I couldnÕt repress a sense of ridiculous loserdom when I first logged on to friendsreunited.co.uk. Initially, my secondary school in the wilds of Scotland had only five other hits Š all pupils from the mid nineties who hadnÕt even been conceived during my schooldays. Who would remember my practically invisible presence when my own memories were so shady that I couldnÕt even recall the year I left? Every week the web site would announce that another pupil had registered but still, I recognised no one, and eventually stopped checking. Then an e-mail arrived in my mailbox bearing a name that transported me straight back to primary school. ŌYou may not remember me,Õ the message began, about as ridiculous a notion as forgetting my own name because, from all the tenuous acquaintances who might have got in touch this message was from a man I had gone to school with between the ages of five to seventeen and, who, aged seven, had sent me my first Valentine. ŌI sometimes walk past your house in the village and wondered what happened to you,Õ he continued. I replied immediately, my heart pitter pattering, my message brimming with reminiscences and, like sucking the chocolate off an M&M for the pristine crunch of the peanut inside, finished with the happy fact that I Š surely the gangly girl least likely to succeed and prosper - was happily married and gainfully employed in a glamorous career I loved (one, surely, is allowed to exaggerate). He still lives in the same town we went to school in, is married to a girl who was also in our class, and has two kids the same age as mine who, in a different life, would have repeated history and all ridden to school together on the same school bus. Hearing from him was like a gift Š a little present from the sentimental past, enabling me to find out, if not the end of the story, at least how the plot unfolded.
Perhaps itÕs no surprise that the middle aged and disillusioned have leapt at chance to rekindle romance with their childhood sweethearts and run off into the sunset to a squeak of blackboard chalk violins - though thereÕs little chance of that in my case. My father scared off my potential sweetheart when he caught him posting his valentine through the door. We barely spoke again. But surely itÕs only an extension of the whole internet romance phenomenon without the anonymity. Here you can remember what the person looked like, albeit in their full-blown adolescence glory.
Frankly, if you had the spectacular lack of romantic success I had as a schoolgirl you would be more worried that you would turn up the bloke who dumped you for your best friend, the one you adored who wouldnÕt go out with you, or the creep who told his friends heÕd slept with you when you hadnÕt even kissed. Yes, thereÕs always the hope that the cool girls are all living in trailer parks with tattooed husbands who drink Special Brew for breakfast, and that youÕll have the chance to tell them: ŌI was a geek but now IÕm the female Bill Gates, with a modelling contract and my own sit com. But for most of us, thereÕs a very good reason why we lost touch with all those friends back in school and donÕt want to be reunited. Some pupils are happy to shake off their schooldays and reinvent themselves in a place where no-one knows that they weighed 300 pounds, or that they stuffed their bra with Kleenex (guilty). I was delighted to be contacted by my childhood valentine, but sadly thereÕs no chance of my ever reuniting with the first boy I was ever in love with. He has already graduated to the big school in the sky and hasnÕt left an e-mail address. Some things you just canÕt get back.