Friday, January 14, 2011

No Pictures, Please

Anyone who’s ever pointed a camera in my direction knows that I am something less than a Woman of a Thousand Faces. In fact, I only have two offerings, photographically speaking. My first look could diplomatically be called “pre-Hazelden.” No matter the time of day or the current state of my sobriety, I present a droopy eyed, slack-jawed mien that can cause some embarrassment when the photo being taken is, say, for the Annual Giving Committee’s Kickoff, or the Kindergarten Picnic Volunteers. One look at my visage and people start hunting for the bottle of gin in the background.

My second photographic presentation, which I affect to avoid looking like a sot, has been described by my children as “The Goosey Face.” Eyes determinedly wide open, mouth set in a rictus of sobriety, I look like someone who has just felt something very unpleasant happening in her backside region. No one doubts that I’m in control of my senses, but whether I’m in control of my arse is another matter entirely.

I wish I could say that I used to be a beautifully photographed child, but I’d be lying. I’ve been ruining class pictures and family reunion photos for as long as I can remember. Back in the days of Polaroid, everyone would gather around the shiny square to see the development process in action. I got used to hearing the inevitable, disappointed, “Julie ruined it; everybody back on the couch for another picture.” 

There are people the camera loves (think supermodels) and people the camera hates (think me). Over the years, I’ve resigned myself to it. I don’t want to be one of those strange people who runs away the minute the Minolta comes out. There’s just a bit too much creepy self-loathing in that schtick for my tastes. My feeling is, hey, I look the way I look, I’m fine with it, and if you want to take a snapshot, go right ahead, just as soon as I can loll my head a little bit more on my neck, Jimmy-Buffet-in-Margaritaville style.

And yes, to answer your question, I’ve tried Taking a Deep Breath, I’ve tried Having Happy Thoughts, and it does no good at all. I always have been, and I remain, a Film Freak.

Which is why I was so surprised to see an actual acceptable picture of myself from a recent family wedding. I look positively normal. It surprised me so much that I tried to determine why. I realized that, first of all, I didn’t know the photo was being taken, so my face didn’t have a chance to contort itself as usual. Plus, I was wearing a silly New Year's Eve crown, and I think just knowing that I was goofy looking helped me relax a little, facially speaking. I treasure the moments when I can stop taking myself seriously.

The company I was keeping while the snap was shot may be part of the reason for my relative comeliness, too. I was talking with a distant relative by marriage, someone who might possibly be the coolest soul every to consort with our clan. A native of Chihuahua, Mexico, Jorge, despite his less-than-towering stature, somehow conveys the attitude of a benevolent and wise king. Talking with him, it’s all I can do not to curtsy. I can only imagine that he descends from a long line of Mexican emperors. I really think he could pull off the gold-crown-as-everyday-headgear look, perhaps with an ermine cloak to accessorize.

The other reason I look almost-human in this picture is that I was in my happiest, most comfortable state of being – Getting Something Done. Emma had asked me to serve as her personal assistant in talking with every person at the wedding who was from another country or who had lived in one; I was conducting a series of informational interviews, disguised as cocktail party chatter, and I was just a teeny bit aglow with the rare thrill that accompanies the notion that Emma Was Pleased.

I realize that this represented a unique combination of circumstances that I may not see again, so I plan to hold onto the photographic evidence.  Next time everyone is lining up against the file cabinets for a group photo, I’ll just pull out this one, a la A Chorus Line, and let everyone know that once upon a time, I was sober, relaxed and almost normal looking.

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