If you really want some insights about the person you share your life with, just go with him to a high-school class reunion.
It's best if this event is at least three or four decades past graduation. By that time, the alumni have pretty much given up on trying to impress one another. True, everyone does want to look good. For the women, looking good means losing ten pounds, buying a new outfit, having their hair done, and digging out the good jewelry. For the men, looking good means putting on a new pair of jeans—or, in a few cases, having a sport jacket cleaned and wearing a tie.
Still, the focus of a more mature class reunion is on where people have been rather than where they hope to go. At this age, they have mostly raised their kids, achieved the high points in their careers, and become comfortable in their own skins. By and large, they go to a class reunion to reminisce and see old friends, not to show off.
What that meant to me, as an outsider at this particular reunion, was being greeted warmly by a bunch of friendly people. A couple of them did comment that they could tell I was from up North (they were too polite to actually say "Yankee") because of my "accent." This surprised me, since I know perfectly well that I don't have an accent. All those New Mexicans and Texans were the ones with the accents; they just didn't seem to realize it.
Another surprise was how often my respectable, college-professor partner's name came up in connection with certain nefarious activities. I had heard about the trash can on top of the flag pole, but the cherry bomb in the hallway was new to me.
I also was aware of the "borrowed" outhouse that ended up on the school roof, but I didn't realize he was the one who came up with the idea in the first place. Nor had I fully appreciated the importance of his role in designing a method of reassembling the outhouse using only four screws. If you're putting an outhouse together on a rooftop, in the dark, and you need to be out of there before you get caught, those finer engineering details can make a big difference.
It appeared, actually, that most members of the outhouse gang had gone on to careers in science and engineering. It just goes to show how important it is for kids to have those early hands-on educational experiences.
The overall impression I had from this reunion was a sense of amazement. How could the kids they all were back then have turned into the adults they are now, and done it so quickly?
Yes, they're older, they (the men, anyway) have gray hair, and they're probably a lot wiser. But the kids they were then are still around, as my partner realized. He reported one of the evening's high points this way: "After all these years, I finally got something I wanted desperately all through high school—a kiss from one of the cheerleaders. It was great."
Then he added, "It would be even better if I could remember her name."