I almost skipped this week's blog topic. Pick my most embarrassing high school photo? How? They were all a source of embarrassment, if not shame.
Luckily, I don't have any high school photos in digital form. Off the hook. Oh, wait...I re-read the instructions. We can simply write about those cringe-inducing photos? Well, okay. I can do that.
Note my initial response: panic and avoidance. That's how I dealt with most photo opportunities from pre-adolescence on. It's an aversion I inherited from my mother. There was always this uneasiness about the camera capturing our unlovely selves for all time. No where to hide.
In high school, I had two things I wanted to hide, or at least disguise: Twenty extra pounds and Bad Hair.
I was always struggling with my weight and my hair. I didn't lose the weight until I left home. ("Isn't that funny?" my mother once mused.) So my chubbiness remained a constant, in my high school photos. But hair is easier to manipulate, so it kept changing.
Once my little girl braids got cut off, it was all down hill. My younger sister and I moved on to matching ugly pixie cuts, courtesy of the cut rate barber my mother discovered. In junior high, I took charge of my own hair. From then on, it kept changing. Short and long. Teased and not. Perky bouffants that turned flat. Ends flipped up and rolled under. But it was never right. It wouldn't stay straight. It wouldn't curl in the right way. It had a mind of its own.
No matter how I tried, I couldn't get my hair to look the way it was supposed to. I'd bring photos with me when I got my hair cut. "I want to look just like that," I'd say. I tried to follow the "setting" diagrams in fashion magazines. I slept with my hair in prickly rollers. Slathered my hair with setting goo. I moved on to wrapping my hair around my head, like it was a giant roller, and fastening it with clips and scotch tape. Ironing was the one thing I never tried.
I had two explanations, equally plausible, for my hair problems: I was inherently unattractive. I was inept.
I spent so much time with hair manipulation, I never recognized the fundamental problem: my hair's true nature. I had fine hair (courtesy of my mother) and wavy hair, bordering on curly, thanks to my father. My sister and brother were in the same boat. (But at least they were skinny!)
I headed off to college at just the right time. My campus was full of intellectuals and nonconformists. . . with liberated hair. Afros and "ethnic hair," men and women with long flowing locks. Shaved heads. It didn't matter.
Suddenly, my hair was just fine. And so was I.
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders