You may not know this, but did you realize most teachers get free picture packets? Totally one of the perks of being a teacher. It’s like our version of the corporate washroom key. Or a living wage.
And it’s Lifetouch’s way of saying thank you, teachers, for instructing the youth of tomorrow and making sure the next generation knows what a participial phrase is. (Side note to self and total truth: They will never know what a participial phrase is no matter how hard I try.)
Lifetouch has been touching my life for a long time, and unless you were homeschooled, I have a feeling you can probably say the same. Lifetouch has a firm grasp on the school photo-industrial complex, and despite the digital revolution, they are still passing out photo packets to kids all over America, complete with the transparent window so everyone in homeroom can see how dorky you turned out.
Did you get the plastic black combs from Lifetouch while waiting in line to get your mug snapped? I remember as a kid thinking, seriously, I’m supposed to groom with this plastic black comb that would be better used as jaw harp? The boys used them because, let’s face it, the boys had forgotten it was Class Picture Day until the moment the teacher reminded them of the fact. Us ladies had been primping since morning, manic about the idea that we might not turn out Just So in a photo to be memorialized for ALL TIME in the yearbook and on our parents’ coffee tables or in some drawer somewhere (if your parents didn’t care about you).
They don’t give out the combs anymore, FYI. They’re probably not very green, not very eco-friendly. Also, the lice thing.
This is also strange, but I swear to you that I have a shot of me in a gigantic wicker chair. Does anyone else remember this? I think this was very trendy at some point in the 80s. It looked like I was being photographed on the set of The Golden Girls. Now while visiting the set of The Golden Girls was actually a dream of mine in middle school, I just don’t know if the look really carried to have a 12-year-old in a hot pink sweater and heart-shaped earrings sitting in a wicker chair the size of Texas.
Oh my, remember the double exposure? Very 70s/80s. One serious shot, one similing shot, with one head larger than the other and the smaller one sort of floating up into space like you were dreaming about yourself. Creepy and not okay.
And why did they give you 500 wallets? We did not carry wallets. Kids still do not carry wallets. The girls, including me, obsessively traded our wallet-sized pics and wrote BFF 4EVER on the backs until of course aformentioned BFFs ticked us off, and then we got to draw evil eyebrows or moustaches on them.
This next part might be painful for some of you to read. But were you ever one of those sad losers who had to come back for Retake Day? Lining up for Retakes was like the Bataan Death March for the unfortunates. The Lifetouch people would just look at you and shake their heads, like, sorry loser, this Retake isn’t going to magically make you gorgeous. I don’t even think they sent the legit Lifetouch people on that day. They sent the employees who were thisclose to retirement. Probably didn’t even send the black combs.
I had to do a retake once. I think it was fourth or fifth grade. I talked my mom into letting me curl my hair and wear these enormous blue flower earrings for the shot. I came back looking like Betty Draper sans the housewife ennui. It would probably be considered a retro cute look now, but back then, my mother took one peek through that transparent window in the picture packet envelope and said it was time for Retakes. This is the first time I’m admitting this out loud. And it’s one less memory for the therapist.
You lived for the Senior Portraits. High school senior year - the pinnacle of school portraits. This remains The Most Important Class Photo Ever. This is the one they run with your obituary when you don’t want to run an old lady/old man shot. The one your parents keep framed to prove you didn’t have to get your GED. Ladies, this is The One with The Pearls. Seriously, did you ever wear pearls when you were 17-years-old? Of course not. But you wore them for Senior Portraits. That and a black cape. The dudes got behind a tux cut-out. Magical.
It was all downhill after that. In college, I sat for my sorority composite (again with the pearls), but those never held the thrill of Senior Portraits. In addition to sorority shots, my university actually offered school portraits for the college yearbook. My parents suggested I take one for my senior year. I showed up drunk wearing a red thrift store dress I’d purchased for five dollars. Classy, I know.
And then Lifetouch was gone, out of my life until I became a teacher. I was so thrilled when I first realized I was getting school pics again – for free, no less! I’ve included my current snapshot at the top of this post. All I ask is if you think I need to show up for Retakes, just keep it to yourself. I still haven’t gotten over the first time.