{stories and snapshots from my new york city life.}


When I Was 17: Non-Celebrity Edition

On a recent couch-surfing trip, I came across a rather fun little program called "When I was 17" on MTV.  Familiar? Famous rappers and Jersey Shore cast members give viewers a glimpse of their teenaged selves complete with bad perms and poor fashion choices. I thought it'd be fun to reflect on my own time as a 17-year-old. Keep in mind that digital cameras didn't exist when I was a teenager. 

When I was 17, I lived on the west end of Galveston Island. It's a charming Texas town known for its historical homes, tourist attractions, beaches, and truly kick-ass seafood. I'd lived there my whole life up to that point, and wasn't yet aware that people in other parts of the country didn't say y'all. 

We lived in a cozy cul-de-sac, with palm trees in the front yard and a lake in the back. On weekends, girlfriends would come over and we'd lay out on the back deck, squeezing lemons in our hair till it flecked with gold. Sun spots and melanoma were not yet on our radar. Pretty tans and highlights were.

My high school was a 15-minute drive from my house and to get there, I drove across the Seawall overlooking several miles of sandy beaches. I drove a red Mustang with the windows down and the music up. My dad always worried about putting a CD player in the car because he worried I'd be too distracted while driving. When I was 17, cell phones didn't exist yet.

These were some of my best girlfriends. I was blessed to be surrounded with smart, sweet, happy-go-lucky girls who have all grown up to be interesting, successful, confident women. In this picture, I'm the one getting hugged. I was a very lucky girl. This was the year my parents divorced, and I found myself needing their positivity more than ever.

When I was 17, I wore things like off-the-shoulder, forest green, crushed velvet dresses to formal events. Other than that, I was in blue jeans, plaid shirts and flip-flops.

On Friday nights, I donned sequins and jazz boots as I kicked and strutted my way across the fifty-yard line. When I was 17, I was very, very limber. (I'm the girl in the middle of the photo with her foot in her face).

As an officer on the drill team, I went to dance practice before and after school. We went to dance competitions and did high kicks at football games. (I'm the girl in white, standing). If those outfits look familiar, it's because we donated them to the Happy Hands club for the filming of Napoleon Dynamite.

I wore unitards on the regular. This multi-hued one was particularly terrible. I was also the co-editor of the school newspaper. There was no Photoshop, digital cameras, or Internet. We laid it out by hand, pasting words by the paragraph onto long white paper. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss those days.

On Saturday nights, kids would gather at either end of the beach and lean against their trucks and cars, laughing, gossiping and doing other things teenagers are known to do. The most well known spot was a long stretch of road hanging over the beach on 103rd Street. We also hung out in isolated spots at the golf course and the RV park. When I was 17, there was no movie theater or mall in my town. We had to get creative.

When I was 17, I graduated from high school. Forrest Gump won the Oscar for Best Picture that year, making "Life's a box of chocolates" the most annoying and overused metaphor for life ever. 

When I was 17 I thought 33 sounded so old. At 33, 17 seems so very young. 


  1. Fabulous post with beautiful pictures! Love that you used the idea from the MTV show. :)

  2. Love this so much! What a great idea. Sounds so peaceful and simple growing up there. I grew up at the Jersey Shore, pre-fist pumping.


  3. GREAT POST JENN!! I loved seeing this blast from your past - high kicks to you and Galveston, Texas!!!

  4. Great post, Jenn! Brings back quite a few memories of good ol' Gtown. Can you believe the Flagship is no longer there? And, 103rd looks like a condo complex! When I was home last February, Tony, Brandon and I went to beach access to enjoy some adult beverages there...legally. I think that was a first for all of us! ;-)

  5. Oh, I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing, sounds like a nice way to grow up.

  6. Love this! I look back and wonder why the hell I was in such a rush to be an adult. Wish sometimes I could go back!

  7. I love going down memory lane. 17 was great, but I had no idea how awesome my 30s would be (I'm 33 too!) and the last 5 years have definitely been my best. Now I look ahead and 90 seems old :-) My, how perception changes.

  8. Totally jealous of your backyard set-up! And your unitards. But I totally drove a red mustang too...but in college. And oh did I think I was hot shit. But this was such a fun post, I am absolutely gonna steal this idea from you. Time to bust out the scanner.

  9. I loved this post. My older sisters were 17 in Houston...so this reminded me of them...you are such a joy now, and I'm sure you were such a joy then. Thank you for sharing your sweet self with me tonight. I always know I can find something uplifting when I visit. I hope you have a safe and happy Sunday.

  10. This was an amazing post. It was very cool to read. I am 35 and 17 seems so long ago, but also like it was yesterday.