I'm Taking Back My Awkward Photo

If Throwback Thursday has taught me anything, it's that I'm not alone.
Publish date:
August 23, 2013
bullying, it gets better, awkward years project

OK, so recently a friend of mine told me that she got hit on by a guy who was doing her nails -- and she absolutely plans to go out with him at some point. This is not the story.

I responded, "Oh hells yes," and proceeded to bombard her with a bevy of advice texts, starting with "Call me immediately before and after."

As we were discussing this exciting new turn of events my friend then forwarded me a picture her future husband had just sent. It wasn't just a selfie. It was one of those back-in-the-day selfies -- a one-hour photo. You know the ones where you put on your Friday afternoon best and headed down to the strip mall to be immortalized in front of a "white marble" sheet. But, again, this is not even the story.

After we did what all bored girls do -- that is analyze every speck of evidence concerning this man's character based on nothing save a picture -- my friend hit me with this: "That background! This totally reminds me of that junior high picture you took with..."

I did not go to junior high with this friend but she -- nay the entire world according to Facebook -- is intimately familiar with my awkward years via this photo.

The horror! The horror!

This is the story. I thought I looked fly in those skorts, those "slouch socks" and that "silver" herringbone chain. I was not fly, however. I was insanely self-conscious. I was trying so damn hard. I was giddy to be included. And, most of all, I was certain that someday I would actually get it, whatever it was.

So honestly, despite the "gangsta" stare and that casual arm leaning on my knee like "Oh you wanna snap a pic right quick? Whateva homie, it's all to the g," I'm extremely proud of this particular piece of history. If anything, it's evidence that not only will the skort rise again, but that awkward photos are empowering.

Which brings me to Merilee Allred of The Awkward Years Project. On her site, Allred showcases her own old school photos along with submissions from readers. Folks pose as their adult selves holding up a picture of their awkward selves, sorta like a Before and After Russian doll of life. But the project, according to Allred, is about more than simply "Look at me now, bitches!"

"I just wanted to make things clear. I find that everyone is beautiful, then and now. This isn’t a 'Look how I got cute' blog, nor am I saying that people’s awkward years are ugly, " wrote Allred on her Tumblr a few days ago. "This blog is about self-discovery and surviving our awkward years. Most, if not everyone I have blogged about so far, are not only are proud of who they are now, but they are even proud of who they were back then. It just took awhile for most of us to realize it."

Amen to that. There was a time when the Facebook comments unfurling beneath my very own awkward photo consumed more than a few days of frantic refreshing. I wanted to know who had said what about the when that had been me. But the kid in that photo was me -- if only the caterpillar version. Why not embrace it?

If Throwback Thursday has taught me anything, it's that I'm not alone. Really none of us are. Even the coldest mean girls have a hot Kodak trail of evidence. And can't you look back on any period of your life and think, "Man, did I really need that purple mega scrunchie? Or that black lip liner? Or those stone washed skinny jeans?"

I'd love to see a 62-year-old woman holding up a photo of her 30-year-old self and say, "Yeah I thought those shoulder pads were the jam. They weren't" and so on and so on. Sure the glasses might come off, but hindsight as we all know it is 20/20.Do you ever truly get unawkward?