Do you ever look at old pictures and have a hard time recognizing yourself? Oh my God, what was I thinking, I looked awful. And worse yet, you can remember how confident you felt at the time walking around looking that ridiculous. I am such a fool. Even better, do you ever wonder what you’ll think in ten years when you look back at pictures of yourself from now? It’s a frightening thought indeed. I’m sure future me will be thrilled that I am currently rocking adult braces, nerd goggles, and a side bun. Well done me, I’ll say.
There is a particular family portrait on a wall in my parents’ house from 1996 that embodies this horror. In it my younger sister is overpowered by the extra-large brim of her straw hat, my older brother is wearing large thin-rimmed glasses with his hair slicked over one side so you can see the shaved bit underneath, I am cloaked in a white dress with large shoulder pads and a thick white headband, my Mom’s heavy makeup goes well with her perfectly coiffed hair that seems to be housing a family of birds, and you can’t see my Dad’s mouth because his mustache ate it. Incredible. This picture may be embarrassing but it is relatively mild, so I am not complaining.
From what I remember of the late 90’s, our fresh new hormones were being worked over by a number of boy bands/girl groups; while simultaneously, grunge music had us angst-ing all over the place. At one point I had so many Hanson posters in my room that you couldn’t tell what colour the walls were. But after having to change in the bathroom for a while because there were so many eyes pointed at me, I eventually had to shed my teen-dream wallpaper. I can’t recall all of the wonderful phases of my youth, but pictures would suggest that I participated in the following trends: refusing to be a girly girl by only wearing baggy boy clothes; trying to be a hippy but merely succeeding at looking sloppy; only wearing black to appear super mysterious and artsy; not conforming to dress codes by wearing very typical punk gear; and teaming over-sized jeans with under-sized shirts conveniently around the time that my breasts came in.
Even though it was always me under there, it’s a little unsettling that I was drastically changing my appearance so frequently. This little identity crisis of mine could have been for a number of reasons. I was listening to different styles of music and struggling with what I actually liked versus what was “cool”. I was hopping around different groups of friends, trying to find where I fit in. But if I am really honest with myself, then the answer is obvious – boys. I may not be able to tell exactly what year it was when looking at old pictures, but I’ll bet I could tell you what boy I had a crush on at the time. And although I’m sure she’ll never admit to it, my sister was so much worse than I was. I don’t know where we got this idea but with each new crush came a brand new persona; trying to make ourselves into exactly the kind of person that this boy would like. It may have been a misguided concept but it was very effective – proving that these boys were just as shallow as we were. Thankfully the process of keeping up a persona is exhausting and eventually you have to admit that you’re kidding yourself.
Since the old days of changing ourselves in order to fit the preference of somebody else, I have learned a lot from my sister. At some point she figured out how to really be true to herself and in doing so found somebody who fell in love with the real her. Some women dream of a man that will shower them with riches. Some dream of being whisked away to foreign places. But after spending time with my sister and her husband, I’ve learned what real happiness is – having somebody who will laugh with you when you have a bad case of the farts. Ahh, bliss 🙂