My twenty-fifth Ryerson Radio and Television Arts reunion, to be specific.
An interesting experience.
I think a lot of us that attended were skeptical whether we’d have a good time. And afterward a lot of us were amazed that we’d had such a good time. In retrospect maybe this shouldn’t be such a surprise. RTA was a program of like minded people. Maybe it shouldn’t come as such a surprise that we’d be comfortable with one another after so much time.
So much time. Twenty-five years. We were different people then. At least I was. Nineteen years old when I started the program. I remember being quite insecure. There were a lot of people in RTA who, although around the same age as me, seemed infinitely more sophisticated than me. Maybe because I grew up in a small town in PEI, whereas a lot of them grew up in Toronto. Or maybe that’s just who we were. I had a scraggly moustache back then, and wore unstylish glasses, and had a lousy haircut. I remember thinking on an instinctive level that a lot of my fellow students were somehow better than me. Smarter. Cooler. Better. They weren’t, of course. We were all the same. (Except Alison George. She might have been a little better. Just by a hair. But the rest? All the same.)
I think a lot of students were skeptical of the program when we graduated. A lot of money, and three years of our lives. For what? Well now, twenty-five years later, I know what. It launched my entire career at the CBC. Got me in the door, gave me the vocabulary. Gave me some really good friends that have lasted a lifetime. Some I’ve stayed in touch with, the rest I met again after way too long two weeks ago in downtown Toronto.
Like my friend Miriam. When she saw me, she said, “You don’t know me, do you?” I had last seen her the night of our graduation party at Stop 33 in the Sutton Place Hotel.
Like an idiot I glanced at her name tag. I did know her, but I couldn’t resist confirming her name, just in case. “I do so know you,” I said. “You’re responsible for one of the most excruciatingly embarrassing incidents in my life.”
Of course she wanted to know what, and frankly I wanted to get it off my chest, so I told her.
The last time I’d seen her, at the end of the graduation party, she went to kiss my cheek. A double cheek kiss, like the French do (Miriam’s Irish, so maybe it’s just a European thing). Like I mentioned above, I’m from PEI, and I didn’t really know anything about this double cheek kissing thing. So I didn’t know what to do.
Our heads wound up positioned in such a way that I could not reach her cheek with my lips. I thought it necessary to make contact with her cheek in some way.
I wound up licking it.
The instant I did it I was horrified. What had I done? Our eyes met. She was clearly flabbergasted. Until that moment we had been friends. I had, in an instant, been reduced to a freak. A man who licked women’s cheeks.
And I carried that with me for twenty-five years, the sort of memory that made me cry out, “Oh God!” whenever I remembered it, where ever I was. Especially after living in France for a while, where I finally mastered the double cheek kiss.
So I told Miriam about this ghastly incident, and of course she laughed and said, “I don’t remember that at all,” and we chatted for a long time, and I learned all about her life, and she about mine, and then we mingled and chatted with everyone else.
And I really hope we don’t have to wait another twenty-five years to do it again.