Then and Now

So my son is one month from his middle school promotion; then he’s going to high school. Like any minute now. And this fact has got me freaked out and nostalgic and also maybe the tiniest bit curious about how he got to be so old while I’m still so young.

(Side note: 43 is young. Shut up.)

Which is why I’m linking up with Liz from a belle, a bean, &  a chicago dog as she helps us both celebrate and preserve the photo-evidence of our misspent youth. For last year’s scorching contribution, click here.

As for this year, I apologize in advance for the terrible film-quality; but I started high school back in the Paleozoic Era. Like before good old Madonna felt touched for the very first time. Can you imagine?

On the left is my freshman yearbook portrait which sports a halo background and the coolest fashion trend of 1982: The Tuxedo. Complete with puffy shirt, bow tie and black slacks, this look went out of style before I completed my photo session.

To the right is my sophomore offering, when Guess jeans ruled and two shirts were better than one. Especially if both collars were visible simultaneously.

(Side note: I have full-metal braces, feathered bangs and a shadow-booger in one nostril. What didn’t I have? A boyfriend.)


Because nothing says “popular” like a royal blue polyester dress with matching spangle-belt, I present our high school show choir. I’m the blonde with the feathered bangs in the top row. Second girl from the right. With excellent jazz hands.

And the peanut in the center, hands-on-hips? That’s @jlweinberg, of the hysterical blog Kvetch Mom. I know it’s hard to avoid being jealous that Jennifer Liberts Weinberg and I once sang “Route 66” together. But try.

(Side note: Below me to the left is the actress Heather Graham. I still don’t know why she’s famous while I’m not but I assume it’s because no agent ever saw me in my tuxedo shirt. Also, I can’t act.)


When my friends performed Macho Man for Lip Sync, we substituted a firefighter for the construction worker. Because we were smokin’ hot. Probably.

(Side note: The real Village People used less make-up and hair spray. Probably.)


That’s me in the white prom dress, front and center. And yes, we did have dates but they couldn’t fit in the picture with all the Aqua Net and sleeves. Also, I wasn’t the prom queen. In case you were wondering.

(Side note: I may have had a four-pack of Bartles & Jaymes hidden under that hoop skirt. Unless my mom is reading this. In which case I definitely didn’t.)


This was taken at our graduation in June, 1986; after all the Pomp and Circumstance, before all the girl-tears.

(Side note: We weren’t, in fact, wearing show choir outfits. Also, I wasn’t the Valedictorian. In case you were wondering.)


These pics are from our 20-year reunion; yes, we’ve stayed in contact through the sorrows and joys of life and “That’s What Friends are For” played at all of our weddings even though we didn’t want it to be our class song.

(Side note: Most of us toned down the hair, one of us pumped up the cup size and all of us ditched the Bartles & Jaymes.)


Last but not least, here’s a recent picture in which my son is the same age as I was in that freshman picture at the top.  How surreal is that? Insert a relevant Madonna analogy here. I’m too busy weeping.

(Side note: At this point, my kid prefers skulls and spiked hair to tuxedos and feathered bangs; we’re keeping our fingers crossed about the shadow-boogers.)

So good luck in high school, Jack. And don’t worry.

I still know the lyrics to “Route 66”.


This entry was posted in Life
Bookmark this article Then and Now

69 thoughts on “Then and Now

  1. Where to start?

    The feathered hair. That’s a good jumping-off point. You totally had the face for that haircut.

    And you knew Weinberg back when? That’s AWESOME. Comin’ up together. So sweet.

    And ok, Heather Graham? I try to picture her face but all I get is Cameron Diaz. So you’re officially more memorable than Heather Graham for sure.

    Those reunion dresses were smokin’ hot.

  2. Get OUT, get OUT, get OUT, GET OUT!!! I LOVE these pictures!!!! LOVE THEM!! And you went to school with another blogger?!? And Heather Graham!?! Yeesh. Still mahvelous, dahling. Truly. What a blast!

  3. “The tuxedo” is a wholly underrated look. Speaking of which, I need to wear mine, again, on Sunday, so expect a barrage of “I’m really, really trying to look like James Bond while not actually saying that I’m trying to look like James Bond” posts to Twitter.

    And I just can’t picture you ever enjoying Bartles & James. I try, but I can’t . . . in my head, you’ve always had a highly refined taste. That said, I just had some MD 20/20 the other day . . . and, dear god, it was awful.

