It all started because I posted my high school yearbook picture, with the caption “This was my senior pic, there’s nothing you can do that will hurt me”. Turns out, I was wrong, that in fact, seventeen years after suffering through the initial indignity of the photo itself, I would have yet another incident to add to my ever-growing “Men: You Suck” file, and even more reason to write about misogyny and sexual harassment. Which I will do, tomorrow. Today I want to talk about m'face.
That picture used to mortify me. When people teased me about it, I wanted to DIE. It encapsulated everything I always hated about myself growing up--the poverty and neglect I lived with as a kid, my inability to stick up for myself, my age inappropriate hypersexuality, my continued bafflement about how to be cool--all of it, just glaring out beneath that blond bouffant, screaming my otherness.
That picture was taken in 1998. Look at my smirk. I’m seventeen in that picture and I look like a world-weary French prostitute who’s seen 10,000 dicks. Which, I’ll be frank, was not far off. I got my senior pics done at Headshots, a boudoir-style glamour portrait place in the mall, because they were having a special and my mom was cheap. Part of the deal was they did your hair and makeup, and you could use their costumes if you wanted. I have a F’REALS senior picture with a feather boa, people. It’s soft-lit and air brushed. The shame is near unlivable.
When we arrived, a woman with a perfect barfly-backcomb and two inch press-on nails sat me down in a swivel chair, applied thick layers of Wet n’ Wild foundation to my face, and ratted my hair into a blond halo. Big hair hadn’t been popular for over a decade, but she reminded me of Dolly Parton and smelled like Aquanet, so I felt I could trust her style decisions. She kept telling me how beautiful I was, that I looked like a young Jayne Mansfield. I had no idea who that was, but she was so nice I didn’t have the heart to voice my concern as my hair grew ever higher. After spraying my bangs into a claw-configuration, she applied the final touch to my look: hooker-red lipstick with a topcoat of cherry lipgloss. “Gorgeous,” she declared and turned me toward the mirror so I could see myself.
I remember being stunned. I looked forty years old, older even, because I’m thirty five now and doubt I’ll look that haggard even in five years. “Do you love it?” she asked, and tears pricked the corners of my eyes. I did not love it, but, like many women, I had been raised to be too polite to complain, so I just bit my lip and nodded. “Maybe,” I said as gently I could, pressing down on my gigantic hair helmet with my palms, “maybe we could just tone the hair down a smidge?”
My stylist, channeling the young, and most likely as-yet unwigged Minerva Jayne, snorted with derision and said, “Oh, honey. With hair, you never go smaller.” She grabbed her comb, teased back the places I had squashed down, and pushed me out of the chair into the dressing room. “Find something sexy to wear! It’s your day!” Again, I was seventeen.
The photoshoot that followed lives, to this day, as one of the most uncomfortable events in my life. The photographer was a man in his late thirties, nice enough, but clearly wrestling with equal levels of uncomfortability and arousal as he tried to act casual about the entire half-naked, Toddler in Tiara fiasco. He was probably accustomed snapping pictures of ladies in the prime of their life, wearing off-shoulder velvet robes, giving their best “lookin’ for love-squeezin’” eyes. I’m sure it was a bit of a shock when a sullen teen in a sarong and strappy school tank top slouched into his studio dragging a prerequisite feather boa. He sweated the entire time. I alternated between that perfect storm of adolescent tumescence--glaring sass and indignation at him while my body screamed with crippling, humiliating shyness.
When I saw the resulting photos, I wanted to kill myself. Not in a cute, “Clueless”, omg, these are so unflattering kind of way. In a real, self-loathing “who the fuck is that, what am I?” kind of way. As I stated in a previous blog, I was sexually abused as a kid. I never had an innocence, never got to own my sexuality, never had a virginity to lose when I was ready to lose it. Seeing myself in that picture was like seeing how old my soul already was, that I was worn out, used up before I even finished high school. I basically all but dropped out after that, I only graduated because my guidance counselor could see I was suffering and took pity on me. I remember walking in late and hungover to the senior class breakfast just as they flashed my senior picture up on the projection screen. My classmates laughed, confused, not sure who was in the picture, because it certainly didn’t look like me. My friend Justin saw me standing in the doorway and yelled, in fun and completely innocently, “Wilson! You look like a whore!” He was right, so I turned around and walked back out., filled with a certainty that I didn't belong there, or anywhere.
I’m older and more whole now, and that picture is finally funny to me. I can see the humor in my big hair and ridiculous hooker-hard eyes. I can see the sweetness of a young girl trying to act tough and mean, when in reality, she can’t even hurt a hairdresser’s feelings. I love that picture, and myself at that tender age. Which is why I am so relieved that that gross, awful sex offender contacted me yesterday and not an actual teenager. After all, I've seen 10,000 dicks, what's one more? And, sweet or no, I will fuck a pedo up. How’s that for a spanking, honey?