Spring is right around the corner (at least that’s what we’re telling ourselves), which means that reunions of the college-and-high-school variety will be cropping up around the country like so many daffodils blooming on so many highway medians. Most of us approach the inevitability of reuniting with former friends and lovers with some modicum of dread – enough to motivate us to make up fake professions or invent hot girlfriends that just ‘happen’ to be out of town – but a jaunt through your personal history can actually be enjoyable, as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. Lest you enter the vortex unprepared, here are six things to remember as you prepare for your own (slightly more intoxicated) version of “This is Your Life,” coming soon to a gymnasium, Howard Johnson or overgrown frat bar near you.

Reunion Rule #1: At least half of the people at your reunion will have a more pathetic life story than you.

Take heart, guy-who-hasn’t-yet-found-his-life’s-passion! While there will likely be a few wads who’ll return with the sole purpose of rubbing their many successes in your face, many, if not a majority, of the people in attendance will have compromised their dreams in a far more serious way than you have, as unbelievable as it may sound. We know you’d never intentionally delight in the pain and suffering of your former classmates, but rest assured; there will be a conglomerate of guys who never got past their big football win of (insert year here), a group of former fat-cats who lost everything when the real estate bubble burst, and at least a few sad sacks who’ve lived with their parents for more than a decade.

Reunion Rule #2: Expecting to have fun while attending a reunion solo is illogical, like expecting to meet your soul mate while throwing dollars at a stripper.

Don’t make the mistake of hitting your reunion stag and thinking that you’re going to ‘casually catch up’ with acquaintances you haven’t spoken to in 15 years. Nothing is as awkward as seeing people you never really knew and attempting to talk to them like they’re old friends, regardless of how plentifully the liquor flows; you need some social back-up to ease the tension should the night become heinously boring, so if you’re dead-set on showing up but your friends aren’t planning to attend, do yourself a favor and bring a date, family member or coworker, especially if the event is out in the middle of nowhere. This is one situation where you won’t want to wing it.

Reunion Rule #3: The women you once lusted after will look different, for better or for worse.

Memories can become frozen in time, much like a stapler stuck in Jello, so it’s understandable that you’d expect to see the prom queen looking like she did in 1995 and not like she’s spent a few too many sessions on the business end of a Botox needle. Prepare yourself for the likelihood that the hot girls in your graduating class have become average- or slightly-above-average looking women; a desperate search for the glow of youth will only leave you stranded on an island of wannabe cougars who are more interested in your teenage son than they are in you, which is no way to spend a Saturday night, even if there are watered-down drinks involved.

Reunion Rule #4: The women you once overlooked will look different, for better or for worse.

Clichés teach us that mousy and/or awkward girls blossom a bit later in life than ‘fast’, conventionally good-looking girls, which means that you might be in for a pleasant surprise from the ladies who couldn’t get your attention in the days before Facebook and Twitter. It won’t necessarily be like starring in a romantic comedy, but chances are good that at least one former caterpillar will have grown into a butterfly in the time it took you to figure out how to contribute to your 401k. Enter the night optimistically, because nothing says “great engagement story” like finding your true love right back in your home town after years of searching elsewhere. In the very least, remember that a night at the reunion doesn’t mean a night without hookup potential.

Reunion Rule #5: Unlike Las Vegas, what happens at reunion definitely doesn’t stay at reunion.

If you do decide to take the reunion hook-up plunge, beware the ramifications of your action(s). Any women you rediscover won’t be new prospects, they’ll be people who know a lot about your life; they know your friends, they know your past, and, since no one is safe from the all-seeing eyes of social networking websites, they’re likely to know at least some of your present. No need to hide in a corner, though. Just tread carefully, especially if you’re planning to reclaim your youth with a ‘wild weekend’ away from your boring, ‘mature’ responsibilities.

Reunion Rule #6: Networking isn’t limited to professional functions. Use the reunion to your advantage.

As discussed in rule #1, the attendees at your reunion will display the full range of human potential, from pathetic excuses for adults to fully-realized success stories. Instead of spending the night mocking the former, try to reconnect with the latter, for both personal and professional gain. Finding common ground is easy; not only do you begin with the automatic advantage of knowing one another on a semi-personal level, but you also have the bonus of the common, semi-traumatizing experience of attempting to reconnect with classmates you haven’t spoken to in decades. While you’re at it, try to let go of old grudges. Even if you still remember vividly being tossed in a locker by someone who’s now the head of a Fortune-500 company, focus more on the ‘Fortune-500’ and less on the ‘adolescent jerk’. You might be there to celebrate the past, but when you leave after last call, you’ll be glad you took a moment to focus on the future.

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