A few months ago, my mom got together with her siblings to go through a bunch of old family photos. My mom, being the wonderful person that she is, rescued a few photos of me that she was fairly certain I’d never want anyone to see, ever. And let me just get this tangent out of the way:
What is it with relatives thinking that it’s okay to take pictures of each other looking like mutants? Don’t you want your relatives to look good? YOU’RE RELATED TO THESE PEOPLE. IF YOU MAKE THEM LOOK LIKE THEY’RE TROLLS WHO JUST CRAWLED OUT FROM UNDER A BRIDGE, THAT SAYS SOMETHING BAD ABOUT YOUR GENE POOL. THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK THE SHUTTER, GENIUSES. Ahem. As my mother told my aunt, in what definitely sums up my philosophy of photography of other people — when my aunt insisted that a few of those photos (since thrown away, because there’s no reason for them ever to have existed) were good pictures of me — “Just because a person is in a picture and in focus doesn’t mean it’s a good photo.”
Anyway, she also brought me this picture. It’s me, circa 1989 or 1990, and hey, guess what? Leggings were in then, too. (The leggings I had on in this photo seem to have had an unfortunate fit.) I was also wearing a hat. You can’t really tell from my photo of the photo, but it was yellow. It was my dad’s hat, and he gave it to me because I liked it. I was on my bike, a red 10-speed I got for my tenth birthday. Also visible in the lower right-hand corner of the photo — the dog I had when I was a kid (up until I was 22), Teddy. I don’t know what he’s doing in this picture, I mean, he’s chewing on something but I can’t tell what it was. He was such a cranky bastard and I loved him so much. (I may be one of the only people on earth who loved him though, since anytime he gets mentioned to people outside my immediate family who hung out with me when Teddy was alive, the comments usually are something along the lines of “Man, I hated that dog.” That always makes me make a sad face.)
I don’t know who took this picture of me. I’m in the backyard of the house I lived in up until I was 12. Maybe my mom took it, but if she did, I’m not sure how it wound up in someone else’s photos. My guess is that my grandma took it. I was 10, or maybe 11, and though the awkward train had left the station a few years before, it still had quite a bit more traveling to do before it came to a stop. I had a lot of adolescence yet to get through, after all. I wasn’t smiling, because I had braces and I hated them. My hair was growing out from that ill-considered short haircut. Look at how round my face was. It was a rough time, being a preteen.
The main thing I remember about myself back then was that I wasn’t cool. I would’ve liked to be cool, but there was just something about me that didn’t quite fit in. I wasn’t a complete outcast, but for the most part I was kind of on the fringes of whatever group I was a part of. When I was in 5th grade, I was one of only two or perhaps three girls in my class who liked New Kids on the Block, the boy band sensation at the time. It’s a stupid thing, but I got made fun of for it, and I got made fun of a lot. Sure, they were awful, but I didn’t know that at the time, and I stood by my musical loves. Would suddenly hating them have made me cooler? I don’t know. What I do know is that it was a formative experience, because even though I wouldn’t have phrased it this way at the time, it taught me that there are always going to be people who will look down their noses, and oh, fuck ‘em, I’m going to do what I want anyway.
Maybe I was cooler than I think I was, despite the terrible taste in music. Probably not, but maybe.