  4. I loved the dates couldn’t fit in the picture because of the puffy sleeves.

    Also, the tuxedo shirt is FANTASTIC.

  5. I’m just learning that you & JLWeinberg were in school together–OMG! so cool!

    I love looking at you through the years–you evolved, as we all did. We all have the awkward pics. I’m just too embarrassed to link mine up…at least this time.

    You are gorgeous in every shot and the one w/ you and your kiddos makes me tear up at the end.

    ANd the Bartles & James hiding under your dress–LOVE. WHat were we thinking with those awful wine cooler things? yeuuugh.


  6. Di

    I first knew you as a high school senior…yikes…that’s where Jack will be in four years…WTF!

  7. I snorted when I read the line about Madonna – ha ha ha!

    I love all the 80’s hair and sleeves! And you girls are all so gorgeous. And I wore the same show choir dress but it was black with a red sequined belt. Yep.

    You SO should have been Prom Queen!!!

  8. My eyes hurt from all the BLONDE here. I like how you have a token dark haired friend. I just said, “dark haired” because I can’t remember the other word for it. I’m only three sips into my coffee.

    Tough luck having your son going to high school. I’m getting all weepy because preschool/pre-k (seriously?) is coming up.
    I just want to keep them here, in their pajamas, forever. Until they act like punks. The end.

    Have fun with this new adventure. Are you scared? High school worries me and my youngest isn’t even a year old yet. I think I may have had too much fun in high school. I use the word, “in” quite loosely since I often just drove away from 4th period to get a fountain soda and wash my car. I KNOW! HARDCORE.

  9. I am INSANELY jealous that you and @jlweinberg were in show choir together! Being a show choir performer myself and all… Although we had nobody remotely famous come out of ours.

    I’m also lovin’ the prom pic. I think I remember that exact spread in my Seventeen Magazine- prom issue.

    Good luck to Jack! And his ability to keep his boogers contained!

  10. I had to Google Heather Graham.

    You look like a bride in your prom picture – must be the white dress. Smokin’ hot though, just sayin’.

    I have to say – you were cute then, but you’re gorgeous now. Must be because of non-feathering of hair.

  11. The dress I wore to prom was featured in Seventeen magazine (I found that out AFTER I bought it). It was black and hot pink. My hair made me 6’1″.

    These could be my photos, only there’s no one remotely famous that came out of my graduating class of 1989. We were, after all, a class of only 30 students.

    Love this reminiscence!

  12. The best part of these? I mean, aside from the awesome fashions and fabulous feathered hair? It’s proof to the children that you were in high school and a teenager once too. Mine don’t believe me – proof is necessary.

  13. Oh my gosh I am laughing so hard. Is it wrong that the Facts of Life theme song was playing in my head through this whole post?

    And? I want to look like you at my 20 year reunion.

  14. I had that same tuxedo shirt. Because we are awesome.

    I’m loving this photo retrospective. You, lady, are a smoking hottie throughout the ages.

  15. Heather Graham isn’t much of an actor, either. Just saying.

    You look better now than you did back then! Not that you weren’t smokin hot in your Aqua Net and tuxedo.

  16. AllyT

    Ahh, good times! I hope that our kids have a “full” high school experience like we did – with amazing lifelong friends who just keep getting better looking with age! Also, I’m pretty sure if you google Heather Graham her age comes up as 28. Hee hee hee.

  17. allison

    Funny, Julie, the kids keep getting older and we stay the same age. Jack will be absolutely fabulous in high school. He will need you more than ever (despite what he says). Oh, and I redact my hug on the quad comment. I am planning on winning favorite teacher status back:).

  18. So fabulous, especially the prom pic of all the girls! Oh yay, you’re older than me! Oh, sorry. 😉

  19. Dad


    SO, you didn’t have a four-pack of Bartle & Jaymes under that prom dress? Just like you had no idea your date had brought a bottle of Barcadi and you were “just holding it for him” when you were busted by the Disneyland cops??? OK, Mom and I believe you. Ooops. Don’t let Jack or Karly read this. Thank God at least now you might hide bottles of Grgich Hills chardonnay instead of rot-gut wine coolers.


  20. Julie

    Dear Daddy,

    I was kidding about the wine coolers under my dress.
    As for the Bacardi in my purse at Disneyland?

    No comment.

