Sometimes, I get a bit full of myself. I think I’m the smartest, funniest, coolest, most stylish woman in Washington. My head swells to a dozen times its usual size, like the day after a bourbon binge.
I post all about me, my feelings, my place in the Universe. I imagine there are legions of strangers enthralled by whatever’s rattling around in my brain. In short, I buy into my own goofball mythology.
I need a cure. And the best cure for an inflated ego is perspective.
Luckily, I will always have this photo. This was taken in 1991 or so, back when I was in private school and on my way to a Sweet Sixteen party. Yes, I briefly attended the sort of school where people had fancy Sweet Sixteens with boats and buffets and DJs. We also had ropes courses and bird poop.
I count on this photo to crash me right back down to Earth. Starting at the top, we have the poodle perm with engorged bangs. The chandelier earrings are totally inappropriate for a ninth-grader. It’s really obvious that I’ve borrowed my mom’s handbag. I’m off-kilter, grimacing, and over-posed.
Then there’s the dress. If I had a million years, I could not begin to list all the things wrong with it. The tiered skirt. The cheap taffeta, which felt like burnt toast against my skin. The bizarre way the top half ends in an arrow formation, pointing the way to that which no man saw until (many) years later. And the jacket. Oh, that jacket with the Stay-Puft sleeves and its amazingly flattering way of ending just below my nonexistent breasts.
I’m even wearing shimmery nude pantyhose. Fortunately, the picture doesn’t let you see the shoes. I think the reason I partied so much in college was to seek and destroy the portion of my mind that remembered the shoes.
I look ridiculous. I’m awkward, squawky, goofy and overdone. But at the time, I was very cool. I got loads of compliments on that dress. Everyone loved the hair and asked me how to use AquaNet to get that perfect cascade effect.
Within a few years, the dress was dreadful and the photo was embarrassing. But seventeen years later, I look at it with affection. I realize that anything that seems important, special or cool now will be absurd soon enough. Life moves in circles, and everyone has their moment of being an overdressed nerd in front of an ugly plaid chair. My mythology is a lie. I'm just as screwed up as everyone else.
If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. Except perhaps the jacket.
PS – I’m violating my “no photos of me” rule, I know, but as an entire person who can see R-rated movies separates me from that girl in the photo, I don’t think it counts.