This Picture Was Never Supposed to Exist

So, I promised Before pictures. And embarrassment. I think this gem from the 1998 Nordic Skiing Junior Olympics covers both criteria.


It invites so many questions:


Why on earth would anyone keep this photo??


Let me take you on a little journey. Imagine you’re a 17-year old high-school girl who is already a little self-conscious about the size of her thighs. Imagine the excitement of qualifying for the Junior Olympics in your favorite sport, only to find out the price of admission is having to compete in a full-body spandex uniform that even Richard Simmons wouldn’t dare to be seen in. Then imagine a professional photographer hidden in the trees, maliciously snapping photos of the competitors during the final moments of a grueling 10K race.


For weeks after you return home, you live in blissful ignorance that said photographer was hidden in the woods. Then one day you check the mail. And you find thumbnails of…. this. For some reason the photographer thinks you would pay money for it. You quickly deposit the evidence in the trash, but don’t realize your younger sister is watching.


Now imagine that another 10 years pass. You’ve moved on with your life. Every morning you wake up, pat yourself on the back, and repeat the phrase, “I’m safe. I put that embarrassing picture in the trash. No one knows about it.” You smile, feel a huge wave of relief, and decide that life is worth continuing to live.


You meet a great guy, things are going well, and you decide to bring him home to Minnesota to meet your family. Great news! They love him. Your father invites him to visit his company, since your new boyfriend is an engineer, and your father’s company employs engineers. He gets a tour of the facility.


He spots what appears to be a familiar face in your father’s office. On a photograph. Wait, not on a photograph, on a POSTER. A THREE-FOOT TALL POSTER. A GIGANTIC, FULL-COLOR, FRAMED POSTER.


“Ummm, is that Olivia?”, your new boyfriend asks, in bewilderment. “Why yes,” your father responds, with pride. “Did you know she was in the Junior Olympics? I just love this picture. She looks so fierce and determined. Such a competitor! Oh, but don’t tell Olivia you saw this. We keep it here because we don’t want her to know about it. She threw away the proofs, but, thank goodness, our youngest daughter pulled them out of the trash.”



Where did your torso go?


Don’t be so coy. I know your real question is, “why are your legs SO massive?” Several thoughts:


  • Lens choice. The photographer was actually an assassin. He picked up this photography gig to make some extra cash in between assignments. Wide-angle, zoom, fisheye? Who cares… unlike his other job, no one in his scope is going to get killed.
  • Sequencing. Both of the cross-country skiiers reading this blog will recognize this as the compression stage of a V1 skate skiing technique, which for the other 99% of you, is basically like doing a sit-up that propels you forward. What does this mean for our photograph of interest? Bye, bye torso, hello quads.
  • Wardrobe malfunction. This article of clothing failed to function properly, in that it did not restrict my thighs to the desired width. The aforementioned spandex also offended viewers by indecently exposing them to offensive styles and colors, even for the 90’s.

That. Face.


Now that I’m through the denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance stages, I like to agree with my father. I was a tough competitor! Strong, determined and gritting it out to the finish! I have nothing to be ashamed of – I was pushing myself to the limits of my physical capacity, leaving everything out on the course, like a winner.


And then I remember that I left something else out on the course. My dignity. In comparison, my facial expression makes Wolverine look like a nice guy teaching biscuit-eating etiquette at a tea party. If they met me in real life, most of the semiconductor industry in the Midwest would probably scream and run away. “Oh my God! IT’S THE GIRL FROM THAT POSTER. Run, hide…SHE’S GONNA EAT US!”


Ha. Joke’s on you, semiconductor engineers of the Midwest. I’m on a calorie-restricted diet.


Which brings us full circle. Tomorrow, on Day 6 of my fitness challenge, I’ll be talking about nutrition. And sharing one of five Before photos, which takes an interesting twist on the traditional standing-uncomfortably-in-the-living-room-in-my-bikini-under-bad-lighting-while-frowning pose.


Make sure to check out next week – starting tomorrow, I’ll be posting a different Before bikini photo for your viewing entertainment. You won’t want to miss these…

2 thoughts on “This Picture Was Never Supposed to Exist

  1. This is not how I remember the story. I have no recollection of pulling said proofs from the trash. I just remember Mom and Dad talking about loving the picture and insisting on blowing it up since that’s Mom’s immediate reaction to a good photo. I also remember that they hid the poster sized print behind the couch for several years before Dad took it to work. If I did indeed rescue those proofs, sorry not sorry. I also love this photo despite the tragically awful race suit. I’m waiting for the after photo in the same outfit because I know it’s still around somewhere…

    1. You are my hero, The Little Sister! If not for your courageous efforts — regardless of our different memories of the rescue — this poster would never had seen the light of a Midwestern engineering firm. You play the long game like no other person on earth. 10 years sitting on this secret — how did you do that?? Amazing. And yes, wish granted. I will find a way to wear that Spandex suit at the end of the challenge, even though I’m pretty sure is it smells like mold. #anythingforyou

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