    But don’t worry about Jack seeing this.
    He’d only read this blog if it were featured on Call of Duty.
    (That’s a video game. In case you didn’t know.)

    So thank God for small favors, for large purses and for you and Mom.

  21. I love these! You must be featured in the “should have been prom queen” category.

    And now? Absolutely beautiful. Perhaps it was the preservatives in the Bartles & James? They have somehow discovered the fountain of youth.

  22. Sweet mother of Aquanet, Julie C!

    I am glad we met now, because pretty girls intimidated the crap out of me in high school. Now, with the wisdom of time, I can think you’re hot, envy your gorgeous Cali looks, admire your brain, and adore your generous and funny heart.

    And marvel at your hair care routine!

  23. OMG we had the same hair. Damn I don’t miss the 80’s like AT ALL.

    You are adorable. And hot.

  24. Hilarious once again. I spent the 80’s in maternity wear. I kid you not. Imagine full belly panels in corduory and plaid shirts with bows at the peter pan collars. Who wouldn’t want to keep that pregnant?? I was hot.
    P.S. shadow boogers hahaha


    (except with less preachiness and more hot blondes)

  26. You’re adorable. Check out Denise, rockin’ the midnight blue poofy sleeve prom dress.
    I’m so happy none of my 1981 prom pictures survived, nor the ones of me with my chick mullet in 1983.
    You’re very brave to post yours. You give us all courage…

  27. Oh Em Gee. You just busted me at my new office gig, where I SNORTED with laughter at the shadow booger reference. Then I snorted AGAIN when I re-read it just now! With my uncontained snorting and your shadow boogers, it’s obvious now why we couldn’t be friends…no school could’ve handled our combined hawtness. Also? You and your friends look AMAZING 20 years later. #naryashadowboogerinsight

  28. That prom dress is amazing. I am being serious. AH-MAY-ZIIING!
    You still look great!!

  29. AquaNet, feathered bangs, poofy sleeves, blue eye shadow…you were as gorgeous then as you are now.

    You don’t even want to know what grade *I* was in in ’86.

  30. Um, I love this whole thing. And I don’t know if I’ll ever forget the term shadow booger. You look awesome now – and then 🙂

  31. I really needed this post. I’ve been feeling really lonely today. I know it sounds a little pathetic, but I’ve never claimed to be anything but.

    Oh what memories. There’s a picture of me in my freshman yearbook with perm, braces, plaid pants with suspenders .. there may have been a bow tie involved.

    I wore a shiny blue dress to junior prom with a hoop skirt. A hoop skirt.

    A hoop skirt.

    I wonder why I’m lonely.

  32. Ok, so you went to HS with JLW AND Heather Graham? That is all sorts of amazing. I thought HG was older, but what do I know? I didn’t go to high school with anyone famous. Probably because I went to high school in Michigan.

    When I was in elementary school I wanted so badly to grow up and have feathered hair and a puffy prom dress.

    It didn’t happen.

    Probably for the best since I would have stuck out with all those angsty teens in the 90’s.

  33. I have no words for the tuxedo… Love, admiration, bravery…

  34. liz

    Julie, you are ABSOLUTELY a hottie both then AND now! Your descriptions have me in tears. I even called Craig over to show off your shadow booger.

    You and your puffy sleeves may be hard to beat for “Should Have Been Prom Queen”.

    This contest will be epic.

    Thanks, THANKS for joining in! Love you til the end!

  35. It’s nice to know not all Hollywood celebrities are born celebrities, but rather once dressed like Tony Basil and knew people with shadow boogers. Although it blows my mind why you aren’t right up there signing autographs with Heather Graham. Tell me she at least invites you to tea from time to time. Or for a hookah or something. Ah well, at least you can say you knew someone that went on to show her boobies on film with roller skates on and make it super big. The only person from my class who ever went anywhere was me, and that was about three hours south (I’m kidding; I also did two years in a Bangkok prison). But I’ve never showed my boobies or other nekkid sundries to anyone with a camera. Yet, of course.

    Gooooooo Farrah!!

    I’m sorry. That just came out. Couldn’t even stop myself.

    Best of luck to your kiddo. Mine’s finishing her freshman year, and I can tell you it’s not nearly the nightmare you think it’ll be. For them anyway. For you, well, sleep with your light on. They only get older.

    Sniff. Why do they have to grow up?

