I don’t remember how it hit me, because I’m in my forties now and short-term memory loss is part of my very core, jockeying for dominance in a competitive field that includes doughnut obsession and self-loathing.
But it did hit me.
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my husband about high school senior pictures, because that makes sense. I had recently seen a social media senior picture teaser of a girl holding a literally flaming softball, beaming into the camera like someone who doesn’t understand melanoma and passed-over cover letters would.
As I was talking about it, I realized that it had been TWENTY-FIVE YEARS since my own senior picture sesh.
Like, full-blown 25 years. My senior pictures were taken in August of 1992. The current time (then) was August of 2017. I’m no mathematician, but that’s definitely 25 years and some small change.
What the hell is even happening!?
I was not a cute teenager, so the very idea of senior pictures was excruciating for me. I was not into having my picture taken, under any circumstance. I’m not photogenic. I try to make faces when someone is pointing a camera or phone in my general direction.
You know, to project a carefree nonchalance, and to mask the panic.
Having my picture full-on taken, on purpose, was just a horse of a different color. And that color was something unflattering that washed me out.
After that conversation, I couldn’t get the whole quarter-century thing out of my mind. I don’t like, keep extra senior pictures around the house, but we do have a well-rounded shelf of early-90s Nixa and Nevada yearbook glory in our home office.
My friend Sarah came over that night, and I showed her my yearbook photo to gauge her reaction, because she doesn’t pull any punches. And, like a true friend, she didn’t hold back.
“Were you a 50-year-old woman then? Have you had a nose job?”
And that brings us to Exhibit A.
“Tilt your head. A little more. Angle your face this way. A little more. Keep smiling!”
Somehow, I didn’t continue to follow the pitch of my head and crash into the floor. And you wonder why I wasn’t excited about this benchmark in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I had fun. I lifted weights. I played tennis. I drove around with my friend Lori blasting Sir Mix-A-Lot in my sweet, sweet Ford Probe.
But I saw no reason to draw my senior photo session out with those hobbies. I didn’t want props, or multiple locations. I wanted it to be over.
I just didn’t care.
Thus, Exhibit B of my senior picture session, which I like to call “Leaning.”
Looking back at these pictures 25 years later, this was what hit me: why do we have to pretend to be what we’re not? I mean, I get that our parents pay for these photos, but why can’t we let a little of our real lives leak in?
I wasn’t wearing these pleated pants day to day…come on, that’s way too fancy. And two of my three photographed shirts were freaking silk.
None of that was the real me.
It was troubling, and in my clouded, older mind, there was only one way to overcome the crippling memories.
A senior picture anniversary session.
Full of middle-aged fervor, I vowed to have pictures taken of the way I really am. Pictures with wet hair, or covered in sweat, doing the things I really loved to do.
So, without further ado, I present: Senior Picture Series, 2017
Top left: I took a shower, but was starving and didn’t want to wait long enough to dry my hair before I made a three-egg cheese omelet.
Top middle: I brought a friend in for these as I sought my wall-leaning redemption. Crystal Pepsi and I conquered that wall lean, together. And then I promptly gave the Pepsi away, because gross.
Top right: I decided not to even bother trying to dry or style my hair because it was in that weird half-dry place, so I pulled it back and finished last night’s pizza. Side note: the Domino’s app definitely didn’t exist in 1992, which feels like both a blessing and a curse.
Middle left: This was the actual silk shirt I wore in my senior pictures. I weigh more now than I did then. Note how giant the shirt is on me still.
Middle right: My friend Jennifer took this pic while we were in a BUTI yoga class. I love working out there because of the age-friendly lighting, but the instructors still inflict a lot of pain and leave me covered in sweat, which is more in keeping with who I am as a person.
Bottom: I hate this pose. I mean, I hate it. But I had a picture taken of me trying to do it anyway, because it’s hard, it’s ugly, and it’s my real life.
So to the beautiful girl holding the flaming softball: I get it. And it really did look cool. But I would have loved to see you on the field, black smudges under your eyes, diving for a scorcher. Sliding into home. Crying after a hard-fought win, or a heartbreaking loss.
No photo-shopping. No filtering. No highlight reel. Just honest, heartbreaking, beautiful, raw life.
Because haven’t we had enough of this whole thing of comparing our everyday life to someone else’s highlight reel? We’re all beautiful and ugly. We’re all brilliant and stupid. We’re all hilarious and dull. And airbrushing away negativity does us a great disservice.
We HAVE to embrace the negative to appreciate the positive.
And every once in awhile, pull out a yearbook…and smile fondly at the memories.