ILLUSTRATION: STEVEN VEACH

People ask a certain question so often at Reunions that my friend Mike Korn ’00 had a T-shirt made to answer it. Now, when someone starts the inevitable “Which tent do you guys want to go to?” conversation, Mike simply points to his shirt, which reads: ANYWHERE BUT THE FIFTH.

Tent-hopping is one of the best aspects of Reunions. No matter when you graduated, you can enjoy the ambiance surrounding every era and age group. Like dancing to classic rock? Aim for the 30th or 35th. Quiet cocktails? Try the 60th. Cramped shoulder-to-shoulder shouting with tall youths who don’t yet understand that the world is cruel and who spill beer on you and call you “bro” and try to hook up while wearing obnoxiously large sunglasses? That, of course, would be what Korn tries to avoid — the fifth. 

(I recounted this for reunion-committee member Catha Mullen ’07, who calls the description of the fifth-year tent “pretty accurate,” admitting — or boasting — that “as the classes are getting bigger, and more people are showing up for their fifth reunions, it’s getting a little more frenzied.”)

To observe the disparity between two very different reunions, on Saturday night I stopped by both the fifth-reunion tent, in Pyne-1901 Courtyard, and the 50th-reunion tent, in Blair-Joline Courtyard.

REUNIONS LOGO

50th ‑Pleasant-looking tiger in boater hat

05th ‑Aggressive-looking, vaguely anime tiger in Army fatigues

MENU

05th ‑Hamburgers, hot dogs, margaritas

50th ‑Chateaubriand filets, salmon, cheesecake

ALCOHOL AVAILABLE

50th ‑Stella Artois, Rolling Rock, Brooklyn Lager, LandShark Lager, Budweiser, wine

05th ‑Budweiser, Bud Light

LINE FOR BEER

05th ‑Multiple lines, all fairly long; second ID check; required wading through hay-covered inch of “beer mud”

50th ‑No line for beer

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE 

50th ‑Ivory Jim Hunter ’62 and The Headhunters playing rock music of the ’50s and ’60s

05th ‑DJ Earworm, whose Web page promises an “extra special, oh HELL-yes kind of a party”

FIRST SONG I HEARD PLAYING IN THE TENT

50th ‑“Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” (Rodgers and Hammerstein)

05th ‑“Pumped Up Kicks” (Foster the People)

DINNER CONVERSATION

05th ‑Careers, engagements, weddings, grad school, incredulity regarding the youth of the current graduating class

50th ‑Memories, classmates, and, says class secretary Barry Bosak ’62 emphatically, “not ­politics”

OVERHEARD REGARDING OTHER REUNIONS

05th ‑“Did you hear Bon Jovi played at the 25th last night? I couldn’t get in.”

50th ‑“Did you hear Joan Jett is playing at the 25th tonight? I couldn’t get in.”

ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILY ­MEMBERS

05th ‑World War II panel, class memorial service

50th ‑Vietnam War panel, class memorial service

SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS

05th ‑None, because so few have kids

50th ‑None, because kids are in their 40s 

TIME PARTY ENDED

50th ‑Midnight

05th ‑2 a.m. (time to walk to the eating clubs and party for another few hours) 

AS A PERSON IN HIS EARLY 30s, I FELT ... 

50th ‑A little out of place

05th ‑A little out of place

COMMENT ON OFFICIAL CLASS FACEBOOK PAGE THE MONDAY AFTER

05th ‑“I lost my beer jacket :(”

50th ‑No class Facebook page

CLASS MEMBERS’ THOUGHTS ON TENT ATMOSPHERE

5th “The fifth is the Reunions equivalent of Terrace; it’s the place everyone goes to continue the party after everywhere else goes quiet.” — Ilana Lucas ’07 

50th “The atmosphere was major relaxation. We’ve finished our careers, for the most part our children are on their own, and we play with our grandchildren. I think we’re probably far more relaxed than the fifth.” — David O’Brien III ’62

ILLUSTRATION: STEVEN VEACH

The difference between the fifth and the 50th reunions can be seen longitudinally as well as in cross-section. Bosak says that since the Class of 1962’s own fifth reunion in 1967, the whole affair has become “much more civilized,” with alcohol consumption restricted to the tents rather than spread across the campus. “You’re not walking around campus with an open container,” he says, “and just drinking, drinking, drinking.” 

So perhaps today’s 20-somethings are no more boisterous than mid-century youth — and can look forward to a 50th reunion of a mellowness on par with the Class of 1962’s.

Remember that, Class of 2007. At your own 50th, in 2057, you’ll be the ones in bed by midnight. And you’ll be glad you’re “anywhere but the fifth.”

Adam Ruben ’01 is a writer, comedian, and molecular biologist in Washington, D.C. Learn more at adamruben.net.