My mom died of brain cancer my senior year of high school, and since she was a teacher at my school, the principal gave me a sorry-your-life-is-ruined gift of a senior photo package worth some hundreds of dollars. It was a pretty cool present, I thought, since I’m generally narcissistic and loved the idea of having my picture taken over and over again in several different outfits by a willing photographer rather than my not-easily-coerced, annoyed-by-my-pestering-whenever-we-went-anywhere friends.
The photographer was a lanky guy named Scott who was so typical of all the now-thirtysomethings who had graduated from my high school: black mullet, tapered black jeans, tucked-in cheap flannel shirt, black sneakers, giant aviator wire-framed glasses. You know, your basic child molester ensemble. He was nice enough and made polite conversation with the friends who came with me for my shoot, but I think he thought he was shooting for Playboy or something. I of course brought several sweaters to change into, because his props included things like wagon wheels and hay bales, which was fine with me, because I’m straight offa the farm. But he kept telling me to “change into something slinky”, as if I had brought along my littlest black dress to lounge around in on the unfinished wood floor. And then he kept telling me to not smile and to try to look sexy, which was pretty hilarious what with my wearing patterned sweaters and faded jeans and all. At one point, he positioned me in this fake doorway covered with stucco that was supposed to be reminiscent of Mexico (because every Ohio teenager dreams of being Mexican?) with one hand on one side of the arch and the other hand on the other side and told me to look “dark”. And by that, I’m pretty sure he meant “less-clothed”.
The great thing is that my good friend Sheena, who also had her senior photos taken by Scott, really did bring slinky dresses to her shoot. That tramp.
And the even greater thing is that in the set of photos that my dad loved most and wanted to have blown up to astronomical proportions for everyone in my family to display on their fireplace mantles, I had this stray curl sticking out on one side of my head very obviously. When we looked over the proofs with Scott, he told us he could alter the photo to make it look natural, and we agreed to it. Now, in these days of Photoshop whizzes, that would be an easy feat, but this was Ohio in the year 2000, when my family and Tracey’s were the only ones in the whole county to own computers.
So when the pictures came back, poster-sized to outdo all of my cousin’s photos in my grandmother’s living room, one side of my head looked normal and the other side had an extra inch of afro-like curls DRAWN IN with a black marker. It doesn’t in any way resemble the rest of my hair, and you can pick out each of the swirly marker lines very distinctly.
But hey, they were free.