A colleague of mine at work showed me his oldest son’s first school photo: not as a matter of pride, but in his words, “Can it get any more awkward than this?” To which I would like to respond, “Yes, Dan. It can.” May I share the saga of my School Picture Day with you in hopes that you will look at your handsome young son and say, “You know, son. It’s really not so bad.”
This is one of the few posts I’m including without an audio accompaniment. I figure since I’m telling the story mostly in pictures, what’s the point? You also may wonder in amazement that I am willing to post actual photos of myself on here. Well, these photos were taken many years ago and while I would so love to say I look like my Senior Class photo, life does have a way of changing a person… severely. I feel pretty safe that most people would not recognize me from these; unless of course you know me well, in which case: Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog you AMAZING person, you! (That kinda goes for everyone reading this though; whether you know me or not.)
Kindergarten, before I became angry at the world and everybody in it. This is my mother’s favorite photo of me. She says to this day that this is the best photo that’s ever been taken of me. I suppose this is the version of me she likes to hang on to – the version of me before I acquired my attitude.
Here’s a comparison between 1st and 2nd grade… You can begin to see it: The change. This is where I began to stop smiling.
These next two photos crack me up. The first one was taken on a day when I believe my mother did not know school photos were being taken. I was wearing one of my favorite, most coolest, shirts. The thing was this silky-fabric and the pictures on the material told a kind of story. I loved that shirt. To top it off, you can see that I’ve just been outside at recess: slightly breathless, mussed hair, and the most pleasant look I ever got on my face in those days. This face is practically beaming ear-to-ear by relative comparison!
This is one of my favorite photos from my childhood because I think it captures who I really was. I remember just going through the line with all the other kids. The photographer was super laid-back. He just said, “OK, on the count of three. One, two…” Snap! And it was done. My kind of photo shoot!
Then, my mother got the proofs.
“Why didn’t they straighten your hair?” I shrug. Probably because I wouldn’t let them. And, “Did you know it was picture day at school?” Shrug. Probably. “Why are you wearing that old shirt instead of your pretty new blouse?” Another shrug. Probably because my “pretty blouse” is way too girly and has puffy sleeves or something. I like this shirt. “And darling, why don’t you smile pretty for the camera?” At this, I simply look away. I have no answer to this except that I don’t smile now. It’s a conscious choice. I don’t know why, I just don’t.
Now that I am an adult and have worked through it all, I DO understand why. But at that time, I really had no idea. Only that it was the reasonable thing to do.
This photo is the RETAKE that year which my mother demanded. It was our nation’s big bicentennial birthday, which is why all the patriotism in the pic. Note the puffy-sleeved sailor blouse. I hated that top. My hair is combed. And the photographer this time is trying to get me to smile.
Maybe you, like me, have a bit of that rebel inside that when someone tries to get you to do something you don’t want to do, the harder they try the deeper you dig in your heels. I can see I’m strongly considering knocking over his camera-stand as I leave.
Moving forward a bit: 6th grade. By this time I had completely mastered the “never smile at a crocodile” attitude. There are so many things going on in my head in this photograph, I don’t even know where to start. So I won’t. Feel free to add your captions to this photo in the comments section. I dare you.
Then, puberty hit. Boys… Boys… Boys… and more Boys. Instead of competing with them now, I wanted them to like me. I discovered that was hard to do if I didn’t smile and at least try to look pleasant. This is me trying to do just that. After so many years of non-practice though, it’s not as easy as you might think…
This is the blackmail photo. Surely everyone must have one. It is by far the worst school photo I ever took: braces, glasses, and a really poor attempt at feathered hair (which was all the rage). In my defense, I will say, “Hey! Nice tan!” And I well-remember my bell-bottom-jeans-hemmed-perfectly-to-just-kiss-the-floor were pretty rockin’ as well, even though you can’t see them. They had a special pocket placed low on the right side made specifically for a tortoise-shelled Goody-comb: the better to keep those feathers flyin’ in the right direction all day long!
Senior photos. Finally! The smile finally made it to my eyes. This was, of course, before the photographer asked me to change into a tube-top so she could get some bare-shouldered vixen photos in. I suppose that was also the big rage. Every girl wanted to show how cute and sexy she was by showing some skin in her Senior photo.
But this is how I found the smile in my eyes that comes from within my soul: I do what I-I-I feel is right. I listen to MY heart, not the voices of the peers around me. I will be who I am regardless of what others say about it. And I see no need to show any skin other than what I’m showing right here. I refused the tube top, thanked her for the session, and walked out.
I think it turned out pretty OK, don’t you?
So Dan, don’t despair. There will be many more bad school picture days to come. But just as you’re growing accustomed to the shock factor, he’ll be grown and gone; and you’ll pull out those old photos like the gems they are and remember.
My deepest love and respect to ALL parents and the photos you put up with.