You don’t know it at the time, but Middle School Picture Day is for you. Elementary School Picture Day is most definitely for your parents, because they know they are about to lose you, and want to capture these last moments of cuteness. High School Picture Day is definitely for you, because you finally look remotely decent and you’ve got a professional there to document it.
But Middle School Picture Day? Who is that helping? Who is ever going to want to look at this atrocity, you think to yourself as you sit hunched over on a stool because you are still feeling a little awkward about having boobs, smiling tentatively for the photographer, careful not to snag your lips on your braces. Your parents aren’t going to show that shit around, “Here is my daughter, she’s going through puberty, it’s not going well.” You aren’t going to pass these out to your friends, “In case you don’t get a good enough look all day, here is a terrible photo of me for your amusement on nights and weekends.” And you certainly don’t want them for yourself. You already know that when the proofs are handed out in class you are going to turn them face down, shove them into your trapper keeper, and cut them into tiny pieces as soon as you get home, as you cry to yourself, “Is that what I really look like?!”
No, you don’t know it then. But the Middle School Picture is for you. It’s just for you in ten years. When you have transformed from an ugly duckling into a swan, and can look back on that picture and appreciate how far you’ve come. It’s for you to turn to on a shitty day and think, Actually, I can’t complain. At least I don’t have braces. At least I don’t shop at the Limited Too anymore. And at least I’m not in the seventh
circle of hell grade. Yeah, I guess my life is pretty good. It’s for you to trot out at work and social events to shock and amaze your audience. “Yup, I swear, that fat kid with the uni-brow, that was me.” The hideous portrait you once cried yourself to sleep over is now an affirmation of self, because of how little you resemble it. The Awkward Middle School Picture is a battle scar. It says: look at what I have overcome. I survived that. You don’t know it then – that one day you’d be proud to have ever been so ugly.