Friday, April 5, 2013

So what if I hate photos of myself? Time for it to not be about me.

Just one of the reasons I dislike photos of myself...
I have very few pictures of my mother. She didn't like the camera -- didn't like the way it settled on her perceived flaws without having given her time to stand a certain way or raise her chin just so. At least this is what I'm told; she died before we could even have a proper conversation. That's why I feel especially cheated about the lack of proof that she existed.

That's also why it makes no sense, then, that I avoid the camera as well. It's always been my belief that some people photograph beautifully every time lenses are trained on them -- my daughter is one of them -- but that others, no matter how painstakingly they style their hair and watch their posture, end up looking like Zack Galifianakis.

That would be me.

Even as a younger, thinner person, I hid from the camera. No matter how I posed, my double chin, round shoulders and somewhat droopy smile jumped to attention. I have exactly two good pictures of myself: One was taken when I was 23 and subsisting on nothing but air-popped popcorn and Crystal Light, and in the other, I was so pregnant that my giant belly made my limbs look like sticks.

But I didn't have kids during that period of my life, so my camera-avoidance didn't really matter all that much to anyone. Now, though, I wonder what the heck my children are going to do when the funeral home -- a long time from now, I hope -- wants to make a video to play during my service. Morbid, I know, but in the video of my dad that was shown at his funeral two years ago, there are exactly two photos of me, and about that many of my mother.

How old will I have to be before I realize it needs to stop being all about me?

Sure, I make it sound like it's really not. "Leave me out of the picture; the kids are so much cuter," I've always said, and although it's true, it's still a cop-out. Why haven't I been able to put aside my ego long enough to realize that my kids wouldn't care how rotund I looked as we smiled for the camera?

I exaggerate; there have been exceptions. And I marvel when I look at photos from 10 or 20 years ago that I didn't look nearly as bad as I thought I did at the time.

I guess I could blame celebrity moms; we're probably, on some level, indoctrinated to think that when Heidi Klum gathers all her kids into her lap and beams for People or Us, she hasn't just spent two hours in hair and makeup. We could also blame denial; even though I like to control the way the lens "sees" me, I can't deny the fact that in real life, I look the way I look.

I guess on some level, I'm pleased in this era of social-media oversharing that I'm not vain enough to assume people want to see my mug on Facebook every day. But my kids deserve proof not only of my existence, but of my relationships with each of them -- my affection for them and my joy at being in their presence. In 30 years, when they look at pictures of me, it's likely they'll say, "She looks so young," not "She's was so fat."

I know I'm not alone in feeling this way; I look at my friends' Facebooks and I see loads of photos of children and spouses and partners, and, in some cases, brand-new grandchildren. But so many of my friends are largely invisible, and when they do pose for the camera, they look sheepish, as if they're trying to sink into themselves.

It changes now. I'm not going to go overboard, but I'm going to strive to allow a picture to be taken of me at least once every season. Chances are I won't post the photos, but they'll be where my kids can find them.

But I'm warning you now, kids: If the response isn't an intake of breath and a "Wow, she looks so young," you're in big trouble.


  1. go ahead and post them, what's it gonna hurt? (Says the woman of children who are going to say..."Mom was on the vacation wasn't she? Didn't she actually carve the pumkins? Wait we didn't celebrate our birthdays without her...what gives!?)

  2. Carol Ann, I joke about those same things. I am ALWAYS the one taking the pictures!