As my recovery from jaw surgery continues, I’ve spent a few reflective minutes back on all of my insecurities with body image. Part of the reason I am rather elated to have had jaw surgery is because I have never been happy with my smile let alone my facial profile in general. To this day, the thought of being in a photograph can be a bit terrifying. I was always concerned with how I would appear in a picture. Rarely will I ever show teeth in a smile. Over time I hope that will change once my dental work is completed. As the saying goes, old habits are hard to break. I can see myself still covering up my face out of fear of showing any enamel long after everything is said and done.
There was a room in my Dad’s old house that is important to me in many good ways. It was a living room area where my brother and I spent hours upon hours playing video games and watching television. What annoyed the hell out of me about the room was the number of photos on the wall. On each side of one wall were school photographs of each of us taken through the years. When my parents were still together this was an idea they both started and ran with. Dad continued this “tradition” even long after my parents’ marriage was over. Every single time, I would cringe when a new picture was added to the wall.
I have a pretty solid recollection of some of those school picture days. In my kindergarten year the clothes I wore was some kind of preppy shit outfit that would have been worn to Sunday School or church. The ensemble was a dress-style type shirt with a kind of sweater vest over top of it. I probably wore some sort of fancy trousers to go with it. Of course that kind of clothing felt heavy to me on a nice fall day. It made me feel like it was a thousand degrees in the classroom.
For reasons I cannot recall, 1st grade pictures snapped me when I smiled in a way that made me look like I had buck teeth.
Years later, school picture day in my 4th grade was when some major issues with my own body image insecurities ended up being magnified tenfold. The effects of that day still occasionally linger and is something I am dealing with even now.
6th grade was a bit different. Pics were again horrible. By this point I was so used to combing and flattening my hair over to such a point where I was being ridiculed for having a “high forehead”.
Starting when I went into junior high school, my parents were sent my brother and I to Sears for separate picture-taking sessions. School picture days still took place. We just would not be ordering any pics from the travelling circus of school picture day photographers. It made sense from some perspective. Sears had a really good quality photo studio and packages at better prices. The downside of was the obvious requirement of having to go somewhere else and sit through another frigging session of having another frigging picture taken.
Can you tell I loved being on camera?…….
My high school graduation year was 1997. At the beginning of the year I long announced to the family that there was no way in hell I would be attending the grad ceremony. I had better things to do. I made good on that plan and did not attend the ceremony. I was equally determined to not attend any sort of picture-taking for the graduation. Whether it was individual pictures or a giant class picture of all of us. I wanted ZERO part in any of it. My English teacher that year was reasonably supportive of my creative writing work so I bit the bullet and agreed to go to the photo studio that was doing the individual pics. My protest over the absolute hideous gowns we were supposed to wear fell on deaf ears. The teacher told me I did not need to take a grad sash because the photo studio had all the sashes of the local high schools. So off I went, with a revolting blue bathrobe that represented my graduation gown.
By luck, the photo studio was a short walk from the apartment my Mom and I were living in. Because these were only the photos that were going to appear in the yearbook the visit was going to be a short one. I made the studio well aware that I was not “paying for any of this shit” and that I was very uncomfortable before the camera.
Less than a week later I begrudgingly drove myself up to the Sears Studio in New Glasgow to get a picture taken. These would be the pictures that would be ordered by the family and extended family. The photographer at this session, whom I am sure was just trying to do his job well, drove me absolutely berserk from the few moments I walked in. He took way too long in getting things ready. After what seemed like an eternity he went to get the proper school sash for me to put on over the robe.
He brought out the sash from nearby Stellarton High School. I froze once I realized it was the wrong one. I didn’t care. I loved it. At this point I was doing everything in my mental mass to not completely lose it laughing hysterically while maintaining some composure. After all, I wanted to get the hell out of this session as quickly as I could. Then this guy behind the camera. Still….would….not…stop…talking..
When a few snaps were taken I managed a partial grin. No doubt because I was still internally laughing knowing I was wearing another school’s sash. I said nothing. What a relief it was to be out of there when I finally could leave! It was done and over with and I would let Dad deal with the rest of the bullshit involved in ordering of these stupid pictures.
I was down at my Dad’s place for a few days and was there when the portrait studio rang. They called to say that they had given me the wrong sash and wanted to know if I would come back in for retakes.
NOPE! NOPE! NOPE! NOT HAPPENING! I shouted, rather gleefully. With a nice degree of rare confidence I managed to tell Dad and later on my mom that if they and everyone else wanted pictures so badly, they would have to live with the results. I was done!
So another framed picture went up on the wall. Instead of representing my graduation from the prison of high school, it represented a painful picture taking session that turned into a hilarious moment of personal history.