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Ann Cannon: Baring it all! Confessions of a former high school senior

Published June 3, 2014 9:42 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So I don't want to beat a dead horse, but . . .

As a result of Wasatch High School's recent yearbook scandal, I thumbed through my own senior yearbook this weekend — something I haven't done for decades. I'm serious. High school was fine, but as soon as I graduated I never looked back. I can honestly say I never ever long for those by-gone days.

But whatever. When I looked at all those classmates of mine, here's what I saw. Lots of smiles. Lots of hair, facial and otherwise. Lots of dickeys and faux bow ties if you were of the male persuasion. Lots of faux black stoles and shoulders if you were of the female persuasion.

Wait. Shoulders?

Yes! It's true. Shoulders! Shoulders! Shoulders! Everywhere you look in my yearbook you see girls' shoulders. BARE ONES! Because that's how the Provo High School class of 1974 rolled. With bow ties and bare shoulders.

Here's how the senior picture thing worked. During summer vacation, all of us incoming seniors made an appointment to have our pictures taken for the yearbook at Massey Studio, which had a contract with the high school. Once there, we slipped into a dressing room to put on our senior picture costumes — ruffled dickeys and bow ties for the boys, stoles for the girls — after which Mr. Massey quickly snapped our pictures and sent us on our way.

And in the following spring when our pictures were printed in black-and-white on the pages of The Provost, no one from parents to teachers to administrators to church leaders to city officials said a single thing about all that Girl Skin.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THEM? Why didn't the grownups cover up our shoulders and thereby protect us from marauding packs of lustful senior boys wearing dickeys and bow ties? Where were we living? In Babylon? (Yes. It's true. Provo was the Babylon of Utah County when I was growing up.) (Also, a word of warning here — if you decide to get out your old high school yearbook, don't leave it lying around unless you want your adult children to spend the weekend looking through it themselves and mocking you.)

Anyway. I'm not quite sure when the current obsession with uber-modesty in certain communities here began. I suspect it grows out of fear about where everything is going, and sometimes when people are afraid, they retrench. They double-down and yearn for the good old days. You know. Like 1974. When all our shoulders were bare.

Actually, I do understand the fear part. I get a little nervous when I think about our world — how fast it's changing in some ways, how slowly it's changing in others. And yes, Virginia, there's plenty to fear — sexism, racism, pessimism, extremism of all kinds, a shrinking middle class and diminishing economic opportunities for upcoming generations, outsourcing, efforts on both the right and the left to curb free speech, a government that spies on its own people, loss of privacy, online predators, technology unmoored by morality, the cost of addiction to an individual and to his community at large, bad air and bad water, endless and costly wars, human trafficking, cable news and (of course) the Kardashians.

Yup. There's plenty of stuff to worry about these days.

I'm just not sure that photos of exposed shoulders or scoop necklines or tattoos in high school yearbooks should be on that list.