I had to be photographed recently for the newspaper. I literally went from laughing and joking to looking frightened and bug eyed within seconds. For whatever reason, as soon as I see a camera, I nervously contort my face into the most unflattering look possible. I’ve had many laughs with friends and family members reviewing and deleting the images captured on the back of their cameras. Despite my best effort to look natural, I usually end up looking like I’ve just touched an electric fence.
I need lessons from my middle schooler who frequently uses her phone to snap pictures of herself. Teenagers are so skilled at posing, photographing and editing themselves. Selfies are 2nd nature to them. Do they ever feel anxious about it? Even their school pictures can be airbrushed.
I could’ve benefitted from that feature when I unsuccessfully tried short hairstyles and big 1980s eyeglasses during my own tween years. Regardless of how ridiculous the picture looked, my parents proudly displayed it in our living room until I got another chance the next school year. Without tools to modify the photograph, I simply had to accept it was an actual image of me. I wonder if all the tools available to us today for picture altering are really beneficial. When do we stop trying to look different in pictures than we do in person?
In an attempt to look better, many teenagers often pose and make faces as unnatural as my stiffened smile. I don’t understand the “duck face.” My mom would’ve told me to stop looking like a sourpuss. My dad would’ve warned that if I didn’t quit my face would freeze that way. When my husband sees our own teenager making a pouty face with her phone in hand, he asks her if she needs to use the restroom. I can’t figure out how imitating a duck could ever look better than a beautiful, genuine, eye twinkling, full faced, happy smile.
When I think of ducks, I remember the ones that regularly waddled into our yard in Virginia Beach. They’d swim in the neighbors’ baby pool. After chasing them off, the dad would thoroughly scrub that pool while muttering about botulism.
Once, we propped our doors open while unloading the car from a camping trip. As soon as we finished, we closed the doors and went to grab supper. Upon returning, we noticed our house looked burglarized. My husband investigated upstairs. He yelled, “It’s a duck. Hold the door open.” That thing took flight at the top of the stairwell and flew right out the front door. The house was a shambles. Duck poop and footprints were everywhere. As we meticulously cleaned, we wondered if we’d been punked.
Looking back now, it was pretty funny. The next time I face a camera I should think about that “duck face” as it swooped right by my head and out our front door. It does bring on a big smile, which seems better than puckering and pouting.
First published Jan. 13, 2016