Friday, August 15, 2008

Crashing Back Down to Earth

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.

18 comments:

Tina said...

Mega corp has blocked the photo - Fascists! I will have to log on from home to see you in all your glory!

Shannon said...

Tina, they don't actually think I'm sending out hairspray porn, do they? And it is indeed glorious.

[F]oxymoron said...

Hmmm… this is not the image of a future car stealing, sandwich eating, TV breaking, goat raping woman… a de-alphabetizer, perhaps! Que Paso??

Shannon said...

Foxy - I know. I look so innocent! Tiered taffeta will fool ya every time.

FoggyDew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zipcode said...

awww you are too cute......

Gilahi said...

I still say the '70s was a much uglier decade. You could've been wearing a headband, a tie-dyed maxi skirt, and boots up to your knees, smelling of patchouli and hoping your parents don't ever find the CokeSnuff in your purse.

Shannon said...

ip - Aw, thanks. I'm sure there was a lovely girl under all those taffeta layers and Aquanet.

Gilahi - Hey, that's how I dress now!

Lemmonex said...

My babysitter in high school had the super teased, super shellacked bangs. We used to torture her by trying to crush them.

We all have those photos, friend. You should see my senior picture. I had jet black hair with two bleached white strips in front. HOTNESS.

lacochran said...

It is fabulously hideous. :) Thanks for sharing. We all have these photos. To this day, my sister displays a 1980s group photo that includes me in a dress with shoulder pads that make me look like a linebacker. Charming.

Shannon said...

Lem - I bet you were hot, even with skunk hair.

Lacochran - Ooooh boy. I don't quite have shoulder pads there, but the puffs are pretty extreme. I bet the reason my arms are so tight against my sides is to prevent me from being carried away by an updraft.

FoggyDew said...

I've been trying to come up with something to say...but, truly, that picture puts me at a loss for words (except these).

Shannon said...

Foggy - what, I don't look like a vision of loveliness?

suicide_blond said...

awwww...ive never seen anything as adorable...
im totallly sending this shot to cute overload..
xoxo

Shannon said...

Blond - I go for hilariously disturbing, I wind up "cute." Awesome.

Anonymous said...

Having stick straight hair, I always liked curls, even permed ones. Your photo is cute, Shannon, and when you are older still, and you've seen the cycles of fashion go around a few more times (the 1980s are coming back in as we speak), you'll think so too.

Clio

freckledk said...

All the teasing and AquaNet in the world couldn't help me achieve such an effect - much to my dismay. I would have been green with envy had you been in my class.

Shannon said...

Clio - if the poofy sleeves ever come back, remind me to just wander around naked. Ugh.

K - A spiral perm could have totally done the trick. It's not like I have a lot of hair to begin with.