June 10, 2013

Sit exactly like this and don’t move, but try to look natural and smile for no reason. Pretend there’s free squeeze cheese and some Ritz Crackers.

A couple of weeks ago we finally got an updated family photo taken. Oh sure, we take family photos all the time. Well, as long as you count our Christmas card photos which have involved reindeer ears, snuggies, mug shots, and other nonsense. As long as I’m doing something stupid, inappropriate, and ridiculous, I LOVE having my photo taken. But if I am expected to be poised and posed, non-talky, holding still, and all serious and crap, then I HATE having my photo taken. Seriously. I am not exaggerating. It’s like torture to me. Having my wedding photos taken was pretty much the worst thing that had ever happened to me since having my Senior photos taken (and I DID have a freak-out and finally tell the photographer I was done). And having my Senior photos taken was pretty much the worst thing that had ever happened to me since my mom used to sew me and my sister matching outfits using a variety of plaid and Winnie the Pooh Fabrics outlined in various colors of rick rack, and drag us in to TG&Y for a series of photos that were taken on a pseudo-stage covered with carpet in front of a backdrop of fake Hundred Acre Woods. My sister hated it too. One time, during a photo session, she got so stressed out and exhausted from standing in such stiff (LOOK NATURAL!) family formation under hot studio lights, that she passed out cold.

I envied her those moments of escape. I’d have given anything to have an excuse to break free from the confines of my polyester blend shirt with the itchy scalloped lace BS and strangulation grade ribbon bow tie. But alas, she had beat me too it. And her situation was dramatic and real because it was dramatic and real. Mine would have been fake and no-doubt waaaaaaayyyyy over the top due to the fact that I took my dramatic “I’m about to die” lessons from Sanford and Son.

Ya wanna know the real kicker? With all the discomfort and drama we went through to get the family photos the day of the fainting, this is all that’s left to remember it by, because when my parents split up, my mom used a sharp pair of divorce scissors to cut my dad out of the photos:


meandjYep. Getting portraits taken is my own personal nightmare.

I have no middle ground. I’m either wearing a beer can helmet and humping a lawn ornament, or I’m standing awkwardly stiff, hoping for a zombie apocalypse to start just so the nightmare will end. Every time someone is taking a “normal” photo of me, I hear the same thing:

Them: Say cheese!
Me: Why? DO you HAVE some cheese? Awesome! I’m hungry! Is it that squeezy kind in the can? I LOVE That stuff! Do you have crackers too?
Them: No. I don’t HAVE cheese. I just want you to say it.
Me: If I say it will you give me some?
Them: No.I don’t have any cheese OR crackers.
Me: So you’re kind of a liar? Then how about I say “Bite me” instead.

Them: Smile!
Me: I AM smiling!
Them: No you’re not. Show your teeth!
Me: That’s not how I smile.
Them: But I’ve seen you smile like that.
Me: That’s when I’m REALLY smiling. Like, for real. When I’m happy. Not when I’m pretending to be happy. Do something funny. Make me laugh. THEN I will show my teeth. My teeth are tough critics, though. Give it your best shot, funny boy.
Them: I can’t be funny on command.
Me: My point exactly, Einstein. Where the hell are the zombies? I’m comin’ to join ya Elizabeth! This is the big one!”

Here  is an example of my formal photography smiles. There are two basic poses. They really haven’t changed since I was a kid:
pfacesThe top one is my “I will hold this pseudo-smile for approximately 20 seconds and if you ask for a bigger one I will freak the freak out” pose.

The bottom one is my “Ok, you said or did something slightly humorous, so I will show you just a teensy sliver of my teeth, but I will still go apeshit if this isn’t over  in 3, 2, 1” pose.

See, there are reasons that we haven’t had any REAL family photos taken since 2004. I avoid them like the plague.

BUT we finally gave in and had some new ones done.  And they turned out great. Thank balls. Because during the photo shoot, something went terribly awry:
chiggersIt seems that the woods that were used as the backdrop for our lovely family photo shoot, were crawling, hopping, swimming, diving, jumping and jiving, with chiggers.

This little d-bag is a chigger.

“Hey bitches, I am the larvae of a mite and I will stick my piercing mouth parts into your body and suck up a crapload of your liquified tissues so that I can turn into a nymph and go nymphing around with all my little nymph friends at the Nymph Rave.”

Since you can’t actually feel chigger bites when they’re happening, and you can’t even see the chiggers, you have no clue that your body has been invaded by them. None at all. You just finish up your photo session and think “Whew! I made it through this damn picture ordeal and it wasn’t so bad!” So you go out for some dinner and a beer. Then you go to bed and have sweet sweet dreams cuz you know you won’t need another family photo taken until 2022. Then you wake up the next day and discover that you look like an escapee from Leper Island. And it ain’t good. It ain’t good at all. So you go to the doctor and get steroids and creams and stuff, and you try not to scratch yourself for 2 weeks while the fifty gazillion billlion bites try to heal.

But then you get these, and it makes it all better.

pseUntitled 5 - SignMaybe it was the real grass and the real background, and the fact that there was no carpet mountain or strangle-y ribbon around my neck. But I smiled a genuine smile. I mean, it was long gone 24 hours later when I found itchy red bites on my ass, but for a fleeting, oblivious moment, it was there, and I was actually almost enjoying myself, and *wasn’t summoning hordes of zombies with my Firestarter-like brain powers.

*In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that at one point I DID pretend that zombies were chasing me through the woods. Why the photographer didn’t take photos of that awesomeness, I have no idea.

(Photos courtesy of the lovely Laura Watson of Laura Watson Photography. Don’t worry, she will not lead you into chigger woods. She learned her lesson well.)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Myself and 13 of the other authors from the book I Just Want To Pee Alone will be doing a book signing/reading in Chicago on Friday, July 26th from 7-10 PM at Bongiornos (405 North Wabash). Tickets are $15 and include a book and a drinky poo. Please CLICK HERE  for more details.Space is limited so get your tickets early!

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5 Responses to “Sit exactly like this and don’t move, but try to look natural and smile for no reason. Pretend there’s free squeeze cheese and some Ritz Crackers.”

  1. Angel McGoffin Said:

    That was awesome, you always make me roflmfao.

  2. Cher Said:

    Love your oh-so-normal family photo! I can so relate to those old-school photos, which were always bad, especially because, even though I never EVER used hairspray, I had helmet-head in more than one formal portrait & looked ridiculous, especially with a crooked smile, that was so far from “natural” I was not recognizable…. Kinda like when your frenemy tags you in a candid shot on FB & one eye is closed!

  3. Cara Lyn Erickson Said:

    Seriously, you have a very powerful half-smile. It communicates worlds of smart-alecky remarks.

  4. Dean Bonner Said:

    Another gem, Patti. Photogenic, funny as hell, and a fine writer. You got it going on.

  5. Meccala Said:

    OOO EMMMM GEEE!!! My mom use to so the same exact crap to us! She’d spend hours of cussing and sewing for that “one” effing picture! I had two sisters. She even made matching barretts! It was ridiculous!! None of us ever passed out but that was genious! 🙂
    I feel your pain. I really, really do!

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