Wednesday, April 29, 2009


In my world, people fall into two categories: photogenic and unphotogenic. I fall into the latter, of course. This curse usually doesn’t strike until you start first grade. Before then, children are immune to bad pictures; even the goofy ones look adorable. But eventually, those doomed to Quasimodo-photo-itis will see their pictures descend into the grotesque. Whether the shots are posed for or candid, they are unbecoming.
In my case, whenever a camera is in evidence, my cheeks inflate to Chevy Astro van airbag size, my eyes disappear into barely visible slits, and my nose casts a massive shadow that covers most of my mouth. My hair will plaster itself to my skull on top and frizz out at the bottom. My body slouches into a scoliosis-like position, and my gums will look about two miles high. I have so many pictures that can be used as blackmail that I have given up trying to burn them all.
Here are some of the worst examples of my curse: When I was 12, my mother was going to bring us kids to the local photographer to get the yearly picture taken. I let my mother convince me to let her do my hair. I was growing out a perm, first of all. Second of all, my mouth had yet to experience any kind of orthodontic help, so my two front teeth looked capable of building a dam across the Mississippi. Third of all, it was the eighties. Have a mental picture yet? My mother, with the help of the mangled, permed hair, managed to construct a gravity-defying sculpture that was a clearly defined “up” arrow. I, having already suffered through a good six years of unphotogenic pictures, thought that maybe she knew better than I did what would look good on film. The result, which hangs on my grandmother’s photo wall, is a disaster of epic proportions. Every new addition to the family, boyfriends, girlfriends, newborn babies, will peruse the photo wall for the first time, stop at that picture, squint at it as if to see if it might be trick photography, then burst into helpless laughter, tears streaming down their faces. It has happened so many times that I have become immune to the ridicule.
Another such example took place when I was 14 and went with my mother, my sister, and some of my mother’s family on a trip to New York State to visit the various landmarks. Besides being unphotogenic, I was fashion-challenged and created some of the most criminal outfits and accessories known to man. By this time, I had braces, but as a result found it very hard to close my mouth over both my teeth and the braces. I could do it, but it took major mouth muscles and my chin would wrinkle from the sheer strain of it. All of the pictures from that trip that include me are foul, but the most heinous is one where all of us stood at the top of a tiered hill that had a statue at the top. There were hedges around every tier, and my uncle stood one tier down and told us all to smile down at him. I don’t know whether I didn’t hear the command or didn’t feel like smiling, but amidst the smiling faces of my family, peering maliciously over the hedge, is a scowling, wrinkle-chinned face, its hair pulled back both by a rubber band and a cloth headband. My sister shows that picture to me at least once a year, before nearly passing out from hysterical giggles.
The last and most complete humiliation happened as a result of my friend Pam’s boyfriend deciding to propose. He devised a plan in which he would dress up as the mall Santa and I would invite Pam on a Christmas shopping trip and suggest that we get my three-month-old daughter’s first picture with Santa taken. The plan came together and Pam’s mother called all of the local newspapers to make sure it was well-documented. Pam had no idea it was her boyfriend Matt underneath the beard and fatsuit as we plopped my drooling baby daughter onto his lap and crouched on either side of his Santa-throne “to make sure the baby didn’t cry”. After the official picture was taken, “Santa” suggested that Pam sit on his lap. I backed up a little, holding my daughter. As Matt brandished the engagement ring, Pam let out a shriek that echoed through every corner of the mall. As I remember it, I let out a musical, feminine chuckle. The newspaper photo that appeared in the next day’s paper told a different story. There was Pam, perched sweetly on her new fiancee’s lap, looking shocked and overjoyed, hands to her face. There was Matt, showing her the ring he spent three months’ salary on. There, in the back and to the left, holding a baby, is a braying elephant seal. Head thrown back, nostrils aflare, mouth the size of a cantaloupe. You can almost hear the earsplitting honk-laugh that accompanied. To make it that much worse, this was not just fodder for my family, this was on display for the entire county. Old schoolmates would see it and shake their heads, saying to each other “That Lindsey hasn’t changed much.” People would cut it out and tack it up on bulletin boards with the header, “When Sea Lions Attack”. I could only hope that time would erase the evidence until Pam’s mother assured me she had multiple copies of the paper and had the article pasted into a scrapbook for Pam.
We of the cursed know we only have one option when faced with having our pictures taken. Drag as many other people into the frame as possible, smile gently with our mouths closed, and fade unnoticeably into the background, blending in with the shadows. Long live the unphotogenic!


  1. one of my favorite Cursed posts... i love you and your unphotogenic ass!

  2. You are such a good sport! The triangle nearly killed me.

    We all have horrible pictures. Trust me. And who cares? You're hot now!

  3. I love this post. I can't help but turn into a braying elephant seal myself when I read it

  4. you love me- you really love me! Thanks soooooo much for posting the braying elephant seal favorite.
    I had actually forgotten about the vacation photo where you look like you are preparing to murder the photographer...good times. The triangle? I have no words.

  5. Thanks, girls. I have accepted my lot in life and find satisfaction in putting it to good use for the amusement of others.
    Just wait. I'm sure MOFM remembers it; I have a whole other post of just bad pictures.

  6. The happy news is you're a cutie now...

    Sadly, I never grew out of my unphotogenic phase. I'm still taking terrible photos. Can't be helped.

  7. Haha...I love that pick with Pammie, and NO you do not look like a braying elephant...need I pull out my "Crow" picture again?

  8. HA! You're a rock star, lady. I laughed my ass off, but I promise, only in a loving way. :)


Go ahead, hit me with your best shot.