The High School Musical (After 10 Years)
I have never liked bragging contests. Why do people think it’s okay – even natural? Let me give you an example.
An old classmate (classmate A) sees another old classmate (classmate B). They were high school classmates. Suddenly, after around 10 years of not seeing each other, they meet at a mall or a cafe. They feel awkward. They don’t know what to say.
They can’t very well rehash old times and old follies – that would be embarassing and make an already awkward moment even more so. They can talk about old friends and acquaintances, but that would consume only around 15 minutes max, unless they go over every name in their yearbook – in alphabetical order.
The best course of action, really, would be to smile, hug, give each other an air-kiss or a light peck (if they were comfortable doing that when they were in high school), talk about the weather and run – in opposite directions and as fast as their feet could take them.
But no. Convention says (in high school, it went by the name “good manners and right conduct”) that old classmates should really exert some effort to talk to each other. Even if they think they no longer have anything in common – it doesn’t matter. Classmate A meets Classmate B – Talk!!!
So they talk. One classmate (let’s say classmate B) is going to ask the inevitable questions. What do you do now? Where are you working? And often unvoiced but still palpably present is the question – how good is your position (at work) and how much do you earn?
Is it morbid curiosity, I wonder? That’s part of it I think. There’s also the fact that two individuals who weren’t even close friends in the past and haven’t seen each other in 10 years are not likely going to have anything much in common except the common classes, teachers and classmates that they had in high school. Thus, they desperately grope around for topics they may discuss – and in the guise of “catching up,” they try to satisfy their curiosity about each other.
However, why do such conversations assume the character of a bragging rights session plus an inquisition? After Classmate B makes his opening salvo, Classmate A responds and gives Classmate B the information he has asked for – except its typically far from or less than the full truth. Classmate A will pose the same question – and Classmate B will make the same response about his current lifestyle, except that the account would also be liberally sprinkled with exaggerations, half-truths and bare-faced lies.
After their opening salvos – the war escalates. Each has now been able to assess the “strength” of his old classmate’s position. You see, at the first round, one or both would have already hinted at their supervisory position, great pay, great perks, or whatever else can make their job seem more appealing and less mundane. Ironically, each believes the other even when both are probably actually lying.
The battle for the bragging rights continues. It is a battle based on false premises – but what’s new and who cares? They both keep to their corners and think up new things to say that would make their job seem better than what it actually is.
The classmate with the managerial position will play on the power and responsibility that comes with his job and will talk about a Jessica or a James whom he has chastised just the week past because of sloppy work.
The classmate with the less powerful position (work-wise) or the less glamorous job title will concede that particular battlefield but will make his own bid for the job appeal battlefield. He’ll say he has been to province this and country that. The talk, mind you, is not going to center around the places he has been to. He’ll just pepper his statements with references to places he has visited but never talk about these places directly.
He’ll just say, “Oh, was that Margie’s wedding? I’m sorry I missed that. My boss sent me to Singapore to negotiate with Mr Wong Whatever.”
The other classmate will make the socially appropriate responses – say , “Oh really?” and even smile with full comprehension as if he knows exactly who Mr. Wong Whatever is. All the while, he’s processing what he’s heard and thinking of ways to top it.
… and so the battle continues.
How does it end, do you wonder? Let me tell you how it ends. Classmate A and Classmate B will find it increasingly hard to keep their stories straight and increasingly difficult to invent more titillating details to impart to the other.
Sooner or later, one of the old classmates will say he has a prior appointment (it’s always an appointment – make it a business lunch for more glamour and wow factor) and flee as if the devil of Hades is giving him chase. The classmate left behind – he is the winner.
(Repost from my Yahoo 360 blog)