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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Smile For The Camera?

I suppose if there was an appropriate song to post that sets the mood for this Thursday confession, it'd probably be this one.

The song that you're hearing (or just heard) is a song by Steely Dan, entitled “Peg”. It was released in late 1977 and just missed cracking the Top 10, peaking at #11 on the Billboard charts. The song's about a woman who makes it big in the entertainment industry, and how she has an admirer from afar (more than likely a fan who has seen her on the big screen).

(Or, at least, that's the meaning that I take from the song anyway. There are several meanings that I've heard, but I won't get into it here.)

Anyway, I want you all to listen to the song, because there is one particular lyric that I want to highlight in this particular part of the song.

I like your pin shot
I keep it with your letter
Done up in blueprint blue
It sure looks good on you
And when you smile for the camera
I know I'll love you better

You see the bit in bold? That bit in bold has to do with my confession for today.

THURSDAY CONFESSION #16: I HATE getting my picture taken!

In the Steely Dan song, “Peg” seemed to really enjoy being the subject of having her photo taken and absorbing the light that came from camera flash bulbs.

Well, I'm not Peg. And, I would rather have gone to the dentist to have all my teeth pulled out than get my photo taken.

I wouldn't say it's because I have a fear of cameras. I may not like getting my picture taken very much, but I do love taking photographs myself. There was actually a brief moment in my childhood where I wanted to become a professional photographer, but I gave that up when my photos appeared way out of focus.

(Though to be fair, I WAS using a disposable camera that came free with the purchase of a combo from McDonald's.)

If you were to take a look through my family's photo album at home, and counted all of the photos of me in there, you'd find it a challenge to locate any. It isn't because I happened to take all of my old photographs and burned them in a bonfire. Whenever the camera was brought out, I always found a hiding spot in the house to avoid getting my photo taken.

My dislike of cameras didn't start right away. During the first two years of my life, I had dozens of photos taken of me as a baby. Mind you, I didn't learn to speak until I was almost three years old, so I was unable to voice my displeasure about getting my picture taken. Even so, you can tell in some of my earliest baby pictures that I did my best to hide from the camera. Let's just say that it was convenient that some of my favourite toys back then were much larger than I was.

That was a cool inner tube.

Apparently when I was younger, I also liked wearing oversized shirts...and yes, I refused to smile for this photo as well.

I don't remember when that photo was taken, but since my T-shirt says '82 on it, I can only assume that I was around a year old at the time.

This next photo had to have been taken around Christmas 1982. I had that rocking horse when I was a year old, and I loved that thing. The two people standing behind me are my paternal grandparents. My grandfather died in 2000, but my grandmother is still alive.

I just found it funny that I never looked at the camera lens. I just wanted to ride my horsey.

But then came the fateful day in which my parents came up with the “brilliant” suggestion to have my picture taken professionally at the Sears Portrait Studio. That was a day that I'm sure they wouldn't forget.

I've probably talked about this beforehand, but my family was one that basically lived from pay week to pay week. With three kids in the family, my parents had very little disposable income for luxury items. But, somehow, my mother was dead set on making sure that I had a professional photo taken when I was little. Both of my sisters had it done, so my mother wanted me to have the same treatment.

So, my mother dressed me up in a little outfit that she and my father picked out, and we went to Sears to get the portrait done. The photographer set me up in front of a festive autumn background (I think I had the photo taken in September of '84), and I sat on the stool, and my parents were hoping against all odds that I would be good for the poor photographer.

But when the photographer asked me to smile, and I saw that huge camera, I ended up bursting right into tears, and there was no cheering me up. I don't doubt that my parents and the photographer tried to get me to calm down, but I just wanted to go back home and play with my building blocks and crayons. From stories that my parents told me about that day, I was inconsolable, and they told me that after ten minutes, I was still crying. My parents eventually gave up, and told the photographer to go ahead with the photo shoot.

And, was the final result.

(And yes...the overalls really did say “Buck Shot”. What can I say? It was the early '80's.)

To tell you the truth, there were actually two different shots that were taken. The second shot was much better, and naturally, it was blown up to portrait size and is now hanging up in my parents dining room. But, in both shots, I was visibly upset. I didn't want to be there at that moment, as you can tell by the tears in my eyes and the weird expression on my mouth.

It didn't get any better as time passed either. Some of my worst memories of school surrounded class picture day. For most class pictures, I was stuck wearing those big huge Bill Cosby sweaters, and most of my class pictures looked like this.

But that was one of my better class pictures. I hated all the other ones. Take this lovely one from 1990.

Apparently this was taken during the time in which neon colours were huge. I specifically chose that sweater because I liked to blind people with day-glo coloured clothing. Oh, and did I mention that on that particular class photo day, I overslept, and literally got ready for school in five minutes? This explains why I was suffering from a major case of bed head.

The following year wasn't much better. This was from 1991.

Now, I know what you're saying. This is a not bad picture. I agree. It wasn't bad if you looked at it from far away. What you might not see is the fact that I had lesions of cold sores all over my lips and around my nose. They were painful to deal with, and I suffered with discomfort throughout the 1991/92 school year. The cold sores weren't noticeable in the wallet sized photos...but they were clear as a bell in the portrait sized photo. The kids were very relentless about making fun of my mouth that year, giving me yet another reason to hate getting my picture taken. Let's face it. Kids could be cruel.

I also rarely showed my teeth when I smiled for the camera. For whatever reason, I never liked my smile. Maybe it was all in my mind, but whenever I attempted to show my teeth, it always seemed as though I was faking it for whatever reason. And, I'll admit it. Sometimes I did fake that smile.

There were instances in which I did try to make my photos as cute as possible. When I went to see the Easter Bunny at the mall, I made it work.

At my sister's wedding in 1989, I made it work.

But, there were so many times in which I was asked to say cheese for the camera, but I didn't feel like smiling. Sometimes it was because I was in a really bad mood. Sometimes I was feeling sad. Sometimes they snapped a picture while I was doing some weird activity, as evidenced by this childhood snapshot.

(Not sure why I had so many balloons back then, especially since I don't really like them much these days.)

But, I think a lot of it was self-consciousness and low self-esteem. I hate to say it now, but back in my childhood, I really didn't like myself very much. It's definitely not the best way to go through childhood, but I ended up surviving it. It's not easy to deal with other people making fun of you for your physical appearance. Because those words do quite a lot of damage, and as a result, they do things that can be harmful.

This was a picture taken of me five years ago. It was the picture on my health card. That was when I weighed over three hundred pounds. Hands down, it was the worst picture I've ever taken. Granted, most identification cards make almost everybody look like a serial killer, but this one was just terrible. I was blotchy, puffy, and let's get the obvious out of the way. The picture makes me look as if I have NO EARS! My goodness, it was awful.

For about an eight year period, I refused to get my picture taken at all. There are no photos of me taken between 2000 and 2008 because I absolutely refused to be photographed at all. I didn't think I looked good at all, so why would anyone else tell me that I did. That's what rude comments do to people. They completely eat away at them until they believe the lies that others tell them about themselves.

But while I can't get that time back...I can make what time I have left really shine. And since I've made healthier choices for myself, and have found a group of people who I can really trust, my confidence has grown in a big way. I've even started to even like getting my picture taken now...and I've even gotten more comfortable with showing my teeth off more. Never thought I'd see the day that would happen.

Who knows? Maybe someday, I'll flash my smile, and someone will say the very same thing Shanice did twenty years ago...

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