January 07, 2008

Everyone Say Cheese, Except Me

Even before I start this post, I should note, for the record, I have nothing against pictures. In fact, I like pictures. I even dabble in a little amateur photography. In other words: YAY, PICTURES!

That said, I HATE having my picture taken. I mean, I can't even begin to describe how much I hate having my picture taken. It's the whole process, really. The preparation. The staging. The "okay, smile" directive, which makes it practically impossible to generate an actual, enthusiatic mouth curve in the upper direction.

Think about it. There's no other time in your life when you're expected to smile on demand other than when you're having your picture taken. Generally, smiles just happen. If you're on a roller coaster, chances are good you'll smile. If you're watching a comedian who isn't Jerry Seinfeld, you'll probably smile. If somebody trips and falls down in front of you into a pile of dog feces, you may not smile at the time, but you'll probably smile--maybe even laugh--when you think about it later. The point is, smiling comes pretty easy, when it's not expected--nay, required--of you.

So, I smile regularly. Daily, in fact, unbidden, about a myriad of things, both large and small. But aim a camera at me and tell me to smile, and I'll glare daggers into your soul. How dare someone take an act as enjoyable and natural as smiling, and have the audacity to turn it into a chore.

You see, there's nothing fun about having your picture taken, at least in my experience. First off, there's all the prep work involved in putting your best possible face forward, and then all the positioning of both yourself and anybody else who is going to be in the picture--family photos being the worst. Staged photographs are, when it comes right down to it, momentarily choreographed lies. Nobody really looks like they do in pictures. No family lines up by height, or age, or whatever and smiles blankly, unless, and ONLY UNLESS, they're having their picture taken.

I routinely drive my mother crazy, because I simply refuse to flash my teeth in a brightly manner on demand when she aims a camera my way. She always insists it's not a big deal to smile, but really it IS. There's nothing more torturous than to smile when there's no reason. It's like being told your dog got hit by a car, and then being instructed to laugh.

Onto this pile of resentment towards picture smiling is tossed the countless ways photographers try to extract a smile when a smile is not forthcoming. There's the standard issue "Say cheese!" which lost its effectiveness when I was about seven; or they'll mime a smile or tell a particularly corny joke, which generally just serves to sour my mood rather than enhance and en-smile-ify me. My mother, having endured years of my stubborn anti-smile picture crusade, has resorted to such defeatist smile entreaties as "just this once, for me" and "it won't kill you to smile."

Which, by the way, I have to say, no, it probably won't kill me to smile, but now she went and threw that mere possibility onto the table. What if it DID kill me to smile? Why in the world would I want to take such a life-ending chance just so my mother could get a picture of the whole family together in Las Vegas in 2007? Mom would get her film developed, and there would be that one picture of all of us together, for the last time, with me smiling and the distinct look of the life leaving my eyes forever. Gee, thanks Mom. Way to go.

To further darken my mood and deepen my disdain for picture smiling, the world went and invented digital cameras, which mothers around the world both love dearly and have no idea whatsoever how to operate. Nothing wipes a smile from a mouth faster than to stand, posing, for minutes on end, while a mother stares blankly at a digital camera screen, cluelessly pushing at buttons and saying things like: "did the flash work?" or "wait, that one was blurry," or "is it this button, or this button?" or "Ryan wasn't smiling in that one." Yes, digital cameras: no longer do you have to deal with the expense of film, only the incompetence of the operators.

Now, after writing all this, I'm in such a foul mood, I probably won't be able to smile for weeks. Unless I see a guy fall face first into dog feces; that always brightens my day.

Posted by Ryan at January 7, 2008 11:35 AM | TrackBack

And yet, your butt is always right out there smilin', bold as br-ass.

Posted by: Donna at January 10, 2008 02:07 PM
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