Feb. 11, 2020.
Several weeks ago, we left a restaurant after dinner with our two sons, one of their girlfriends, and another couple in the parking lot. Saying our goodbyes and getting hugs, my son’s girlfriend asked my wife and sons to stand together for a picture. I pulled my phone out to catch a pic too. It didn’t last long. As my wife posed, as proud as a princess, between two mostly grown sons, the shenanigans began. Both of my sons began making smart-ass comments and stupid faces. My wife held her pose, with all the grit of a ship captain at the wheel in hurricane conditions. She stood firm, but the surrounding idiocy would not subside. They both said the silliest things, and then as if transformed by claymation, their faces rolled from one contortion to another. Both finally landed on what they referred to as the Jim Carrey skeleton face.
I started laughing so hard I had to give up and put my phone away. At this point, my wife started laughing but gave them both a slap as high as she could reach, about chest level. By now, everyone was laughing and calling each other stupid names. Except for my wife, no one calls her stupid names. Three of her favorite guys don’t allow it. But the rest of us, we were assholes to elbows in jest. What a change in life. For those of you who’ve grown up in the smartphone age, you’ll never know the torture of getting your picture taken. Back in the day, whatever that means, it was always an uncle or a dad with the best camera. “Film” cost a lot of money and only came in 24 and 36 rolls. And be assured, no one enjoyed wasting one single frame. Anyone goofing around would be gripped by the ear and moved out of the shot. Sometimes the mom would make an appointment with a family portrait studio. She never told anyone until a couple of hours before the appointment, knowing they would throw themselves in front of a bus to avoid it. The whole family would get cleaned up, hair perfect, and sit in a freezing cold waiting room for their turn in the studio. Once in the studio, the lucky family would be posed, un-naturally, on carpet-covered boxes designed to apply terrible pain to the lower back.
Every limb, chin, and gaze would be painstakingly directed by the photographer, who typically kept a coffee cup of bourbon on his desk. Even if blindness was avoided, the lights were so close, make-up would run, and hair would singe. All these photo sessions cost a ton of money—cameras, film, processing, and prints. One step out of line, and you were never forgiven. Your hair looked like someone loaned it to you, and the last time you wore that shirt was when you tried it on in the store. It sucked. And it showed, right there over the fireplace, in that 18x24 inch glossy that cost only $599. I was glad my kids goofed off in that parking lot with their mom. With a smartphone, everyone documented the whole thing in fantastic color and clarity. So many pictures were taken, half of them were deleted, and it still told the entire story. A family gathers for a shot; kids act like goofs while mom holds the pose, kids get clobbered by a mom half their size while dad falls laughing. These photos won’t go into an album to be thrown out in 30 years after never being seen. Instead, they’ll be posted to the internet for all the world to see. It’s incredible, and it’s fun. I’m glad these things go on this way now. When my extended family sees our photos on social media, they see the real us. Not the tortured us. They see our silliness and joy, our laughter and repute. I’m never hoping to throw myself in front of a bus again.