My Facebook is blinking. It's practically pulsating with a red alert that reveals someone has “tagged” me in some old picture they've posted to their wall. My stomach lurches into my chest before I even click on the link that will send me jettisoning who-knows-how-far back in time.
For an instant, I hesitate.
I know as soon as I see it the myth of myself will be shattered.
I can just imagine my expression, caught somewhere between a smile and a sneeze.
My round cheeks still chewing. My racoon-rimmed eyes either bulging or blinking.
The unfortunate perm I got one summer that made me look like Cher's Keebler-Elf cousin.
Inevitably, I will find a replica of my younger self, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a group of people I'll have trouble remembering by name, wearing a tight smile and an unflattering arrangement of clothes that I won't ever be able to forget.
Even now that I want to.
The lace-up, combat-style boots.
The boy-cut jeans.
Something with shoulder pads or bat wings or shiny buttons. Maybe all three.
The chunky sweater.
And the ever-present shearling coat that I refused to take off despite being indoors.
As if I'd just come in from the cold.
… With my tin cup full of pencils.
And my bottle of rot-gut.
I feel a little sick.
It's a kind of illness that sets upon a person suddenly, like the realization that you know virtually every REO Speedwagon song word-for-word or that you thought Milli Vanilli was “mint.”
I don't know why, exactly, but I always feel as if I'm looking at a stranger when I see myself in old pictures.
Yes, that was me. Dressed in thrift shop clothes that may have belonged to an elderly Wisconsin man, who likely met his maker while scraping ice from his driveway one winter during the previous two decades.
I'm also positive that if I were to dig deep into my dresser or wade to the back of my closet, I could find the entire unfortunate ensemble. Or worse.
Not that I will ever wear that I-Dream-Of-Genie jumpsuit again, I'm just hanging onto it for sentimental reasons.
Of course, the real horror of the trip down memory lane is that my wardrobe decisions haven't evolved.
Ten years from now I'll be clicking on a picture from last week and wondering just want I was thinking ...
The baggy jeans. The formless sweaters. The footwear that begs the question: Was I BLIND or just completely without judgement and taste?
I should be ashamed, and yet I still enjoy telling people how I paid next to nothing for the article they just complimented. … Or, even better, how I fished it from the trash.
“Oh this? Yeah, thanks. It's great isn't it? I found it one morning washed up on the beach. Thought it was a dead seal at first but when I poked it with a stick I realized it was a black hoodie. One swim through the wash, and it was good as new.”
Those, right there, are the words of a crazy person.
Because looking at the pictures, I am forced to realize such compliments are likely the result of polite small talk rather than genuine admiration.
A true blast from the past.