Of High School Reunions and Political Persuasion
Since I already revealed my age in a recent column, I may as well admit that I attended my 20-year high school reunion last weekend. I went to high school in Marin County and, as I've written on many occasions, I was a product of its liberal, hippy-dippy environs. That is, up until 9/11, when I experienced a political epiphany of sorts and began to make the shift from left to right.
As can well be imagined, this hasn't always gone over well with my old liberal high school buddies, several of whom I'm still friends with. They have largely accepted my new political leanings, even if it means agreeing to disagree on occasion. But for those who I haven't encountered either since high school or the ten-year reunion in 1997, my political transformation is uncharted territory. So it was with some trepidation that I attended my 20-year high school reunion, knowing that the ubiquitous question, "What do you do?," in my case, was likely to open up a can of worms.
It's not that I'm ashamed of my professional accomplishments. Indeed, whether or not one feels relatively satisfied with where they are in life seems to be a marker of whether or not one will attend high school reunions. But, like other minority conservatives living in a majority-liberal environment such as the Bay Area, there are those inevitably uncomfortable moments when one would rather avoid the topic of politics. Being that my work revolves around politics, this isn't an easy task, for it automatically injects that sticky subject into the realm of small talk.
I'm certainly not a closet conservative (a term the right has come to borrow, somewhat ironically, from the gay community) and anyone who types my name into Google is going to come across a fair amount of evidence, so to speak. But it's amazing how many people don't pursue this avenue and, upon being told that one is a writer, don't feel the need to press for further details. So it's happened on more than one occasion that I've simply decided not to elaborate.
This was my strategy for the reunion and it was one that worked to a large extent. But I decided a while back not to conceal the facts should my political persuasion come to light and so it was that I got into a revealing conversation or two over the course of the evening.
One classmate, after I told him I was an Internet journalist, assumed that I must be one of those "lefty bloggers." "No, I'm really more of a rightwing blogger," I told him, to which he laughed in surprise. "What are you, another Melanie Morgan?" he joked, referencing the KSFO morning talk show host and conservative activist. "No, but I've been on her show," I answered, in all seriousness. Soon after, we both changed the subject.
Another classmate I had actually run into a few months before and also told that I was an Internet journalist, came up to me at the reunion and, with a look of disgust on her face, said that she had read some of my articles. They didn't sound like the "Cinnamon she knows," she informed me.
Here again, another staple of minority conservatism came to light. Same person, two personas. The conservative politico meets the laid back California girl and, inevitably, confusion ensues. I can hardly blame them for sometimes it feels a little schizophrenic myself.
A classmate with whom I had also attended a private, Jewish elementary school for several years, seemed to understand where I was coming from a little better. When I referenced the rise of anti-Semitism after 9/11, he said, "You mean, the way anti-war rallies sometimes become anti-Israel rallies?" "Exactly," I answered.
But it was at the very end of the evening that I had an entirely unexpected encounter. A classmate who I didn't know in high school came up to me and, after establishing that I was "Cinnamon Stillwell," (my last name has changed since high school) said with enthusiasm, "I really like your columns!" He made my night.
Maybe there's hope for that 30-year reunion after all.
Update: Blogger buddy and fellow former lefty "Bookworm" has kindly blogged this post at Bookworm Room. She and I have discussed the subject of political transformation and whether or not to "come out" as a conservative (she remains closeted for now and I respect her decision) on many occasions and it was, in fact, one of these conversations that inspired me to write this post. Likewise, Bookworm referenced my left-to-right story in a classic 2005 piece at The American Thinker called "Confessions of a Crypto-Conservative Woman." Check it out.