In an attempt to pour one out for the 2020 high school seniors and the year that died when COVID-19 struck, a lot of 30 and 40 somethings are posting their own senior year high school photo on Facebook. Folks are getting a kick out of rehashing the “best days of their lives,” cringing over bad fashion, or lamenting the body they once had.
I understand the sentiment behind people showing solidarity to the students who lost a lot of lasts before starting life-changing firsts after graduation, but I don’t get it and I’m not doing it. It’s going to take a lot more than a pandemic to highlight an 18-year-old picture of me on social media.
First of all, for those of us still crushing it on Facebook, do we really think high school seniors care about their parents’ old pictures or their parents’ friends’ old pictures? Are high schoolers even on Facebook? No and no. We are a bunch of curmudgeons arguing with the Karens and Todds of the world in the comments section while the youth are busy with TikTok, Houseparty, Discord, and WhatsApp.
Haven’t heard of half of these? Exactly.
The class of 2020 isn’t going to see your 25-year-old photo, and they don’t want to. It’s a slap in the face to them because your photo is a snapshot of what they lost. I am having a hard time seeing the connection of solidarity between graduating seniors of yore and seniors who are mourning the loss of school, prom, sports, friends, theater, and all the traditional pomp and circumstance that typically accompanies this pivotal time in their lives.
However, if misery truly loves company, maybe I should post a picture of myself — because my high school days and my senior year definitely were not the best of my life. I was a closeted, scared kid who was living in an abusive household. I had been actively contemplating suicide for at least two years. My teeth were in the early stages of being fixed after years of being bullied for having a mouth full of horribly discolored and diseased teeth thanks to a genetic disorder. And my hair was not good. Really not good. It was part mullet, part pixie cut in an attempt at short hair to satisfy my inner masculine side that had been trying to get out for years. Yet, I smiled at the camera while wearing my letterman’s jacket as if everything was just fine.
I could dig up my senior photo from my yearbook, but the actual pictures were lost years ago when my parents divorced. Much of what was mine as a child and teenager was left in a house I haven’t returned to in 20 years. I don’t need them, though. I can still remember that 18-year-old, but I am not that person anymore. Or maybe I am, but now that I’m finally free to be me, I’m not interested in getting a chuckle out of 1997 me.
I am not interested in reliving, or even revisiting, the past. I learned about people, relationships, and myself during my last year of high school, but thank fucking God the best was yet to come.
I’d rather show high school seniors a picture of me now: a queer, transgender parent of three kids who has been married and divorced and is living day by day in recovery of alcoholism and a shitty past. I have found new spaces, new love, and a new body. The only weight I care about in old photos is that found on my chest. I can barely look at myself in photos prior to my top surgery; it’s not a matter of seeing myself as slim or chubby, it’s seeing myself with boobs vs. without. Also, boobs aside, I am much more attractive now than I was my senior year. I had a good heart, great sense of humor, and was an accomplished athlete and student, but I wasn’t getting any second looks based on my face or style. Radiating queerness probably kept a few folks away too. Insecurity doesn’t usually breed sexiness.
I understand if you think I am being a hypocrite for pointing out that you’re only posting your photos for your own enjoyment and the engagement you’re getting from your friends. I have just spent several hundred words talking about my self-centered reasons for not posting my own. The focus this whole time, just like the time it takes for you to add photos to a social media feed, has been on anyone but a high school senior who believes that all of their best memories have been wiped away.
With the risk of sounding like my positivity is toxic, my hope is that the pandemic adds new and worthwhile moments to remember. I don’t know what it’s like to be a high school senior in the middle of a pandemic, but I have a pretty good feeling that these kids aren’t seeking comfort in a grad photo from the ’90s. It’s akin to someone who has just been dumped being intentionally bombarded with images of happy couples. They don’t want to see that right now. Give them some space.
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