I hate my high school senior portrait.
That’s probably the reason why when my daughter’s proofs came in and she disliked all the photos, I told her she could have a retake.
I assured her that at least two of the proofs were great and a senior portrait merely captures a moment in time. But in truth, my senior yearbook photo from my private all-Catholic girls’ school lingered in my brain. I disliked the photo at age 17 in 1976, and I still do today. I wish I’d had the opportunity for a do-over, but I don’t remember that being an option.
To prove how good her proofs were, I offered to show her and my son my senior portrait. I braced for their snickering, which I first heard from my sisters about 40 years ago.
“It’s uh, interesting,” my daughter offered.
My son was more blunt: “It’s a good thing you went to an all-girls’ high school,” he said. “There’s no way any guy’s going to get his hands on that yearbook and see this.”
I don’t think my senior portrait is particularly flattering. I wore a pumpkin colored polyester blouse and little make-up. My newly shorn hair with flipped bangs is a cross between George Washington and Betty Crocker’s hairdo. I wasn’t all that confident back then, and it’s reflected in the photo. It also explains why I haven’t had short hair since high school.
The Curmudgeon’s senior photo is much better. He looks like a clean-cut all-American guy in his jacket and tie. He said he thinks the photographer took one shot and told him he was done. I doubt that’s true, but let’s face it: back in the day you posed, did what you were told and waited about a month for the proofs to come in the mail.
I don’t want my daughter’s graduation photo to haunt her for life, though I know plenty of people who deplore their senior photos too. Most of us lived with them though, realizing that yearbooks are rarely opened after high school unless you’re a public figure embroiled in scandal. (Remember reporters combing through U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook last year?)
When I told an older friend that my daughter was having a re-take, she told me I should have insisted she pick from the original set of proofs.
“You are spoiling her, and that’s not going to help her once she gets in the real world,” she said. “She’s going to have to learn that things aren’t always going to go her way.”
I agreed with her, but it was too late. I’d already set the retake appointment, and didn’t want to renege on my offer. Just to be on the safe side, I agreed to pay a nominal fee for the second session, meaning we’ll have the option of picking from the first set of proofs if the retake is a bust.
From my many years as a responsible adult and sometime perfectionist, I suspect this may happen. How many times have I found a dress the first time out, yet continued to search thinking I might find something better?
I know I’m a bit of a pushover, but high school – particularly for girls – is a huge deal. I met a woman playing golf who attended my hometown’s public high school, graduating the same year as I did. When I began to float the names of a few people by her, she shook her head.
“I was very shy in high school,” she said. “I had no friends, and pretty much was a loner. I didn’t become outgoing and confident until well after high school, which was the worst experience of my life.”
It was hard to imagine this bubbly and pretty woman as a wallflower in high school, but I understand. The teen-age years are a tough period for a lot of kids, filled with angst, strife, self-doubt and insecurity. It’s also a time when emotional issues like anxiety and depression first manifest themselves, making kids feel even more polarized from their peers.
It’s not an easy time, but I think as parents we often forget that. So yes, I’m spoiling my daughter on this one. She’s my younger child, the last in my soon-to-be empty nest. I’m getting a little soft with age. I guess that’s one of the pitfalls of parenting a teen at the ripe old age of 61.
The photography studio that shot the photos claims that only about 10 percent of kids request retakes, but I suspect the percentage is actually higher. Today’s generation of kids is used to digital photos and I-Phones with filters, allowing them to put only their best face forward on social media. Given their daily control of their images, it’s no surprise that they’d want a perfect senior photo.
So we’ll do it all over again – the shirt, hair and maybe a little make-up help from cousin Nicki this time around. And hopefully, she’ll be happy with her picture, or at least be able to look at it without cringing.