  36. Oh good lord I forgot about the tux look. How did that happen? The look, not my forgetting about it.
    You had a Chrissy Everett thing goin’ on. Smokin’!
    Hilarious post. We are exactly the same age and may have shopped at the same stores from the looks of it. And, oh, the Bartles and Jaymes. Peach was my fave.

  37. Vanessa

    As the girl in the Glee picture squatting in front left (with my hands on my hips – thankfully no jazz hands), and as one who knew all these girls/women through the above and even farther back (like, um kindergarten), I can say from experience that this is a great group of peeps. And the prom queen is in there BTW – sitting next to Julie on the right. Also one of the nicest people ever, like Julie. Proud to know you ladies – and also proud to say that along with the bloggers and actress up there we also have a laywer, business owner, several professional musicians, an oncologist, CEO, many awesome moms and dads, a gay and hiv advocate, and all around an amazing group of people I wish I had appreciated more. Instead of always working to try to get them to appreciate me! Maybe that is my piece of advice for Jack – try to appreciate everyone for who they are, be yourself, and remeber everyone has a backstory.
    And the 80’s rocked. For Jack – he will regret the spikes like I did my mullet. But that’s life, isn’t it! Xoxo V

  38. Julie


    Your comment is better than my entire blog post.

    And I can add nothing more, other than you are amazing and I’m so lucky to know you.

    Now, then, always.

    But more importantly, when will you be back in our hometown neck of the woods???

    Love. Love. Love.


  39. Like Vanessa, I too, carry the shame of once having a female mullet. I prefer the term bi-level. Thankfully mine was grown out by high school.

    It was fun going down memory lane with you, but I loved how you brought it back to Jack. My oldest starts high school next year too and it is freaking me out!

  40. Oh Julie, I pink puffy heart you, your tuxedo shirt, and seeing all of your thens and nows.

    (Love the tie in to Jack. It’s perfect.)


  41. –Julie,
    I smiled throughout this entire post. 🙂

    I love that you girls kept in touch all of these years…& you all look FAaaaBulous-

    Do you still keep in touch w/ Heather?!


  42. Your pictures capture that you always sought out fun and beauty and all the joys that life has to offer. Then, and now.

    True story—I am a show choir reject.

  43. So I know I’m supposed to comment on all the hair and sleeves and stuff.


    I am hung up on the fact that you and Jennifer Weinberg went to high school together!

    You two are two of my most favorite writers.

    That must have been one helluva an English Department! Can you and @jlweinberg do some kind of blog thing where you…I don’t know. I would love to read your take on something together.

    Like you two, my friend Kasey Matthews (whose book PREEMIE is doing really well) went to my high school. And Rebecca Land Soodak’s controversial HENNY ON THE COUCH has received interested reviews. We were known for having a great English department. But I also went to high school with the drummer from Phish, several NBA and NFL players.

    But I digress.

    I’m amazed how we are but one year apart, and I feel somewhat responsible for the legacy the class of 1985 left you. Those Big Dresses, while handy for hiding drinks and boys, were awful to dance in. We should have told you. I thought we did. Sorry you didn’t get our memo.

    The best thing about going to school in the 80s? I don’t know one woman who doesn’t look better now than she did then.

    Well, one.

    But she used to be a he.


  44. OMG – I LOVE these photos! They make me want to pull out mine and share with everyone in the…

    Okay, maybe not. 😉 [shudder]



  45. I’m so glad I didn’t miss this walk down memory lane. I can still taste my first Bartles and Jaymes like it was yesterday. Except it wasn’t.

    Love the pictures! I hope you are doing well!

  46. This is just stellar. From the bow-tie to the feathered hair to Heather Graham…oh, and that prom dress. Hi-larious!! Thanks for letting us take this trip with you. I have this horrible grade 9 photo with paint-splattered glasses (because, you know, they were super cool as was I) and braces and big hair. It’s truly terrifying.

  47. Oh man, I don’t even have the words. I am insanely jealous of the cool people you got to go to school with. The most famous person in my graduating class is the dude who burned his butthole trying to light his fart on fire. Not exactly the same caliaber of classmates. Hysterical post!

  48. Fricking awesome. Some of the best side notes I’ve ever met. It was asked in the school newspaper one year if “anyone wanted to be a Material Girl like Missy (insert maiden name)?”

    Being the huge, HUGE Madonna fan I was (am), I thought it was one of the finest compliments I’d ever received.

