Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A picture: Worth a thousand words, or merely a reminder of bad hairstyles, teenage desperation, and more than a few body issues?

So many people who know me also know that I really like to take pictures. And by pictures, I don't mean artsy photography of a lone flower in a meadow. I just mean, point-and-click pictures of friends and family. My love affair with pictures started back when I was only a wee lass of 9 or so. I got a disposable camera to use at camp. The first year at camp, I somehow believed that it would be more interesting to only take pictures of buildings and things like my bunk bed rather than actual people. Needless to say, it was not. So the next year I had someone take a picture of me standing by my bunk bed or by the buildings. Again, not interesting (apparently, I'm also a bit slow). It was not until the next year that it occurred to me to take pictures of me with actual people doing actual activities. And so my poufy-hair-bangs-growing-out-stage (I call it my bulldog phase due to this one unfortunate picture of me where I look somewhat like a bulldog, that everyone in my entire family has a copy of) was captured for me to remember for all eternity. This is not the actual picture, but it does capture the awkward bangs-growing-out stage.

Anyway, I continued to take pictures all through high school. And of course high school girls love nothing more than to try to look as seductive as possible in pictures. My friends and I devoted a disturbing amount of time to dressing up and doing our make-up for our little "beauty shots." I wasn't thin then, but I thought I looked pretty good. I liked having my picture taken most of the time. Just to be clear, I took pictures of normal activities too!

In college, I got a digital camera. That took things to a whole new level. I now had files on my computer to store all my pictures, which meant I could be completely OCD and categorize my pictures by event and year like the little organizational nerd I am. During this stage, my siblings got a bit tired of all the pictures. Thus began what I will refer to as the "hands in front of face" stage for my brother and sister. It continues to this day, despite my assurances to them that they will be grateful I took all these pictures when we are old and grey and enjoy reminiscing about the good old days. Luckily, my friends enjoyed taking pictures as much as I did. Unfortunately, that also included taking some extremely bad pictures that seemed like they were great at the time they were taken (usually around 2 am at a bar). My college years happened to fall during the age of MySpace. So when I lost weight, I took quite a few self-pics for my profile. Usually that just involved holding the camera as far in front of me as possible, but sometimes I would get especially motivated and use the timer feature. Yes, there were boatloads of pictures taken when I lost weight. It was great timing because there was graduation and a cruise to Bermuda to capture on film.

After college, there was still a good amount of pictures. The difference was, fewer and fewer of them had me in them. The more weight I gained, the more content I was just to take pictures of everyone else. Don't get me wrong, I love taking pictures of other people (contrary to what all my self-portraits suggest lol), but it's nice to see me in there too sometimes. It just got to be too much work to be in a picture, all for a photo that disgusted me. People with weight issues, you know what I mean. First you have to be sure the pic is taken from the waist up. Your stomach has to be sucked in, while sticking your chin out as far possible to minimize the dreaded double chin (which usually results in a pose that resembles a weird looking ostrich). And heaven help us if the picture is taken from below! It must be taken from above preferably. And if there is someone to hide your body behind, even better. Like I said, too much work and quite frankly, kind of sad.

I used to look at my pictures to remind me of fun times. But the pictures from the last few years mainly just grossed me out. It wasn't so much remembering fun times as it was critiquing my every flaw. So I just simply stopped being in pictures, which was easy enough because I am usually the one to take most of them anyway. This past Christmas, I wasn't in a single shot other than the one I had to be in because it was a family one.

Am I ready now to start taking countless bad self-portraits again? No, I can't say that I am yet (although, in hindsight, may that phase never repeat itself again). But I am ready to be in a picture again like a normal person, like someone who isn't terrified to see a picture of herself. I don't want to just observe through my camera lens anymore. I don't want to hide anymore. And yes, I will also make this a completely corny metaphor about my life too because it's true (and just too perfect to pass up). I don't want to just watch or hide in my life anymore either. And while there's more to that than just losing weight, it sure does help a lot to feel like you're worth being seen. Cue sappy life lesson music (pretty much any music from "Full House")...

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