be similar, or it might have changed entirely.  The style will be markedly different.
There’s a good chance you might think, “My god, do I look that tired/worn out/old?”  And yes, you do.  You were about 7304 days younger when you last saw this person.  And, for most of us, we were much more sprightly and younger twenty years ago.  If that person is in the same general age bracket as you and looks tired, chances are you look just as tired.  And that’s okay.  You’ve done a lot in the intervening years to earn that worn-out look.
You may have absolutely nothing in common.  Life throws us together and then separates us again.  We go off in different directions, explore different things, find new gurus and interests and enthusiasms.  Maybe you click with this
person and it’s like a day hasn’t passed. And maybe the only thing you share is your time together before. That’s okay.
*Probably not an exact quote but the search engines didn’t cough it up within my limited attention span and I was too lazy to search

2 thoughts on “Essay: On seeing someone you knew briefly twenty years ago.”

  1. Its the wrinkles around my eyes, they say a lot! Though I am not enamored with the timing, I am excited to see people. Many of the Boise Smillees (via a convo on FB) are not looking forward to it. They think it will be a crazy brag fest. A judgement fest. And perhaps it will be, but I don't really care. I am excited to see some of the periphery people. Heck, I'm excited to see many of the Smillees again. It has been ages. It will be interesting to see the things that have changed (appearance – my goodness if we had the same hair-do as the early 90's it would be a bit terrifying – oh three I go, judging already) and what hasn't (our personalities?). Another good essay!

  2. It's interesting that they think it will be a brag-fest. That's supposed to be the 10 year reunion and I found it not only brag-free, but I had trouble getting information out of people.

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