A couple of weekends ago, I drove myself crazy looking for a few of pictures of me as a kid. They’re my favorites: one of me at about three, wearing my favorite pants; one of me at about 6 or 7 months old, drinking my first beer (I was the first grandchild, so they had a lot of fun with me); and one of my R2-D2 birthday cake when I was three or four.
I finally found them, but in the process, I found a couple of other pictures of me and I was struck by them.
One was of me when I was about 17. A friend of my dad’s was a photographer and agreed to do a photo shoot of my dad, my sister, and me for free so she could build up her portfolio. Dad, who isn’t big on pictures and usually looks like he’s about thirty seconds away from a homicidal rampage in them because he doesn’t smile, agreed because it meant he could give copies to Grandma and get her off his back about new pictures of us.
I remember that day because I felt stupid getting my picture taken in a bunch of different spots at Weldon Springs and I got reamed by my boss at Taco Bell because for an establishment that served questionable food products, they had pretty strict dress code rules and I got busted because I forgot to take all of my earrings out before I showed up for my shift (I have my ears done three times, but I was only allowed to wear one pair of earrings because that shit matters, man).
The second picture I found was taken when I was 21. I was at a hotel in Chicago with my boyfriend at the time. I was sitting on the bed in just a t-shirt, putting on my make-up. My hair was a pink mess and I was suffering from a serious lack of sleep. My ex had grabbed my camera and snapped a picture of me before I could protest.
I remember that day pretty well, too. I was getting ready that morning to drive him to the airport so he could go home. It was the end of long a trip for him, the longest the two of us had ever spent in each other’s physical presence during our entire long-distance relationship.
Looking at those pictures, I wasn’t just struck by the memories. I was also taken with just how pretty I was.
I never thought that at the time. How could I? Back then when I looked in the mirror I saw what everyone else saw: a fat girl with massive breasts and too-wide hips and too-broad shoulders. I was the opposite of what pretty was. Or what I was constantly being told pretty was.
Looking at those pictures and seeing it with the perfect vision of hindsight, I’m amazed that I remained oblivious that whole time. And I’m amazed that everyone else did, too. How many boys and girls missed out because my pants size was in the double digits? Holy hell! Look at that face! How did anyone manage to resist me? Well, I admit it. I helped them out a lot in that department. A little more confidence would have gone a long way back then.
I look at those pictures and I’m struck by the missed opportunity to enjoy being pretty. I’m not pretty now, mostly because of the stuff I did when I was the ages I was in those pictures. It takes too much work to be pretty now. But back then, I did it without a second thought and didn’t realize it.
Because I wasn’t pretty like everyone else, like I was supposed to be, like society wanted me to be.
Such a waste.
**I feel like I should add a disclaimer to this post. I’m NOT fishing for compliments. I’m just saying that I was too stupid back in the day to realize I was pretty then and marveling over the fact that some distance in the form of time has finally let me see that. I hated those pictures for years because I didn’t think I was pretty. I’m finally old enough to change my mind about that.**