Kanye West Is Standing on Your Lawn, Yelling His Own Name
My senior portrait in my high school yearbook is bad. Stupendously, horrifyingly bad. Orbit-stopping, telethon-necessitating, encyclopedia-entry bad. Bad in a way that should entitle me to write it off on my taxes. Not bad in the almost-charming way that perfectly encapsulates a bygone pop culture phase, like “remember Old Navy?!”, or bad in a blatantly misrepresentative way that belied some current or future attractiveness. Bad in a way that feels permanently branded to one’s identity, like an addiction to animal pornography or a manslaughter conviction. I imagined the women of the world meeting at some Bilderberg- type conference, with headphones and translators and a giant white screen that lowered from the ceiling so the yearbook picture could be projected onto it. WARNING: THIS MAN IS OUT THERE AND HE MIGHT APPROACH YOU.
My eyebrows were a sprawling, untamed mess. To call them “eyebrows” would be insufficient. They were something to be classified by a horticulturalist. I was sweaty. My skin was not pale so much as it was a sickly beige, as if my entire face was made of wet Band-Aids. I had braces. I deliberately left my hair “messy,” because I was 16, and I believed this was “cool,” and was going to “change everything,” except it wasn’t, and it didn’t, because I am not Mark Ruffalo, I am me, I am this, and this spent high school afternoons microwaving bowls of cheddar cheese and eating them with its fingers. I weighed 120 pounds. In the picture, you can see distinctly in my neck not just the outline of an Adam’s apple but a number of fragile throat parts. Afterward, as I walked from the platform where the pictures were taken, I saw waiting in line one of the coolest kids in my grade—cool, as measured by Number of Girls Fingered in a Stairwell. He looked down and realized that we were wearing the same shoes. Real, actual devastation has never been as discernable as it was on his face in that moment. Like it temporarily altered his perception of himself. Like my uncool-ness was so immense that even the slightest similarity to it could briefly transfer that uncool-ness onto him.
I am 26 now and my hair is less-awful than it was then. I exfoliate. I have consumed several pieces of cauliflower. I own a tie. The picture exists only in the yearbook, which is in my room, in a box, in a closet. We hide and we change and we pretend the new us is the only us we have ever been.
About a month ago, Jon Caramanica of the New York Times said this to Kanye West: “You look at your outfits from five or seven years ago, and it’s like—” And Kanye said to him, “Yeah, kill self. That’s all I have to say. Kill self.”