13 People You'll Run Into At Homecoming

by Dacy Knight

Homecoming comes but once a year, and is a chance for us to relive the glory days of our youth while concurrently being reminded just how much we've aged in the past handful of years. As we return to our respective alma maters, we envision reassuming the spectacular lives we think we had as students, full of promise and collegiate good feelings. In preparation for the big weekend, here are 13 people you'll run into at your college homecoming, no matter how hard you try to avoid them. Consider yourself warned.

The expectation versus reality dynamic of homecoming is a brutal one. We can't help but attach all the golden memories we have about "the best four years of our lives" to this single autumn weekend while forgetting reality and the fact that things are inevitably different a year — or two, or five — out of college. A weekend doused in a heavy dose of nostalgia is also fair game for a plenitude of blast-from-the-past encounters, of both the desirable and the undesirable variety. Some unwanted run-ins we can predict from the get-go and try our best to avoid, but as the weekend plows forward, this becomes harder to commit to.

After a few free beers and a stacked schedule of school-spirited events, we eventually congregate around communal watering holes to throw back three dollar pints and sing along to the same jams that filled the bar when we were the regulars. At this point of homecoming, the chances are no longer in our favor that we'll make it through the weekend without finding ourselves face to face with the lineup below.

1. The girls who are maybe too enthusiastic to be back at college

You'll know them when you see them — but chances are you'll hear them first. They'll be the ones chanting school cheers in unison — and not just at the big game — as if they've been practicing all 12 months since last homecoming weekend. Straight out of a photo from the alumni brochure, they'll be freshly geared up in university bookstore swag, draped in scarves in your school's colors, with temporary tats of the mascot on their cheeks. They'll cluster on the campus green, swigging their way through the allotted four gratis beers, and switch out wristbands with their slower drinking sisters to finagle themselves an extra round.

2. The much older guy who probably didn't even go to your alma mater, but is always around

You thought he was kind of creepy in college, but five years out you recognize he's categorically a certified creep. He wears just enough university gear so you think he belongs there, but you've never been quite sure what exactly his affiliation is. He could be an overzealous uncle (though that doesn't really make sense), or a super devoted grad, but his overeager engagement and constant presence lead you to believe he actually is just a delusional dude trying to be a part of something he's not. If he weren't so unnerving, you might begin to pity him.

3. The new bouncer

You used to run this place. You'd show up to the door of the bar, cut the line, and skip that ID-handover thing and the two dollar cover. You were a regular. If anyone gave you hassle, someone would pat the new guy's back, and let him know who you were, after which he'd bashfully apologize and never let it happen again. But this guy? This guy doesn't know or care who you are or who you were five years ago. In fact, he finds your self-important actions disdainful, and sends you to the back of the line. You try to peer over the frenzy to make eye contact with someone you know inside, but the place is too packed and there are too many new faces.

4. The new freshmen

Speaking of new faces. Once you make it back into your old stomping ground, you instantly realize things aren't what they used to be. It smells the same (old beer and ripe college B.O.), it sounds the same (Hall & Oates are still doing their thing), but something is drastically awry and you can't quite put your finger on it. Then some dude trying to grow his first mustache spills his well drink on you, and you realize what's changed. Your favorite college bar is now swarming with children.

5. The one who never left

After graduation, some friends went off to the city to sell their souls in finance, some became paralegals, some went off to get master's degrees. Then there's the guy who didn't really leave college behind at all. Still sporting his Homecoming '09 tee (vintage, cool), he sits there at the bar as if it's where he's been sitting since you last saw him. You're afraid to start up small talk in fear of getting to requisite questions like, "what have you been up to?" You instead decide to let him thrive uninterrupted in his element, posted up at the bar.

6. Your very first college friend

You still remember their name, and your parents still ask about them, but the only contact you two make nowadays is the occasional appearance in each other's Facebook news feeds. After being attached at the hip all through new student orientation, you now hardly know what to say when you see them. Things fizzled out second semester freshman year, when you met new people and made real friends. And while your cutest I-just-started-college photos are all by their side, the best you can do now is awkward hug, ask how they've been, and maybe snap a side-by-side pic for old times sake.

7. The one-night stand who still tries to hang out

You had a night of fun a few or more years ago, but now regret exchanging numbers. Not one for lengthy daytime conversation, he winks and lets you know he'll "see you around" when you run into each other at a tailgate. Late in the day he texts to see if you're "out tonight?" and confirms he'll "be around." You forget you might run into him, because you never texted back. When he sees you at the bar later that night, he takes you aside to let you know he's reserved prime hookup real estate: a couch in his old team's off-campus house. You thank him for the consideration, and graciously decline.

8. The one who's already married and has a baby, maybe two

She may be a month or two younger, but she'll make you feel a solid three to five years behind. Her rustic barn wedding has been eternalized on Pinterest, and you witnessed the full growth of her first child with regular sonogram updates on Instagram. You admire her nosedive into adulthood, but in her presence you can't help but wonder where you've misplaced your biological clock.

9. The guy who likes you, maybe stalks you

You could do without him in college, and you can certainly do without him now. His face has the same menacing stare, yet now his hairline has receded. You blocked him from social media back in junior year, yet when he comes up to talk to you it sounds like he's found some way to still keep tabs. You squeeze your best friend's hand, and she announces it's time for a bathroom break.

10. The friend who never stayed in touch

After graduation she went off and lived life, elsewhere, with others, never looking back again. She deleted her social media accounts, started going by a new nickname, and reinvented herself on the other coast. You're not 100 percent sure if you still have her correct number, because some years you wish her happy birthday, and the response is a curt "Thx!" There are no interactions during homecoming, just intermittent instances of eye contact cut short by a hair flip.

11. Your ex

The most nerve-wracking run-in, this encounter is completely inevitable, and also the most traumatizing. He'll find a way to cozy up to you at the bar to say generic things like, "I still think about you sometimes," and, "There's a lot I regret," all the while directing you slowly toward a memory lane you do not want to take a trip down. Worst case: in the emotional whirlwind that is Homecoming Weekend, you'll forget about the last handful of years you spent getting over him, agree to "just talk" back at his old frat where before long he'll pass out from too many beers, after which one of his frat brothers will proposition you to cuddle.

12. The one who got hotter after college

If you're wise enough to steer clear of your ex, you might notice the hottie against the wall whose unusual good looks and brooding manner are ever so subtly familiar. Is he that cute cornerback who sat at the back of Geology 101? No, the cornerback's not so cute anymore, and he hasn't left the karaoke machine. Is he the handsome guy who lived down the hall, but had a girlfriend from back home? No, that guy's married and busy welcoming to the world baby number four. After some discussion with your girlfriends and social-media-based research, you realize that the hottie against the wall is actually the late bloomer you once turned down senior year. By the time you decide you'd like to amend your response, you find you're not the first to notice his post-grad sex appeal. Now you'll have to get in line to get a word in.

13. The people you don't remember at all

This final category is plural, and encompasses all who will enthusiastically approach you homecoming weekend, ambushing you with gleeful greetings and addressing you by first and last name. You'll draw a blank each time, and spend the duration of your one-sided interaction trying to place their face and come up with a name. Just remember, it's always better to have this done to you than be the excited, unrecognized person on the other end. Pro tip: sunglasses help to mask any wide-eyed alarm you may exhibit when cornered. Best of luck, and happy homecoming!

Images: Dacy Knight, Giphy (13)