High school seniors rack up the bills

March 30, 2014

It strikes fear in the heart and wallet of every parent. That fear would be the senior graduating from high school. Honestly, parents at this stage should be eligible for the FEMA Relief Act so they can receive benefits for shelling out for prom attire, pictures, class rings, caps and gowns, and fines for books from the school library that have not been returned in four years.

The one expense that always got to me was the order for class pictures. You were never allowed to purchase less than a thousand 2x3 wallet-sized photos.

The kid probably had two friends by the time he was a senior, and yet boxes of photos of him looking like he crawled out of a cardboard Maytag washer box at the end of an alley arrived daily, along with a bill that made you contemplate pooling the family blood for money.

Years later, this adult child would call demanding to know what happened to those photos, which long ago had made their way to one of those garbage barges that float up and down the East River.

Fortunately, lying comes naturally at our age, and “somewhere out in the garage” is as good an excuse as any other. The emergency request for these photos will pass.

I’m not averse to photos and mementoes of a school experience. I know from my own children how meaningful these mementoes are. It’s just that I’m not sure what that experience was, other than an obsession with someone named Brenda, with her name written all over notebooks and an ID bracelet that was always worn, with a resulting green ring around the wrist. Since there was an assortment of green rings around body parts, I couldn’t be sure they were related. At some point I stopped putting soap out; it was quite a savings.

And there is a question as to how much school photos are relevant today, with all the instant technology that kids access on a moment-by-moment basis.

They can identify a photo of an Angry Bird more easily than their own grandparents.

Kids would rather have images on something they can relate to, but not pay for, such as the group photo with their friends hanging onto red plastic cups on their iPhone. In my day photos stood for something, well, mostly blackmail. If anyone ever saw your high school yearbook photo, the word “seriously?” would best be described to a sketch artist. You’d have been picked up in 20 minutes.

I actually did find my own class ring from high school in a box in the attic marked, “bomb shelter contents, circa 1960.” I must have been thin back then, because the one thing about class rings is they never fit when you become an adult. This thing was embossed with some sort of depiction of the school building, or it could have been an image of a doghouse etched on the front. I honestly couldn’t tell. But it wouldn’t even fit my little finger today.

OK, I sort of have let the appearance of my hands go with less attention than other body parts. Hey, just because they are somewhat bulbous, along with thick, tentacle-like veins running on top of the cocoa-colored liver spots doesn’t mean they aren’t attractive. Yeah, they would make a hand model gag, but they have been through the wars. It’s been five years since I was able to find a pair of matching winter gloves.

And now we have prom around the corner, and with that comes the search for the right dress. It’s not so much of a dress as a piece of material about the size of a napkin. Today, you really don’t have to have a date, which takes the pressure off of being asked to a night of crepe paper decorations and theme-colored balloons.

Yes, the graduating senior is expensive, but the alternative is another year of notes from teachers demanding to know when he or she will be released from the hospital.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.