I agreed, reluctantly. I'd worked the opening shift, which is 5:30am-2:30pm so I was pretty beat. Plus, it was August and swelteringly hot. But a deal's a deal. Then Ryan showed up unexpectedly to pick me up from work and then I had the unpleasant task of getting HIM to agree to a cheesy photo session (which was not easy work!). But in the end, he agreed. I was exhausted and sweaty and looked like I hadn't slept in decades. My hair was greasy and in an awkward parted-down-the-middle coiff. Ryan was slightly better looking, but not too pleased about being photographed. But in we went.
In the interest of getting out of there as soon as possible, we didn't look through the book of the 100 different backgrounds available, but instead asked "which costumes are the easiest to put on?" So the wardrobe gal handed me a floral dress that was somehow gigantically big and tight. The body of the dress was XXXXXXXL and clearly intended to be a one-size-fits-all number, which is the norm (you know, with those saloon pictures or whatever), so it was gathered in the back by binder clips** but the arm holes -- somehow the dress designer expected a 600lb woman with chicken legs for arms. The band was stiff and starched and had NO give to it, so my flabby ham arms are crammed through the narrow opening. I was already sweaty, but the exertion it took to get into a dress that is the size of a tent was boggling (sounds like it SHOULD be easy but wasn't. AT ALL.). Ryan was outfitted in slacks and a long-sleeve button up shirt and a leather bomber jacket. Which should be everyone's go-to outfit in August, when under gigantic lights in a studio space that had little air conditioning.
So we stood and we pretended that we liked it. People watched from the window, seeing us, via video monitors, transformed from a couple of sweaty 20-somethings on a blue screen stage to a nostalgic time when I was a young war bride, come to see my soldier off to war. Behind us sits his plane, the In The Mood, with a cheesecake pinup girl stretched out and beckoning. He's about to rush out and bomb the crap out of some unsuspecting island atoll and I'm going to hold this bouquet of flowers in my hands until he comes back.
We were such a hit with the crowd that 2 families watching us, came inside and starting being outfitted for their own wacky pictures. The staff was so pleased that they printed off various copies of our 'session' and eagerly handed them over, excitedly jabbering about how we should use these pictures for our wedding announcements (har! That would be another 4 years and 40lbs down the road!). We were supposed to have stayed to do another background, but since the families came in, everyone in the studio was busy, so we just picked up our prints and left.
That night, we went to hang out with our friend Trevor and we were telling him and his family about how lame this photo session was and look at these cheesy pictures and his mom asked to see them. So we showed them to her, sending her into immediate tears and asking for a copy of her own which was immediately nestled with the rest of the family photos in the entry hallway.
Personally, I was never really affected by the picture. It was funny, I suppose, and looking at it all that I ever think of is how sweaty and smelly I look and how hot it was and uncomfortable and how the glint from my nose-ring makes it look like I have a glitter booger... but now that I am getting old (ahem), I have a new appreciation. Not just because 'oh, look a faux vintage picture of us' but because it's a moment in our history that wouldn't have otherwise been captured.
Four years later, he showed up to the boat in a tuxedo - as was previously agreed upon - and he made a huge, stumbling production of coming up the stairwell to the Muppet Show theme song (don't ask). He smiled and waved when the crowd cheered. He spun his cane and acted a fool. And he didn't run away when he saw me coming directly at him in a big white dress. A little while later, we exchanged rings and promises and communed with our friends and had a fun little party. And, once again, he got forced to pose for pictures in a suit that was too hot for the time of year and take pictures and give me a bouquet of flowers and make everyone's mom cry.
Happy anniversary, Bub!
*For those of you familiar with the Spectrum, you know that it is a billion dollar shopping center. But in 1997, it was really small. Anchored by the movie theater and Barnes & Noble bookstore (which is now a 24 Hour Fitness; the bookstore relocated) and a few scattered restaurants and mostly kiosks.
**a mainstay of the wardrobe designer's toolkit, in case you weren't aware