Picture Day

What follows is not my story; it is a part of my partner’s Truth. As I mention in my inaugural post, “Permission,” one of the pieces I’m writing is about his experience transitioning from assigned female at birth to the male he is.

Everyone has at least one school photo of themselves that they don’t like. If you’re lucky, you’ve only got one. Maybe you rocked giant glasses, or maybe you had braces. Maybe you had acne, or maybe you were carrying a few more pounds back then than you are now.

I happen to have more than one heinous school photo, but fifth grade is the one that stands out in my memory as particularly terrible. I was ten years old, and on the cusp of becoming a young lady, which was traumatic in and of itself.

My mom dressed me in a brand new, white, cap-sleeve shirt, with lilac and cornflower blue horizontal stripes. Now my crayon box only has eight colors in it. My girlfriend, whose crayon box contains the full complement of 128, informed me that the purple and blue stripes on my shirt in that picture are, in fact, lilac and cornflower blue. Also, I wouldn’t know a cap sleeve from a hole in the ground, but for those of you playing the home game, you might now have a complete picture of the girliness that was unwantedly unfolding.

The shirt is a footnote in this story, though, because what truly ruined my life for that day was my hair. My hair was cut in a shag that just hit my shoulders. My usual hair care routine was wash, comb, and air dry.

But on Fifth Grade Picture Day, my usual routine wasn’t good enough. Truth be told, my shag haircut was probably a little shaggier than any mom would want their kid’s hair to be on Picture Day. But in McFarland, there’s no Snip ‘n’ Clip up the road. The lady who cut our hair lived in the next town over.

Anyway, because of my “Shaggy Hair Don’t Care” attitude and my actual shaggy hair, my mom intervened with a brush, two hair combs, and some extra-hold hairspray. The result was a perfectly typical school-girl hairstyle – something to which I never aspired. The look can be best described as nothing like how I ever wore my hair. Ever.

I cried. I cried while mom was doing my hair. I cried after she was done. The resulting picture shows someone I don’t recognize as myself; some alternate version of me, who existed, perhaps, in some parallel universe.

I never wore that shirt again.

What was your most awkward age, and what made it awkward? Do you feel like you’ve overcome that awkwardness, or do you carry it with you still?

2 thoughts on “Picture Day

  1. Vicki Scales says:

    Holy cow that is exactly what my mom did!! I cried. My mom has always loved short hair styles. Third grade right before picture day my mother took me and cut all my hair off. I cried in the salon chair. I cried all the way home. I went to my room closed the door and sat behind my closet door and cried. Next day was picture day. She forced me to wear a little orange suit with a skirt. I felt helpless and ashamed that who I really was and what I wanted had no value. This experience was so painful that I always gave my daughter the independence to decide for herself.


    1. amy eff says:

      Oh, no! I’m sorry you had that experience — it sounds horrifying. It’s interesting how these things stay with us, down to the very last detail. These events shape not only who we are as people, but as parents.
      Thank you for sharing, Vicki.


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