From the editor's desk: School picture day

By Sarah Nigbor
Posted 9/14/23

My, how times have changed. School Picture Day, at least in my household, is not something to be dreaded, but something that requires careful preparation and brings joy. When I was young, I would …

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From the editor's desk: School picture day


My, how times have changed. School Picture Day, at least in my household, is not something to be dreaded, but something that requires careful preparation and brings joy. When I was young, I would have preferred to have my picture taken with a paper bag on my head. But not my kids.

My 11-year-old daughter planned her outfit carefully, down to her shoes, hairstyle and color coordinated outfit. In sixth grade, my mother was lucky to get me to wear something that matched or wasn’t a ripped T-shirt. In my sixth-grade picture, it looks like someone took a weed whacker to my hair. I was victim to early 90s styles and gigantic plastic glasses.

Carolina insisted that we get her hair cut not too close to the school picture day so it didn’t have that “just cut” look, but not too far away so it didn’t grow out too much. I was not allowed in the salon so I could be surprised. I laid down the ground rules with our stylist: No shaving her head and no dye. I was relieved to see beautifully cut layers in her hair, not a mohawk or neon green hair (call me old-fashioned, but I am).

The day of pictures was stressful to say the least. She spent at least an hour in the bathroom blow-drying her hair into the perfect shape and turning this way and that in front of the mirror while I chugged coffee and stared at the clock. We made it to school without a minute to spare. Whew. I haven’t seen the photo yet, but I’m sure it’s magazine worthy. It would have to be, after all that hullabaloo.

When I look back at my school pictures, all I can do is laugh (or cringe). Sometimes I wonder what my mother and grandmother were thinking. They actually let me leave the house like that? Or worse, thought I looked cute enough for a picture?

When I was 4, I had long, wavy white-blond hair past my butt. However, I did not like getting it brushed. I can still feel that brush thwacking at my head while my grandmother wrestled with the snarls. One day she’d had enough and took me to her beautician (see last week’s column for old words) and had it all cut off. She called it the “Dorothy Hamill” cut. I called it a nightmare. I looked like a little boy who’d had a bowl stuck on her head. I cried and cried. I hated it so much. Hence the reason I look like a boy in my K-2 pictures.

When Grade 3 was about to roll around, I put my foot down in the form of a tantrum. Under no circumstances was I going to allow myself to be subjected to another Dorothy Hamill haircut and the stylist’s hot-pink nails scraping my scalp. I parked myself in the rocking chair and howled like a demon. Believe it or not, I won. But this resulted in my third-grade picture looking like an 80s rockstar wannabe, complete with a ragged mullet.

By Grade 4, my hair had grown out, but Grandma won another battle: The dreaded perm. I was subjected to hours in the chair with the stylist’s dagger-like nails wrapping my head in tiny curlers only to be doused with solution that smelled like a skunk. One time she yanked a curler-full of hair clean out of my head. Luckily, it was in the back where no one could see it. This resulted in Grades 4 and 5 looking like a tumbleweed complete with my brand-new, gigantic 80s plastic glasses. Poor me.

The rest of my school years the pictures didn’t get much better. In my senior pictures, I had the flu and looked like a white ghost. The photographer wouldn’t allow me to reschedule because of his packed calendar. Sigh. I was doomed to have 13 years of hideous photos, all memorialized in a frame in my grandmother’s bedroom. The kids love looking at it and reminding me of “the olden days.” Now their photos look like a model’s photo shoot for a New York magazine.

I still hate getting my picture taken, though I think the hair has improved. I like being behind the camera much better.

From the editor, Sarah Nigbor, school picture day, opinion