Friday, October 19, 2012

Picture Day

This week, we finally got around to taking family photos, something I have been wanting to do since Lucy was born.  I put it off and put it off, always using finances or Don’s residency schedule as excuses.  But now that Don is an attending we have the spare change and the time to do it (horay!)  Last week Don and I agreed to just pull the trigger, find a photographer, and get some pictures taken before Lucy is going off to college and I am sitting on the porch, sobbing, wondering why I don’t have any professional family pictures of her in addition to the 20,000 “amateur” photos we have.

On Monday, scrambling to get everyone ready, fix my hair and makeup, pick a top for Lucy, and several other things it became apparent that I was totally unprepared for the session.  I hadnt figured out what we should wear, I didn’t have any idea of where we would go or what we should do, I hadn’t thought about whether or not to bring our dog with us.  I went to the gym and 90 minutes before we were to meet the photographer at a park 15 minutes from our house I was still un-showered and screwing around on my computer.  After huffing and stomping around the house, we finally all managed to get dressed and made it into the car in a sullen silence. 

Don peeked at me and asked if this was something I even wanted to do, or if it was just something that he thought I had really wanted to do, and I was doing it because I thought he wanted family pictures.  It took me a while to answer, and when I did all I could say without bursting into tears was "I want to do it…I'm just not happy with how I look."

I know that this is something that deeply resonates with many other mamas, and many other women, out there.  I know because I remember the way my own Mom would react whenever the camera would appear for a candid picture.  She would cross her eyes or stick out her tongue or do something else funny.  I know because later that same evening, after we celebrated our family picture fait accompli by going out to dinner, I read this article by Allison Tate.  It is about her own fear of being photographed, and her deeper fear that she would not be photographed. 

What a curious and heart rending paradox of feeling, one that was incubating inside me only hours before.  I didn’t want to be in those family pictures.  I was considering asking if maybe we could just take pictures of Lucy.  I didn’t want a picture on the wall chronicling the ten (or fifteen) pounds I still need to lose and the new wrinkle by my mouth and the way one of my eyes always closes more than the other when I smile and my weird hormonal acne.  Even after getting a good workout at the gym I still felt bloated and muffin-topy and my hair was doing it’s frizzy not really going to curl thing.  I looked in the mirror, and the image I saw staring back at me was so discordant when compared with the image I have of myself.  My brain was releasing clouds of neurotransmitters that started breaking down my post-workout endorphin rush.  I was too hideous for family pictures, pictures that I wouldn’t want to look at in an old shoe box let alone frame and hang on our wall.

And yet, at the same time, I wanted to take these pictures desperately.  I want Lucy to look back on pictures of her family, and not wonder “where was my mama?”  I don’t want her to grow up thinking that if a woman doesn’t conform to society’s standard of beauty then she doesn’t deserve to be loved or celebrated.  That she doesn’t even deserve to be remembered.  I wish there was an instagram filter that captured the joy in a picture instead of bringing out blue or sepia tones, which could make you look the way you feel you should.  But there isn’t.  That joy, those memories, come from my presence and my attitude; they have to. 

I may not look like a model or an actress, or myself when I was twenty.  I may stiff be haunted when reading a magazine or watching TV or even looking at my friends pictures on Facebook by images of other women looking younger, more beautiful, more put together than I ever remember feeling.  I may feel frazzled and ill kempt and 10 pounds too heavy all the time.  But I am me, and to my daughter I am the image of what a woman looks like.

I want that image to be beautiful because I am happy and joyful to be together as a family.  I want that image to be playful and smiling and serious by turns because I am in the moment, not stuck inside my own head.  Most of all, I just want those images to BE.

1 comment:

  1. You are one of the most lovely women I have ever known. And although we have sadly, only known each other through facebook, and instagram, and our blogs, save our measly 4 years of high school spent together, I admire you so deeply, and look up to you as a role model of motherhood, and of womanhood. Thank you for your honesty, your raw emotion, and this amazingly lovely blog, that could not have been timed more perfectly, for my own life. I seriously adore you, CPZ!