Tonight I’ll Be Arching My Head Back A Wee Bit

To prevent tears from spilling over while watching my daughter’s high school graduation. The head tilt is a subtle technique men have been steadily perfecting since the Neanderthal Age. Look for signs of it at the next especially sappy romantic comedy you see.

How does this jive with the previous post, “Can’t We Please Stop Celebrating High School Graduation?” That was written by my social critic self. It applies to all the other graduates, not the special, tall, slender, blonde one walking across the stage at St. Martin’s University tonight. The one for whom middle and high school presented lots of challenges. Girlfriends that ran hot and cold. Obsessive compulsive disorder. A dad afraid to cry. The one who has weathered those and other challenges amazingly well. The one who has come out the other side a beautiful, kind, sensitive young woman with a bright future.

I’ve been a rock lately because marriage is like nature—it requires homeostasis. I’ve had to compensate for My Betrothed who has been an emotional roller coaster with life changes beyond her control, in particular her parents getting older and her daughters becoming more independent. My blogging around those edges, as demonstrated here, only makes matters worse.

Even writing this is making me emotional. More specifically, grateful, for all too many to count blessings in my life—that my mom is hanging in there, that Betrothed has been such a great mother to both our daughters, that the pantry is full of food, and we’re mentally and physically well.

Despite inevitable changes, the inevitable passing of parents, the independence of our children, my own death, I’m looking forward to the future. It’s the cycle of life. Resistence is futile.

And yes Dear Wife, the graduate read and approved a draft of this. All she said was, “I’ll be looking for the head tilt tonight.”

Can We Please Stop Celebrating High School Graduation?

Like it’s an amazing accomplishment that means something significant. Note to the graduates. We expected you to successfully finish all twelve grades.

For shit’s sake, my cycling training is suffering and I missed a triathlon in Portland last weekend because of the first of an endless number of graduation-related events that dot the Byrnes family social calendar.

We’re long overdue on updating our traditions. Forty-fifty years ago a high school diploma was meaningful. High school graduates could get manufacturing jobs and support families. Now, a high school diploma is simply a ticket to continue around the game board of life. That’s all. It’s not an amazing accomplishment. And to the well intentioned people congratulating me in church on Sunday, not necessary. I didn’t sit in boring class after boring class or complete any homework. I did inquire about school at dinner (to no avail) and I did drive the forgotten violin to school a few times, but that’s hardly grounds for congratulations.

Here’s what graduating from high school means, plain and simple. Instead of having most decisions made for you, you get to make more of them yourself. Enlist in the military or enroll in a vocational program, a community college, or a four year college or university. In a few more years, if you apply yourself in one or more of those settings, you will have sufficient knowledge and skills to begin making a positive difference in people’s lives and get paid a living wage. And you’ll be economically independent.

And then we’ll party hearty.

Digital Photography, Creeping Narcissism, and the End of the World

Whomever scheduled the Olympia High School prom didn’t care that I should have been at the Pre-Classic in TrackTown USA last Saturday night. The true Head of the Household made it clear that I was expected to attend “prom pictures”. Back in the day, prom pictures meant standing in line during the dance to spend sixty seconds getting a picture or two taken by a professional.

Not anymore. Not even close. Now since you can take as many pictures as you want for free, prom pictures are a digital extravaganza.

We got to Tumwater Falls Park at 6:30 p.m. Five nicely dressed couples and lots of parents sporting expensive photographic gear, along with some sibs, and a grandparent or two. Pictures along the river’s edge. More pictures in front of the falls. More pictures on the bridge over the river. Guys only. Girls only. More pictures involving play acting a martial arts fight. All with an eye towards bolstering one’s Facebook self. Despite being an endurance athlete, at 8:15 p.m., I was byrned out.

For the Digital Photography generation, a lengthy prom pictorial is just the tip of the iceberg. In upper middle class suburbs, you can’t just have your senior picture taken. You have to schedule a shooting with a professional. During the shooting you’ll change clothes, travel to a few different locations, and I suppose, feel special. And don’t even think of mailing a text-based graduation announcement. You have to have craft a photo-montage of your graduate through the years. If you plan ahead, you might be able to use parts of or the same collage in your quarter (you like your child), half (you like your child twice as much as quarter page parents), or whole-page (you truly love your child) year book dedication to your graduate.

This may be more of a female, Tyra Banks inspired thing, but a favorite after-school or weekend activity for many teenage girls? Getting friends together for a photo-shoot. Different clothing, music, serious, silly, inside, outside, five hundred images to choose among, edit, and upload to Facebook.

Look at me. And leave a cryptic comment so I know you’ve seen me. The more pictures taken of them, the more convinced many teens become that the world revolves around them.

This may be the most cynical of my 745 posts. I acknowledge, life is better today than when I attended the Cypress (California) high school prom in 1980. Grandma Byrnes always loves the personal calendar that Seventeen whips up using digital pictures from the previous year. But I can’t help but think there’s a cost to nearly free digital photography. It’s accelerated a child-centeredness that promotes self-centeredness.

The digital photography generation doesn’t enjoy better self esteem or mental health. If anything, the more pictures they take, the less value each one has, and the more self conscious they become.

Look at me. And tell me I’m alright.