Last week, I thought about pictures and how many I have taken over the last fifty years in which I looked like a troll. I once wrote a post about how I don’t take a decent picture back in 2013. I would link to it, but the post was full of pictures that didn’t migrate with my blog.
Maybe it was the universe agreeing with me I don’t indeed take a decent picture very often.
I turned fifty yesterday and along with gaining another year of life, I also gained wisdom. That looking bad in pictures isn’t the worst thing a person could deal with. It could just be my thing, my jam, my MO.
Kari was a talented writer, a great friend, funny as hell, but dammit if she took a terrible picture.
I decided I was going to tackle this phobia of taking terrible pictures with the exact opposite approach (the psychological approach); by finding the worst possible pictures and looking them straight in the face. Maybe by sharing these pictures, by searching for my “bad” pictures, I will realize that they weren’t so bad after all.
Of course, it is about perspective because when I shared some of these photos in my private Facebook group, many of you remarked how good I looked in them. Maybe you were being nice or maybe you were being honest and it doesn’t even matter. Because if I don’t feel good about them, there aren’t enough friendly words in the world to change my mind.
To be clear, most of the bad pictures were taken before the invention of a selfie or even a smartphone. Now we can edit our pictures to make sure we look just so, carefully curating how the world sees us, and even how we see ourselves.
Pictures changed forever once the smartphone showed up.
Gone were the “bad” pictures.
I noticed after around 2011, my pictures changed too. I didn’t look as bad as I used to because I would spend an embarrassing amount of time trying to prevent ugly pictures from surfacing, or making sure the pictures I put out there were of a certain quality.
Before this, you took the picture and sent it to Walgreens or the grocery store or Shutterfly and waited a week to get them back. When you opened the pictures in the parking lot of the store in your car, one by one you would go through them and be like, “sucks, sucks, sucks, WHY THE HELL CAN I NOT BE READY FOR THE CAMERA? WHO THE HELL IS THIS PERSON? WHAT DID I TAKE A PICTURE OF THE TOILET SEAT FOR??”
But the stories behind those unflattering pictures are good; sometimes really, fantastic. Most times better than the stories behind the pictures that are perfectly executed and groomed.
Like the time I hosted a surprise 50th birthday party for my mom and ended up at the ER for stitches after cutting a watermelon and slicing my finger off in the process. I didn’t want to cancel, so on painkillers and with a poorly bandaged hand, I proceeded with the party.
The towel is a handmade sling one of my friends made for me out of one of my kitchen tea towels. I was a hot fucking mess, but that party was so much fun even though I don’t really remember most of it because of painkillers.
Or the time I fell asleep at a family barbecue (in the middle of the day) because I had taken a Benadryl for a sinus infection (I know) and then had two glasses of wine (I know).
Or how some of the best captures of me from our wedding were from the disposable cameras that were on the tables.
Two days after giving birth to Ella, Mike captured this picture of Anna and me after a good cry. She had been an only child for seven and a half years, and it was just settling in that both of our lives were going to change. I never shared this picture because I felt like I looked bad in it, but now I look at it and am so happy he took it. It was such an intimate peek into our lives, one that I will never forget, one that Anna would never remember without it.
My mom took this picture of me after a long, exhausting day. We had gotten out of the house to go for a drive, just her, me, and baby Ella. Ella didn’t like to ride in the car back then and cried and scream the entire two-hour ride. We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way home to get lunch, but ate it in the car so we could console her in the backseat. We both ordered a “Southern” chicken sandwich, which was a novelty menu, and hated it because it didn’t have mayonnaise on it. I just remember we laughed and laughed because after our long traumatic day, not having mayo on a sandwich was just the thing to put us over the edge.
But I also remember that the sun came out while we were sitting there, that we sat by a tree and the leaves were blowing and it was just a moment. That we mentioned her mom (my grandma and Ella’s namesake) being there with us in spirit, and it just became this great day. After we got home, I was on the couch feeding Ella and this was the picture my mom took. She said she wanted me to remember what motherhood felt like at that moment because it wasn’t until Ella was in my arms that I soothed her.
I am so glad she took this picture.
Walking around Six Flags with Ellie and the hat that she won playing carnival games that covered her entire head, face, and neck. I was just getting over the worst case of pneumonia I had ever had after being down for a solid six weeks. I honestly no joke, thought I might die that summer, and going to Six Flags felt like a marathon for me.
But there is so much good in this picture that you can’t see. She rode her first rollercoaster that day; I guided her all around the park with the enormous hat on and she got so many laughs and comments. I ate an entire bag of cotton candy because it was the first food I could actually taste in over a month.
There is so much soul in real-life pictures. They truly capture what you were really going through at that moment. They make you feel the memories so strongly, it’s almost like you are there again.
When Mike was scrolling through all these “bad” pictures, he said to me, “when do I get to the bad ones?”
Kind of like how we hate the sound of our voices. Do others see us from a unique perspective than we see ourselves?
Maybe we are our worst critics. Maybe this imperfection that I talk about is within ourselves and how we view ourselves. Maybe the most imperfect part of these pictures is that I have hidden them away for years, hoping no one would see them.
Trying to get the perfect picture of a very imperfect life we all live in.
Because let’s face it. Just being in the picture, to begin with, is pretty incredible.