The first picture of the four of us was taken by the front door in her house. We didn’t have to beckon for her mother to come and take it either. Two gothic Disney princesses, an alien dressed like sporty spice, and a cowgirl before they wore short shorts stood, arms around each other, smiling.
We trick-or-treated that year for the last time. When you’re 16 on Halloween everyone makes you do a trick for your treat and singing the hokey pokey gets really old, really fast when all your other friends are out drinking 40’s of Old English.
“It’s so funny,” a girlfriend said as we pulled out the memory box for the first time since we’d last all been together several years ago, “I would have thought you were the cowgirl, Andie.”
I remember the day I became that girl.
I was 15, and I bought a tin of Copenhagen chewing tobacco because I was tired of being the preacher’s daughter everyone expected. I learned how to pack it from my cowboy boyfriend and knew very well there weren’t many 100-pound girls who were gung-ho to emulate Chris Ledoux.
I tucked the tobacco in my lower lip like I’d seen him do so many times and promptly got hit with a head rush so strong I fell out my second-story bedroom window. I then used Napster to download the greatest hits of Merle Haggard.
For the final four years of my teenage career I was “that girl” — the one who lived in the city and chewed tobacco and wore high heels and blasted George Straight in her mint green jeep. In fact, I still am that girl, except spending $20 a pop on something that will give me cancer isn’t a priority anymore and the green jeep bit the dust somewhere in the Okanagan seven years ago.
I couldn’t show you a picture that proved it, though. These days we cultivate our personalities based on how we want to appear to the world, forgetting that we’ve been creating ourselves since long before the selfie — for no one but ourselves.
“Hey!” another one of us yelled, pulling out another picture from the box, “we’re the Spice Girls!”
True to form, there the four of us were: Scary, Posh, Baby, and Sporty (it would be years before we gave Ginger her credit) — emulating the posture and poses of the celebrities to a tee, without any concern for appearing original or self-important, or even good.
There was no make-up session, no “let’s take another one,” no “don’t tag me in that.” It was just us.
Glued to the top of the box was a rap we had written — each verse done by one of us, and accentuating our personalities until we were caricatures of ourselves. To this day, every line is still memorized.
“Uhg, this is awful!” one of us announced.
“It is . . . but you know, it still kind of rings true,” said another.
And as the four of us sat there around the kitchen table, I realized something. While we have grown, while we have moved, while we have changed our hair color, found people to spend our lives with and made new memories with new friends — we have never lost ourselves.
In this ridiculous world where every sheep wants to be black and needs the entire herd to know it, we can still see the unique identities in each other created before there were any eyes on us. And those are the identities that still remain prevalent.
“Cheers!” We yelled out as we held up our glasses, “To the friends before selfies.”