Yvette Barnett fnds it difficult to be a voyeur using a two-way mirror
felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights'.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED
Ever wondered what happened to your old classmates from school? Did the
school bullies really end up in juvenile detention centres as the headmaster
predicted, or did they become directors of dot.com companies? Now, thanks
to the newly developed website, www.friendsreunited.com, you can discover
what happened to the class of 81. After hearing about the site I
admit I was curious. I wanted to know what happened to everyone once they'd
shed their acne and passed through puberty.
To enter the site is easy. First you register, they e-mail you back with
a password, and then you gain access to the site. Nothing could be simpler.
I was hoping for complete anonymity when I logged on. I didn't want to
tell anybody that I'd snooped through the notes posted on the board by
my former contemporaries. What do I care what happened to my classmates?
After all, nobody ever kept in touch with me once I'd left town.
But I was wrong. The minute you register, your name springs up on the
notice-board with the word NEW' in dazzling yellow letters beside
it, drawing anyone's attention to it should they have missed it when they
logged on to the site. The minute I saw the letters, I felt like a rabbit
caught in the headlights. It was like being the new kid in the class all
Writing about yourself is optional. If you prefer, you can choose to simply
leave your name and for a nominal fee of £5 the site organisers
will pass on your message to anybody you wish to get in touch with and
no e-mail addresses are exchanged without permission. Apparently, they've
had a few nutcases logging on to the site and they're keen to stop any
further nuisances messages.
At first, I decided not to put my own personal resume on the board, I'm
not ashamed of what I've done with my life since leaving school. On the
contrary. It was more a case of wanting to know what everyone else did,
more than I wanted to divulge stuff about my own personal journey through
life. However, after reading a few of the sometimes quite brief resumes,
I felt guilty. It didn't seem fair to look in on other people's lives
without giving something away about my own. But there's a fine line I
discovered when it comes to writing stuff about yourself. It's a bit like
compiling your CV. On one hand, you don't want it to sound as if you should
be the one in Number 10 running the country, but at the same time you
want people to read about you and think - I knew you'd turn out all right
in the end.
And how much stuff do you want to write? If you have done a lot, perhaps
it's better not to say, just in case people reading it think that you
have made the whole bloody thing up. It's a dilemna, which in the end
I decided to play safely. My piece wasn't too long, or too short and I
tried to make it witty, just in case anyone should think I'd lost my sense
of humour somewhere along the way. When I looked at my own former classmates'
resumes, what surprised me most was just how well everyone had done. One
snotty-nosed boy, seemingly not the brightest boy in the year, had gone
on to become a deputy head-master, others had emigrated to Australia or
America. A couple were running their own companies, one was now an MP,
probably itching to tell the world that it should be him in Number 10,
but thought better of it, in case we all thought that he'd turned in to
a pompus old windbag. Very few owned up to being on their second marriage,
some were still married to kids they were dating when they were twelve
Most of the ones who had logged on had moved away from the area some years
ago, and now were keen to hear that everyone else had stayed in the dreary
old town where we grew up. Perhaps it's indicative of the town I come
from, but I was shocked to see how many of them had sons called Brett.
I've visited the site a couple of times since discovering it, eager to
make sure that I didn't miss anything the first time. Curiously, the images
I conjure up when I see the names are still wearing their school uniform.
In reality, I don't suppose they'd even fit in to their uniform now, and
if they did, it would be considered a bit kinky to dress in such attire.
Quite a few of them now have their own kids at the school where we once
conjugated verbs, which seems odd in itself. Some of the lives described,
mostly the ones in the brief paragraphs, sounded rather dull. It was sad
to see that their lives amounted to how many children they had accrued.
Their dreams had all but disappeared. There were no desires voiced about
wanting to be atronauts or train drivers any more. And everyone, no matter
how boring their life sounded, was doing well.
Perhaps the people who never made it, the ones who ended up living in
a cardboard box are the ones who don't have access to the internet and
they're the ones who we'll never hear about. Because in the law of averages,
by my reckoning there has to be at least a couple who ended up like that.
© Yvette Barnett
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