    (side note: I was shallow.)

  49. Oh how I love this. Mostly because I can completely relate, seeing as how I graduated in 1985. I also had feathered bangs, full metal braces, lovely choir outfits AND a tuxedo shirt! But, my black pants had a fake cumberbund (which is actually spelled cummerbund if anyone cares) waistband!!

  50. Gosh, Julie. You were gorgeous even when the hair, style, clothes and jazz hands were working against you. That’s just not fair. And? I’m shocked you weren’t valedictorian. That’s just wrong. Loved the post! And all that blond hair. Wow. Makes me want to plug in my flat iron. Now.

  51. OMFG! I can’t believe you and Jennifer knew each other in HS (in Show Choir, no less)!!! AND that Heather Graham was in your class too? She’s on my husband’s laminated list, if you know what I’m saying.

    The shadow booger. I die. That must have been one of the optional style choices by Jostens that year because I’m certain I have one of those too. AND, for bonus points, I rocked that same hairdo and tuxedo top. Must find those pics to share!

    What a great meme! Love it!

  52. Courtney

    You are so talented my friend. I enjoy every post even though I don’t comment nearly as much as I intend… The evolution of you as a writer is beautiful – well, I just think we’ve all gotten better with age! (I know I can rhyme more than 3-lettered words these days!)

  53. Mel

    These are totally rad! I’m pretty sure I have some school pics with your exact same hairdos. Also? Pretty sure my choir dress was exactly the same as yours – guess all of us sexy choir girls rock the same stuff! Ahhh…big hair and huge prom dresses; those were the days.

  54. I LOVE this post!!! I’m (maybe) inspired to do my own? Is the link up only until a certain date? I’ve never done a link up! Can you believe it? I do have a scanner though and I’m fittin’ to use it.

  55. Apparently you and I are identical twins separated at birth, which I would prove by inserting my own bi-level mullet pictures into this comment except that I burned them all. The only difference between us is that you were really cute in it and I looked like a total dweeb.

  56. You went to school with Heather Graham-Bot? The actress / robot? Wow.

    I loved this post mucho grande. You were hot, Julie C. Gardener.

  57. With a beautiful face like yours you could easily carry off any hair style…you are one of those lucky lucky people!

    Also, RE: your about page. Trying to be a writer full time is no easy feat. I admire you for taking the plunge.

    Your sense of humor is awesome. I look forward to reading more!

  58. Feathered hair, jazz hands and puffy prom dresses!!! This is the trifecta of awesomeness. You were adorable then and absolutely beautiful now.

  59. hey, how fabulous do you look now?? between aquanet, bartles and james and madonna not being touched, i spit out my drink while i was reading this. AWESOME.

  60. My Charlie joins the list of those heading to high school too, his ‘graduation’ is next week. I too rocked the tuxedo outfit, only I paired it with a Dorothy Hamill haircut. When I graduated in 1980, we had not yet discovered the wonders of the muffin bang or excessive amounts of aqua net, and our prom dresses were from Gunne Sax. I best go dig out those photos….

    Loved your trip down memory lane! Congrats to Jack for surviving middle school!

  61. bartles & james? Oh em gee, that cracked me up. also, the cup size comment. fabulous.

    stop by the blog, will ya? 🙂

    that is all.

  62. Ali

    Hot stuff! You’re just as pretty now…just with better hair! And I’m totally jealous that you were in show choir. I can’t sing a note, but would have totally eaten that up!

  63. Oh baby you had the best thens I LOVE that tuxedo. Oh and all the puffy sleeves.

    And now, well, you are gorgeous. I still have my friends from high school too. I need to go to a reunion and see whose boobs have done what though. It’s on Long Island. I bet there are some doozies!

  64. Pop

    Guess Jeans were still all the rage when I was in high school. talk about staying power.

    I would’ve absolutely died if your son had a tuxedo t-shirt in that last pic.

  65. HAH! Awesome.

    (p.s. She’s famous ‘cuz she bares her boobies in movies. Oh, I made a rhyme.)

  66. I loved these photos. And I hate you for looking good in that plum tight number.

  67. Loved this post, all the way through.

    Gave me lots of smiles.


  68. Your jazz hands were way better than Heather Graham’s jazz hands.

  69. Joshua Kerrigan

    This is a great post, I think you should turn it into a 2 or 3 part series.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *