in which teenage me is a deer in the headlights

Most of us are awkward teenagers; it's a class feature that stays with us until we level up to our twenties.

But most of you didn't have your awkward teenage years play out in front of the world, preserved for future generations to enjoy, thusly:


Talk about deer in the headlights! Everything about my awkward teenage years is captured in that photo: I'm nervous, self-conscious, and forcing a smile so whoever is taking this picture will please just go away as quickly as possible. I haven't looked in a teen magazine since I was, well, in them, (and I don't know if non-Bieber-specific ones ever exist) but I wonder if the people who are in them today (Bieber and otherwise) are photographed in the same harsh flash and unflattering awkwardness that seemed to be endemic to the teen magazines in the late 80s.

(Thanks … I think … to @jennabryson, who says, "Look what my mom found, @wilw – she cleaned out & sold my childhood dresser & this was inside" for sharing that photo.)

42 thoughts on “in which teenage me is a deer in the headlights”

  1. On the bright side, at least you’ve grown to be an adult with the courage to willingly share these painfully awkward teenage moments with an equally large audience.

  2. HA HA! I remember that picture!
    I couldn’t even imagine being in the spotlight like that as a teen. I probably would have vomited. Every time my youngest makes mention of wanting to be “known” and tells me of his latest scheme to become famous, I always cannot help but to say, “Dude. You so don’t. It sucks! Privacy is a nice thing.”

  3. I would imagine that as frequently as your picture was taken for the various teen magazines that most of these photos if not all were a blur. I’m curious though, if there were any instances that stand out in your mind.

  4. That’s why we love you, Wil. I was already out of college at the time this photo was taken, but I remember the teen idols of my youth: You survived this to become a better adult than anyone with a crush on you back then could have hoped.

  5. I’m pretty sure that that picture hung on my closet door at one point in time.
    Think of the service you did to all us awkward teenage geek girls who were just hoping there was a cute, equally-awkward and geeky boy somewhere out there to love. You gave us something to hope for. :)

  6. Wil, even after 20+ years, I am still a geek! My boyfriend is a geek too but is amazed by my Star Trek: TNG knowledge. It is all because of you my friend! :)

  7. Haha! I had that picture taped to the wall in my room!! I was so in ln love with you… And Fred Savage… And The New Kids On the Block.. I was too young to commit.

  8. Wil, you probably don’t even know how many published photos of you there are from your teen years.
    The one you posted here is a fine example as you have explained – there are are others that may be even more awkward. :)

  9. I have pictures of me in my bedroom @16 and it’s plastered with you, Wil, and Corey Haim, Sean Astin and the like – A friend of mine saw a few of those pictures on my digital frame a few weeks ago and said, “Oh my god, you were such a geek, isn’t that Wil something or another from Star Trek?!” I thanked her and told her I was not embarrassed in the least to have a grinning Wil Wheaton on my wall as a girl, even w/his swatch watches….

  10. Less Tom Felton and more Winona Ryder…:)
    Thanks for sharing Wil, I certainly don’t have the chutzpah to post early-teen pictures of myself. And pretty much any picture that’s in a magazine today has been Photoshopped almost beyond recognition.

  11. Sorry, but as a teenage girl, I thought you were “totally hot.” I’m sure this photo was up on some teenage girl’s wall somewhere in America. So never feel bad, this picture and the photos like it probably always made some girl’s day.:)

  12. Totally unrelated to this post but I just had to say it: I’m re-listening to the old D&D podcasts you did with the Penny Arcade guys and I can’t get over how much you sound like George Clooney. Umm… Derail over?

  13. Wil,
    I’m sure you have heard everything in the book on how great you are. But I started to watch TNG when I was 14 because of you… and now 34 I still watch my DVD collection and think back on those great years. I read your book “Just a Geek”… and it has changed my life. I’m not a actor. but I have recently found myself unemployed (2years now) and after reading your book; learning how you struggled to support your family. I have to give you mad props! When things looked bad for you, you took it head on. Something I learned after reading you book. You made me feel that i’m not the only one. I used to work as a bookkeeper to pay the bills… now i’m a tattoo artist doing what i love to do. and this is because of YOU!… you changed my life and for that I thank you! You saved me when i was younger… my dad passed away when i was 15yrs and watching you on the tv… dreaming of the day i could thank you for helping me through that. I never dreamed that now at 34 you will be doing the same thing. I”m glad your writing and i’m glad your still around! Your wife is a VERY luck girl! I hope she realize that!
    Thank you Wil… you saved me… twice!

  14. I have one word for you: HOT.
    Followed by more words: When I little I’d watch reruns of TNG and I was super in love with you. I thought you (even, nay, especially in those pumpkin-colored sweaters) were the hottest thing that ever graced the bridge of the Enterprise.
    Watching TNG still makes me giggle with girlish attraction for young, awkward-you. So that picture of you totally takes me back.
    PS, now-you is hot too.

  15. Given the caveat that 97% of the photos taken of me to this day are far worse than this one Wil, the caption for this shot MUST be:

  16. I’m a tiny bit late to the party… but I had to say… my wife finally talked me into getting rid of all my old teen magazine posters that I had in a box of memories. I still had a few of yours. I… er… saved one. More for the memory than anything else.
    One of my friends just interviewed you today, she said. Asked me if I had any questions for you. And I was thinking about it, and realized I’ve been a fan (quietly) for 23 years. Still there, after all this time.
    I often wondered if the people on the other side of those shiny magazine pictures were happy. At that age, I thought that if a person had fame, they had everything. And then, you realize, they’re just awkward kids with all the same fears as the rest of us… only with a magnifying glass and a spotlight on everything they do. It actually made me appreciate it even more.
    Anyway, I don’t say much ’round here… but I’m still appreciating, even after all this time. Cool shit, man. The coolest sort of geek. Keep it going. :)

  17. On the bright side Will. You will have all this material, true, honest material with which to share your life-experience with your kids when they’re older. Particularlt the wonder that was growing up in the early dawn of the information age. I buried my folks a few years back, and there’s precious little left to remind me of their life.

  18. I still have all my old pics and posters of you;) No way in hell will I ever get rid of them! You look/looked great no matter what expression you have on your face!

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