Unfortunately, for most, senior year starts with one of the most important components: senior pictures. Smiling for hours in front of a camera wearing nice, mom-approved outfits and praying to God that at least ONE of them turns out nice enough to post a Senior Sunday on Instagram. And they will, even if initially you don't think so.
As expected, picking out outfits beforehand was definitely one of the most stressful aspects of the entire senior picture process, and I changed my mind at least four times on what the "perfect" outfits were. Truth be told? The perfect outfit doesn't exist. And if you're wearing something you're not comfortable in or is the complete opposite of what you'd usually wear, you'll be able to tell. The only exception I really made to this rule was that I wore heels with nearly every outfit; I was trying to hide the fact that I'm 5'4" on a good day.
For me, senior pictures took place on August 14th. After looking into what felt like leventy-billion (but was really only four) photographers, I chose a girl based out of a small town near Valley who also took one of my best friend's senior pictures, which turned out to be absolutely beautiful. I spent the first half of the day with my boyfriend, Alex, and went home around supper time to curl my hair and do my makeup.
It was important to me to have senior pictures that I felt really captured who I was. Some people take pictures with sports jerseys and on a field or a court, but I don't play sports; I read, I listen to Broadway musicals, and I play guitar. These are the things that are important to me, so these are the things I wanted people to see when they saw me in a showcase like senior pictures. And so, I brought all my favorite books and my mom printed the playbill fronts to my five favorite Broadway shows.
After three hours of shooting, my face literally hurt from smiling, but I felt good and happy and I actually had fun taking my senior pictures. No, my makeup wasn't perfect and my smile was crooked in some of my pictures. Unfortunately, one of my eyes still shut more than the other, like it does any other day. Looking at other people's senior pictures, you always think they look so glamorous and flawless and happy, and you look at yours and you just see you. It took me a couple days of completely overanalyzing my senior pictures to realize that looking like me was enough.
I was glad my mom came with; I was glad I took pictures that captured who I am; I was glad I had a photographer who didn't make things feel forced or uncomfortable; I was glad I could take my senior pictures in the way I wanted, with the outfits I wanted to wear, and the places I wanted to be.
It felt good and also terrifying to check the first element of senior year off of the to-do list. Knowing that a million more things, most more important that how my smile looks in a picture, are coming is exciting and daunting, and I can't wait to be able to eliminate more things from the list. Senior year 2017-18? Bring it on.
I used to be a business teacher. When I taught students about financial statements I told them the balance sheet is a snapshot that tells how you are doing on a given day. It lists your assets, liabilities, and equity. What you have, what you owe, and how much is actually yours.
But sometimes we look at snapshots and see a balance sheet of how someone's life is on any given day. Their assets, their liabilities, how much of it is actually theirs (and how much belongs to their old pal Photoshop or stitches behind the hairline).
In August, Abby had her senior pictures taken. As a body image researcher, I automatically worry about how glamourized senior pictures have become. How much editing is done to remove "imperfections" that this mom might think is actually a defining characteristic.
Abby actually chose the photographer, referred from a friend, and she was delightful! (McCall Manske, MM Photography) We wanted to put her in our pocket and take her home. Come to think of it, she may have fit in my purse.
She made it so much fun. Abby was the model, queen for a day. And I was the getter-of-things--running back to the car for the props. And to make things even better, someone had thoughtfully put this porta potty in the alley so I could pee four times in two hours.
Abby's pictures were taken in downtown Fargo (so cool, you guys!). I picked her up at her dad's, and we started the experience with her giving me a gift. (Ahh, the feels!) She had ordered bracelets for us from a company called Puravida. For every bracelet ordered money is given to someone. (I know that would have been more impressive if I could remember whom, but I forget things.)
It was a pretty little collection of colored threads, with a charm. This little string bracelet, given to me by my daughter during this year of exciting, but hard times, makes me think of this quote from the book Stitches, by Anne Lamott:
"You have to keep taking the next necessary stitch, and the next, and the next. Without stitches, you just have rags, and we are not rags."
Abby texted me earlier in the day and expressed how stressed she was. I wasn't sure I totally understood why. I think there is just so much pressure for these pictures to the best thing that has ever represented you. As if they can elevate your status in life. And of course, be Instagram-ready. Make the highlight reel.
The social media world we live in has taught us to
swipe and compare,
swipe and compare,
swipe and compare.
In mom's eyes, there is no comparison. I think Abby is so beautiful! Did you see those pictures up there? But we don't listen to our mothers. They are supposed to say that. (We are, too. It says so in the book. Calling your child ugly to her face is generally frowned upon.)
But besides what we are supposed to say, we are supposed to find a way to teach our children not to put too much value on how they look. So the pressure on Abby is to have the pictures be exactly what she dreamed of: the most beautiful, bright, shiny version of herself. The pressure on Mom is to convince her it shouldn't matter. It's tricky.
So you know what I did? I said screw it.
I made her feel pretty. And what in the hell is wrong with feeling pretty once in while? I'll be the do-everything-right-mom tomorrow. Today, I want my daughter to feel like the most beautiful, bright, shiny version of herself.