Panic Before the Flash: Why I Can’t Take a Decent Selfie

Jan.10, 2017

I’m in real trouble. I’m surrounded by people who document every day with a picture and post it online. I shouldn’t have to worry; I’m not in most of those photos, but I’m also in very few of my own. Why? Because I cannot, do not, and I’m afraid, will not ever, take a regular selfie or group photo. In a digital world I should be used to being digitized, right? Nope. For me, when iPhone comes out, so does my transformation.

Picture this; I’m with my sisters. There are five of us, total. We have spent hours together bonding, we’ve gotten ready together, shopped, and had lunch. We’re having a fantastic time. I feel good, good about the situation, good about them, good about how I look at that exact moment. Someone pulls out her phone. We smash our heads together to fit in the frame. From my quick glance at the screen, I look fine, good even. There is a split second delay while the photographer adjusts her fingers to push the button to capture the experience and BAM! I morph. My front teeth, which took me until my twenties to grow into in the first place, inexplicably extend forward and downwards, lengthening approximately four inches. My lower jaw recedes to somewhere in the back of my skull, and I shrink seven inches into my chest. My eyes glaze over, but not at the same time, no, that could work to my advantage.  My eyes are unique. They gloss over one at a time. Meanwhile, my pupils move independently either straight or up, so when viewing the photo later, usually after it’s already posted, one eye is looking at the screen, and the other is looking somewhere far away. BAM! It’s old buck-tooth crazy eyes and her beautiful sisters.

I’m told I think about it too much, leading to sabotage. To this I say, put away the phone, and I won’t obsess, get nervous, and trip over myself. Sigh. I know that won’t happen. I’ve also had someone, not related to me, after looking at our selfie, ask me what was wrong with my face? How should I know? I wasn’t always this way.

When I was a child, I was very photogenic. There wasn’t a mall Santa or Elementary School picture I wasn’t told by the photographer how well I took a picture. And I did! I have evidence of it via photo album. So what happened?

The first thing that comes to mind is teenagedom, that magical time when your body’s in a constant state of flux, mutating, erupting and fuzzing out.

I had a painful teenagehood. I had acne, unfortunate hair—not because of the trend at the time, but rather, I couldn’t get my hair, and it’s sometimes kinky, at times flat, and all the time fuzzy, to do what was in style. And then there were my teeth, but I covered that.

Teenage-ism as a constant state of schizophrenic phobias of not looking right, feeling right, or belonging anywhere, and basically feeling you’re altogether unloveable. Between the ages of twelve and twenty, I wore these feelings like a backpack. But, I’m no longer a teenager. So what’s my problem?

I could say making horrible faces in photos is a tradition condition I get from my dad. He’s a squinter and face screwer-upper. However, I wouldn’t say he transforms into something ridiculous. He doesn’t. I could say being among my Glamazon sisters has a way of bringing out my inner dork. They would be horrified at the notion. Plus, I’m not sure that’s accurate. One might argue that I’m over exaggerating. To this I say, look at my latest group pic with my sisters. Going right to left; Sister 1, gorgeous. Sister 2, stunning. Sister 3, beautiful. Skip to Sister 5, nothing but perfection! But as for me, Sister 4? BAM! Metamorphosis!

I wish I didn’t worry about my appearance. I think if there were anything normal about my photo-bamming face, I probably wouldn’t. It’s just one more thing I have to fix. It seems the older I get, the more I have to correct! Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

My daughter, raised on the duck-face, has tried to teach me how to pose. She directs me if my chin is too high or too low. She tells me where and what I should be looking at and how to relax my smile, or for that matter, how to smile. She has taken a few photos of me where I didn’t want to knock my own teeth out. Still, I can’t have her with me at all times. My son believes I shouldn’t worry about it, it’s a simple pic, no big deal. As I see it, I have two choices, either embrace my BAM or learn tooth retraction. I don’t know!

All this pressure, all this posing to immortalize another moment of, what? Is all of it photo-worthy or am I missing something? Do we all have to become posers? Like I said, I cannot, and will not take a decent picture, so what if we put down our iPhones and instead of capturing life, we actually live it? At the very least, it would really help me out.

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