When I was in grad school, I was always telling people that I was hideous-looking as a child. I told them that's why I had trouble believing boys could ever find me attractive. And by the time the whole Wily Republican incident rolled around, I was very confused why he--with his eyes and jaw and voice and general tallness--was wasting time with me when he could be dating any of the lanky Swedish goddesses that roam Minnesota.
I talked about this a lot. I didn't get it, I told people. Why were boys all of a sudden paying attention to me? What was going on?
Finally, after hearing this conversation about eight thousand times, one of my best grad school boys said, "What is your problem? I don't understand why you don't think you're cute."
And that's when I passed him a picture of me at thirteen years old.
He looked at it, looked back up at me, and said, "Oh."
And last night when I was picking through old photos for a project I'm making for Father's Day, I found one of the legendary pictures I'd told people about. I told them it was a horrible picture, a picture that illustrated just how sucky my life was during middle school. The picture was taken at a Hooters after a NASCAR promotion my mother was doing with the restaurant. While she had been doing giveaways, my brother and I had sat in the corner mowing down on a pile of wings. After the race was over and we were ready to go, my parents suggested we do one more thing: have our picture taken with two of the Hooters waitresses. Why they thought this was a good idea is beyond me, but it happened, and here's the proof:
There are several things to note in that picture. First, let's consider my brother. This might very well be where his love for all things Hooters took its root. I mean, look at his face. He's psyched to be standing with his head right at Hooter height. But me? I'm not so psyched. I just look pudgy, sad, and a little bit greasy. I'm wearing a racing-themed jacket, a racing-themed shirt, and acid wash jeans. I am standing next to two toothpicks, two early 90's Hooters girl who have breasts that somehow manage to be larger than even my fat head. I have a giant zit on my chin. I am probably thinking something like, I love Ryan McLean or Why won't Ryan McLean love me? Although I think the answer is evident from that picture.
And while this isn't the photo I showed off in grad school when I was asked to produce evidence that supported my neuroses, I think it would've done a fine job, that it would've elicited the same response that the other picture did. I think sometimes I get confused and think that I'm still that girl in the photo: awkward, bumbling, silly, and years away from finding a boy to love her.