My whole family is exceedingly self-conscious about picture-taking. And by my whole family, I mean me, and occasionally someone else. In our family, Thanksgiving is always a time for celebrating God’s blessings while also lamenting those mysterious physical flaws that seem to be exaggerated ten times in a photograph. The perfect encapsulation of both of these holiday sentiments is the family Christmas picture. To accompany a glowing letter of the joys of the year, we must take a photograph that represents an afternoon’s worth of self-deprecation and digital touch-ups. It usually goes something like this:
Stage 1: The Discussion of Options Other Than Taking a New Picture
Family Member A: “What about that picture of all of us at [special event]?”
Family Member B: “Oh, no, I have a double chin in that picture.”
Family Member C: “Well, we are all in the picture from [mid-year holiday]…”
Family Member D: “Oh, gross! My face is so pasty. People will think you’ve adopted Casper.”
Family Member E: “I liked that picture from [different event].”
Family Member F: “Yeah, but my hair is curly in that picture, and I’m wearing it straight now.”
…and so on, until the only option left is to subject ourselves to the torture of photography once again.
Stage 2: Preparation
All other options having been eliminated, Mom sets a color scheme for this year’s pic, and we all go borrow clothes from one another in an attempt to find an outfit to best represent our true selves to the camera. And by we all, I mean that I wear a shirt belonging to Laura.
We decide on a faraway scenic location and pack into the car.
Stage 3: Photo Shoot
We all feel very beautiful during this phase. We arrange ourselves on various inanimate objects in the location that we have selected, striking mostly serious poses, with a few silly ones to show off our fun-loving side. After each shot, Laura checks the digital display and reassures us that we look fabulous.
“You look especially gorgeous today, Lindsey,” she praises me specifically. (this turns out to be a lie)
After about twenty shots, we feel tired and cold, so we load up in the car and go home for…
Stage 4: Bitter Reality
Laura immediately loads the pictures onto her computer and we gather around to see if maybe this year the camera has captured our true inner beauty. Then the fun begins. One (different) person always looks great in every picture. “I like that one,” the lucky person will say.
This comment is followed by someone else protesting: “No, I have a funny smile/look fat/am not looking at the camera/have my hair blowing funny/am slouching/am partially hidden by [insert name]/hate that picture of myself for no rational reason.”
The picture is discarded as an option and we move on to more of the same. Photoshop, which is not on any of our computers, is offered as the solution to every problem.
Stage 5: Depths of Despair
When all of the picture attempts have been deemed disgusting, we all put on flannel pants and hoodies and eat ice cream.
Stage 6: Steel Resolve
As it starts to get dark, we resolve again to get a picture before nightfall. We put our Christmas Card Outfits back on and retreat to the back yard for a few dusky shots. These are quickly taken, quickly loaded onto the computer, and a winner is chosen. The urgency of the final hour has enabled us all to smile at the camera without any double chins or hunched shoulders or lazy eyes at exactly the same second. We order prints on walmart.com before anyone can change her mind.
And thus ends the saga until next year. God bless us every one!
*Personal note- exempted from all of this madness is my brother, Alan the Photogenic Prince, and my husband, Sir Stephen Who Does Not Care. They strike their poses and look exactly the same in every picture, willfully oblivious to the drama that surrounds them. Dad does not get this exemption because of his occasional references to his resemblance of his own father.