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  1. Wealth
May 30, 2013

The Tyranny of the School Reunion and the Fast Diet

By Spear's

A high-school reunion isn’t just about catching up with old friends, says Daisy Prince it also means starving oneself in order to slim down and impress people who don’t really matter to you

No Breakfast Club

A high-school reunion isn’t just about catching up with old friends, says Daisy Prince — it also means starving oneself in order to slim down and impress people who don’t really matter to you 

I’M ON THE Fast Diet. Everyone is. I realise that it’s been in the UK for quite some time now, but it’s only just hit the US shores and we’ve all leapt on the bandwagon with a vengeance. Basically, it means starving yourself for two days a week and eating normally (ie not pigging out constantly) for the rest of the week. 

My reasons for being on the Fast Diet are simple: it’s my twenty-year high-school reunion and it’s absolutely key that I’m really skinny for it.

What’s really important is not having a healthy son, a happy husband or a full-time job that I love and have worked for the last fifteen years to achieve — no, no, no. What’s important is that I am thinner now than I was then and that everyone else can see it. I guess when you see people you haven’t seen since you were seventeen, you revert to behaving like a seventeen-year-old.

Perfectly understandably, the girls in my office are a little wary about this plan. One asked if I was going on this diet because I was likely to run into an old boyfriend.

She looked really confused when I reacted with, ‘Oh, eeyoo, no. I wouldn’t diet for some stupid boy. I went to an all-girls school. I only ever care about what the girls think.’ I’m pretty sure I saw her roll her eyes, but I was too hungry to care. 

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British people don’t really have school reunions that I can recall, maybe because they basically have one each time they see each other in the pub — they are happy to dive into a pint or twelve and talk about the last time they got really ‘bladdered’ together. 

The Americans have no such button for spontaneous fun. We need to plan our activities weeks, months in advance and send around lots of massively fake super-excited emails in anticipation of our nights out. Truthfully, high school reunions are usually approached with the same kind of false gaiety normally reserved for hen nights and office Christmas parties. 

But a reunion does make you take stock of where you are and see how far you’ve come (or not) since you were seventeen. There’s not a lot I find appealing about the Southern Stepford Wives who attended my high school. Their Facebook posts are so depressingly similar that it makes me desperately hope they are a pack of aliens waiting for the revolution to come. 

However, aside from that monotonous crew, I do value the friends I made at school. They are an eclectic and varied bunch: a 5ft 10in red-headed Episcopal priest, a thirteen-time Emmy-winning field producer in Afghanistan, an advertising executive and a PhD in Iranian studies who was the only woman under 30 to have advised Tony Blair on his strategy in Iran.

They are all accomplished and incredible girls whom I admire and trust. Most importantly, they knew me back when all I did was read endless grocery-store romance novels and lived in black Umbro shorts and mismatching jumpers. 

I was driven back and forth to school in a huge Checker taxicab (quite similar to a London cab) that my father had bought, ripped out the seats from and had painted black. It was definitely not what you’d call inconspicuous amid all the Volvos and Jeep Cherokees, and I had been teased about it at my previous schools.

The girls at Madeira just affectionately called it ‘the Hearse’. They never cared about the fact that it made me different; there was no competition about it. My school was very competitive, but about grades, sometimes sports. Clothes and money were totally uninteresting back then.

Appearances were right down the list of priorities. Sweatpants and PJs were worn with such regularity to class that a visiting student would have been forgiven for thinking that ‘insane asylum chic’ was the trend.

NO DOUBT WE might have been competitive over boys had any acceptable ones been around. Our closest boys’ school was Woodberry Forest, two and a half hours away on a bumpy yellow school bus. If we made the trip for one of those deeply depressing high school ‘mixers’ — what we called dances — it was soon clear that my friends and I were never what they were looking for anyway. 

‘Do y’all go to Oldsfields [another girls’ school]?’ the khaki-trousered, blue button-down brigade would ask. When they found out that we were from Madeira, they turned around so fast that you’d have thought one of the teachers had busted them for sucking on a joint. So, the boy thing was never an issue at Madeira (except for those Stepford Southern girls who used to rent motel rooms with their loser boyfriends and have wild weekend sex — until a couple got a healthy dose of VD).

Instead we studied, slept, watched 21 Jump Street reruns, ate horrible junk food and dreamed about the day we could get out of Madeira and be free.

I wouldn’t say those were the happiest days of my life, but they were good ones, and the friends I made were well worth those endless hours waiting until my life could start. So I’m looking forward to seeing them, and I guess that if the diet doesn’t work, I could always wear Spanx under my sweatpants. 

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