A Scarecrow In My Underwear

Photos are funny things.  I depend on them to mark history, yet I don’t really trust them.  Photos have their own agenda.

I spent the two weeks before vacation polishing a chapter, a single chapter, in the memoir.  It’s always been one of those “trouble chapters,” one I’ve written and rewritten about two dozen times, one where I finally had to decide if I should just kill the fucking thing, put it out of its misery, and move on.

In the end, the chapter was saved by a photograph.  I saw a photograph that triggered the right memory, started rewriting again, and two-plus weeks later the trouble chapter set itself, finally, like a stone pillar into my story.

.

Yesterday I picked up the giant stack of mostly junk-mail that accumulated while we were gone.  One envelope contained nineteen 3×5 snapshots from my first wedding.  My stepmother found them in a drawer and thought I’d like to have them.

One photo was a surprise.  Me, 25 years old.  Me, wearing only my veil, bra, and panties.  Me, looking frozen, stunned, holding my tanned arms out like a scarecrow, hands dangling, helpless.  I look like I’m waiting for someone to hang me up on the post.

I’ve never seen this picture.  I hardly recognize myself.  I keep looking at it and wondering, “who is that girl?”

Does this ever happen to you?

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22 thoughts on “A Scarecrow In My Underwear

  1. Sarah W

    A phrase I read in an article this morning supports my MC’s actions in a chapter I’m editing now. Does that count?

    I’m not sure who the bride is in my wedding photos, either . . .

    1. Teri Post author

      It absolutely counts. It’s so weird how random things pop up to point you in the right direction, or to firm-up something you’re working on.

      The bride in my photo peed down her leg walking down the aisle, she was so scared, so sure she should NOT be getting married. This photo is about an hour before that, I think. The panic must be setting in.

      1. Downith

        “I look like I’m waiting for someone to hang me up on the post.”

        Oh dear. That says it all.

        I can spend hours looking at a photo – looking for clues?

      2. Teri

        I used to look at photos because they were fun to look at. Now, yes, I’m totally looking for clues. And lies.

        I blame it on writing the Me-Moir.

    1. Teri Post author

      Oh Jody …. what to do with these photos. I keep wondering where this picture has been all this time, and who’s looked at it. Ick.

  2. Averil Dean

    Oh god. Yes, I have a picture like that. A girl in panties, veil, hair professionally styled, bent over to pull up a stocking. She looks unbearably smug, with no idea that she’s about to make the biggest mistake of her life. I want to slap that girl and point to all the clues she overlooked along the way, not the least of which is the setting of that picture: the dressing room of a Catholic church.

    1. Teri Post author

      I was a nice Catholic girl getting dressed at the Jewish country club, about to be married by the coolest rabbi on the planet. The whole event was like a sociology experiment.

  3. Josephine

    i hate my hair in my wedding photos. one day i will pay to have the photo that hangs on our bedroom wall retouched to give me a hair style that doesn’t make me puke. (it was short, short short without any flair. i let my aunt trim it the day before and cried all the way home.)

    there’s a photo of me from our rehearsal where i’m walking down the aisle with my dad and my free hand is in a fist that i’m holding so tight you can see my white knuckles. i know that girl. i’m still that girl some days.

    but this picture of you and the stance you’re taking…what if…

    what if all those years ago some part of you knew this would happen. that one day you’d receive a photo in the mail and it would be a photo you have no memory of. and back then, just before the image was save this all-knowing part of you thought, “this, this is what i want to see about myself when i have finally figured out all the stuff i don’t have figured out today. this is what i want her to know…it all eventually comes together even if we don’t remember how apart it started.”

    of course, i could just be feeling overly metaphysical because i’m off my meds (meds being a shortage of morning caffeine).

    1. Teri Post author

      Overly metaphysical?? Not for me!

      The girl in that photo was maybe trying to prove something, though I don’t remember what.

      It’s funny, in the photos where I’m looking at the camera, aware that a photo is being taken, I have the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. Radiant. In the ones where I’m unaware, I look like a lost sprite wandering the forest.

    2. Teri Post author

      Oh, and the photos arrived in a Ziplock bag. When I opened the seal, I was hit with a blast of nicotine. Which reminds me of every house I ever visit when I go home.

  4. Paul Lamb

    Clearly you need to post this photo of you!

    I sometimes search for images online that I can use as templates for my characters. Once I found my David character (for my Fathers and Sons stories) in an image, the ideas started to flow. It helps to have him clearly in my mind.

    1. Teri Post author

      Paul, are you sure you’re at the right blog? You must be thinking of Averil’s! 😉

      And good luck with your submissions. Keep sending those stories out there!!

  5. LauraMaylene

    I once saw a photo of myself running to catch a train on my first day of a new job. I didn’t recognize myself in the photo in those initial seconds and instead viewed my own image as if I were looking at a stranger — and I was not thinking kind things. It was such a shock and so disorienting when I realized that stranger was me. Gah. I’m getting a little freaked out remembering it.

    1. Teri Post author

      Okay, that would totally freak me out. Same goes with hearing my own voice. Someone sent me a video yesterday and wrote: I hear your laugh at 2:48 of this! I heard it, too, and cringed.

  6. Catherine

    I hear you (and would also love to see this shot!) I sometimes see photos of myself dangerously in love – poor thing she had no idea of what was coming. Sometimes these photos lead me to a story, sometimes they lead me into despair.

    1. Teri Post author

      I look at the photo and think, that girl is panicking and can’t tell a soul. It’s shocking to see how well I faked it.

  7. Jennine G.

    Oh yes…but more so of my husband than me. I really look the same – haircut and all – as I was fifteen years ago. But I have pictures of my husband from when we were dating. It’s like I know I KNOW who it is, yet I don’t. So weird to look at. And then the pic of him with our daughters at ages 3 and 1. He looks like a kid himself! No one would ever look at that picture and say the guy holding those girls is their father! What the hell did we think we were doing married and with kids?

    1. Teri Post author

      Now, Jennine, you’re making me rethink my own hair. I’ve had the same haircut for about 20 years now and wondering when, Oh When!, will I make some kind of significant change.

      It’s funny to see pictures of my guy friends, around age 20, with their babies. They look like they did in high school.

  8. girl in the hat

    I never recognize myself in photographs. They never match what I was seeing or feeling. The outside never jives (jibes?) with the inside. Now, I make sure I”m the one holding the camera.

    1. Teri Post author

      We just got home from vacation, and I am in so few photographs. I am officially the photographer. It’s great while it’s happening, but years from now I know I’ll look back and say “was I even there??”

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