It must be hard to graduate high school these days.
I’m not talking about the actually school work — although, given my own struggles with algebra and physics, I’m guessing that’s still no walk in the park — but rather the process of taking all the necessary steps to have a successful graduation in today’s world.
As is the case with most things in life, graduating from high school ain’t quite like it used to be.
For starters, there are senior pictures to be taken. When I was in high school, this was a pretty simple process. I put on a shirt and tie (contrary to popular belief, that was not the last time I wore a shirt and tie in my life … although it’s probably pretty close) and rode my bike up to Younce Photography Studio in Troy, which was located where Little Caesar’s pizza now resides.
My mom needed the car that day — 30 years ago, not every high school kid had their own car, which seems to be another thing that has changed since I graduated — so the only way to get to my senior picture appointment was either walking or riding my 10-speed. It was a warm day, but it wasn’t too bad because I was wearing shorts. Knowing all of my senior pictures would be taken from the waist up, I didn’t figure it would matter what I was wearing on my legs. (For what it’s worth, I lobbied for a similar outfit on my wedding day. Denied).
My entire senior photo shoot consisted of three pictures — a headshot for the yearbook, a shot of me sitting at a desk and a shot of me leaning against a ladder. I’m not sure why I had a picture of me leaning against a ladder, but at least I was able to avoid the picture of me with a set of giant plastic “92” numbers, signifying the year I graduated. Regardless, the entire process took about 30 minutes and I never left the studio.
Let’s just say that’s not quite how senior pictures work these days.
For starters, there are outfit changes. Lots and lots of outfit changes. Since my oldest child is only a freshman, I’ve only seen the finished results other people post on social media, but as near as I can tell, there are more outfit changes in senior pictures than there are in Broadway musicals. My outfit change for my senior pictures consisted of my taking off my tie. Seniors these days literally wear more outfits in their senior pictures than I have outfits. Looking through a kid’s senior pictures is like flipping through a clothing catalog. It’s as if they are literally trying to advertise every item of clothing they own.
Once the outfits have been selected, there is the matter of setting. I got my senior pictures taken in a photo studio. I’m pretty sure the Miami County Visitors’ Bureau could use senior pictures as a part of their advertising campaign. I don’t think there’s a location in Miami County I haven’t seen a senior posing in at some point or another.
Of all the locations in which high school seniors get their pictures taken, though, by far the most popular are fields of sunflowers and railroad tracks. While I understand the aesthetics involved in a field of sunflowers, when did railroad tracks become popular photo shoot destinations? Is there some sort of symbolism I am missing here? Something about being on the right track? All I know is I find it funny when kids get all dressed up to go sit on a dirty railroad track.
Of course, once the senior pictures are taken, there is the little matter of planning the graduation party. If your child is in the third grade, now would be a good time to start planning his or hers. I’ve been on the graduation party circuit for quite a few years now, and they’ve grown every year.
When I graduated, my graduation party consisted of my parents and siblings, my grandparents, a few aunts and uncles and a smattering of cousins. I’m pretty sure we had a few deli trays from Kroger and a cake. It lasted about two hours.
That’s not quite how things work these days.
First of all, most graduations have a few tents outside to accommodate not only the graduate’s family and friends, but — as near as I can tell — every person they’ve ever met in their entire lives. There’s always enough food to feed these people, which I imagine a chef’s brigade spends several weeks preparing. There’s usually music, too, performed by artists I’ve never heard of with lyrics I can’t understand. Man, I really am getting old.
Most graduates will want something to set their graduation party apart from everyone else’s graduation party. I imagine if I keep going to graduation parties, I’ll eventually see fire eaters and performing elephants — which would make sense, considering the tents I see look like they were borrowed from Barnum and Bailey. I keep hoping to one day see a dunk tank at one of these parties.
My daughter is a freshman and we haven’t started planning her senior pictures or her graduation party yet, which means it’s probably too late. We should have started this process years ago. At this point, I’ll probably just snap a few pics of her with my phone when she’s not looking and take her to White Castle after the commencement ceremony.
Nothing is too good for my kid.
David Fong appears in Miami Valley Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong