Organizing one college boy and six high school girls into two cars proved simple. Life in 1992 revolved around a manageable amount of activities, so none of us had a problem scheduling a date for the shoot.
Three of us sat on the brink of caps and gowns, ready for diplomas but not ready for goodbyes, so our last attempt to commemorate our friendship and seal our bond came in the form of photos.
From conservative Mount Hermon to liberal Santa Cruz, we made our way to 701 West Cliff Drive with windows up to protect our amateur makeup and Aqua Net perms.
May at the beach didn’t always boast sun, but this Saturday delivered with the perfect breeze for our virgin locks and plenty of tourists to look our way.
We walked the familiar bluff a little different that day. Not with swishy hips or crossover steps, but almost.
The long, floral dresses perfectly skimmed our lower shins. Only one girl owned pearls to grace her collarbone; the rest of us went with thin gold crosses or naked necks.
As the oldest of the bunch, I occasionally possessed helpful suggestions.
“Oh my gosh, you guys… we should totally pretend we don’t speak English.”
I knew my sister could pull it off—her reputation for hairbrush karaoke with Tina Turner repeatedly left people wanting more. But the others were less bold and most of us could only hold thick accents for about nine words before giggling like dorks.
Down to the sand we filed, barefoot and giddy, past surfers and bettys, jack russells and ice plants, with our personal photographer and his legit, zoom-lens camera in tow.
I don’t recall how much we paid the dude, but it felt worth every dime.
With film loaded and sandals on a rock, we sauntered north toward our shutterbug, talking, laughing and secretly loving the wind in our hair.
Up on boulders… close to the water… we posed, pointed, smirked and tried to act as natural as possible. Though aware we would likely never glide down a real runway or pose on Fiji sand, those 18 ½ minutes made up for it.
Back to the lighthouse we climbed, confident at least a half dozen of the hundred shots were bound to be rad.
My parents surprised me when they showed up with the pastor of the largest church in Seattle and his lovely wife on his arm. We girls waved from a distance and danced on the lawn, but my spontaneous desire to spin came on without warning.
I spun and spun like the most graceful tomboy you ever did see, feeling genuinely pretty for a few choice seconds.
And then… a gust.
It punched me in the gut and slapped me on the belly; a terribly cruel joke in the midst of a crowded cliff. Up went my dress to meet my ribs, and down went my body to meet the grass.
Fear not—my conservative, Christian life had not yet been invaded by slingshot skivvies, a bonus for which I continue to praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
I’m more selective with my dance moves these days, but one thing never changed. We all possess it in one way or another, but if it’s not kept in check it has the potential to run rampant:
This isn’t a call-to-action verb from a drill sergeant. It’s a noun, sometimes full of thunderous drama and sometimes quietly bulging with desperation.
As in, I need.
Here’s how we see it in kids:
Whining – over and over, high-pitched and exasperating.
Disobeying – even negative attention is still attention.
Here’s what teens are famous for:
Lashing out – acting like they don’t want love when they probably do.
Posting inappropriate photos – no comment.
Putting others down – insecurities often cause bullying tendencies.
And for those of us who identify as adults…
I wouldn’t call myself an attention-seeker. I’m guessing you wouldn’t either. But we who have ever participated in any of the following might be considered culpable.
Bragging on Social Media: Yes, their children are utterly remarkable and her latest cooking feat makes us all swoon over her skills. If everyone stopped and thought before they posted their latest grilled cheese victory and their kid’s participation trophy, I’m guessing we’d have 273 less attention-seeking posts. Per day.
Complaining on Social Media: When what’s-her-name reports waking up with a slight headache, I find it challenging to not tell her about my friend who’s actively dying from brain cancer. You think she maybe woke up with a headache too?
Seriously, lady—your head doesn’t need online attention, it needs an aspirin.
Gossipping: “Did you hear what’s-his-butt lost his job and ended up in the Hooter’s parking lot with an apple fritter and a Venti double shot on ice? We should probably pray for him. Like, corporately.”
Of course all humans require some attention. Without giving and receiving attention, we couldn’t have a social species.
When it comes to the classic signs though, psychologists don’t care much about age, gender or race. If we’re seeking attention in unhealthy ways, looking back to where we started lacking attention could prove beneficial.
Were you neglected as a child?
Shunned as a teen?
I can’t claim the first, but those other two certainly seared an impression on my heart and mind.
I love this quote from familyeducation.com:
“Statistics show the average American parent spends seven minutes a week with each of their children. Do better than average.
Telling your children you love them is not enough. Show them you love them. Spend ten minutes of quality time with each child every day. No excuses, like I was just too busy today, or I didn’t have time. We are all too busy.”
Emphasis mine. Because really—seven a week? Come on, people… we have 1,440 a day.
Though I don’t recall feeling a need for attention that day on the cliffs, my actions proved otherwise. Gliding through the sand with a photographer at a distance most definitely fed an innocent beast. Continuing the feeling with a spin on the lawn extended feeding time.
Could I have taken on Julie Andrews? I don’t know. But once my dress flew north, the hills were definitely alive with the sound of something.
Call it innocent teen behavior if you must. I’ll call it a pathetic cry for attention. (Minus the flashing.)
And now, 25 years later, self-confrontation leads me here:
- Do I crave attention?
- Am I content not being rich or well-known?
- When I sing “All I need is You” in church, do I mean it?
How About You?
Did you ever have an attention-getting moment backfire?
Where do you see yourself seeking the most attention?
Is God truly enough?
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