Photographs and Memories…

I don’t like getting my picture taken. Never have, never will.

The other night, Jocelyn opened up one of her many photo albums in search of a picture of her now-deceased grandmother wearing a tube top in the Summer. [I know, it sounds like I’m leaving out a very interesting part of the story. Let’s just say, WOW! and leave it at that].

We didn’t find that picture, but we found several other pictures of Jocelyn and a thin-slice of her past: horse riding competitions, family vacations, old boyfriends, school chums, ski trips, costume parties, special trips, etc. Sorry, no tube-topped grandmother.

All this got me thinking: I don’t want to end up in anyone’s photo album.

Years ago, my parents gave me a small photo binder containing our family Christmas picture from before I was born through the mid-1980s. I came across it recently, and an undeniable truth confronted me:

I was the cutest child in my family. I’m sorry, but it’s true. You could not see me without wanting to squeeze me.

But that’s not my real point. My real point it that pictures capture a moment in time, and while you can freeze a face with a photo, you can’t stop the clock.

And that makes me a little melancholy.

Looking at the family pictures of when I was three, I had a lot ahead of me. And I was a blank slate of potential. I could have become anyone. No, I’m not terribly disappointed with my life. That’s not what I’m saying. But it makes me ponder the road not taken, like what might have happened had I not taken clippers to my own hair a few months after that photo got taken?

And when I saw the picture of my beautiful, young parents who were WAY YOUNGER THAN I AM TODAY, I got a little sad for the passing of time for their sake, time that can’t be returned to them so they can go on a long walk together, hear the high notes of an operatic aria or just get out of a chair without feeling the normal aches and pains from the increasing years.

Also, photos can be deceitful. Several years ago at the grocery check out line, I saw a photo of Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton shaking hands with an alien. I sat out the next two elections when I saw that both parties were in bed with aliens. Then someone told me the photos were doctored. Fool me once…Just the same, I’m glad I didn’t vote.

Many people doctor their own photos. A friend of mine did some online dating, and she told me a funny, cautionary tale about how photos can lie. She met this guy after seeing his picture, a picture in which he looked young, happy and a little daring. She told me that the photo must have been 20 years old, because the guy who showed up for coffee looked a week from ARP, needed some serious antidepressants, and seemed like the biggest risk he took was in trusting the chair to hold his weight.

Some of you do the same thing, so don’t roll your eyes at the computer. The picture you use for LinkedIn and Facebook is your “marketing shot,” not your any-given-time-of-day appearance where one eye droops and your hair looks ghost-spooked.

We all could cherry-pick our best pics to fool people, I suppose, but I’d be in trouble. I mean, photographically speaking, I peaked at age three. Should I use that picture from my “cute phase” for my LinkedIn profile and for marketing purposes?

No, that’s not for me. What you see if what you get. The unibrow, wrinkles, fatigued look? I earned them. So when I have to use a photo, I just pick one that covers up the majority of my facial scaring and try to hide my belly behind tree trunks. But I’m never thrilled to have anyone say, “Say CHEESE!” my way. But when I have to, I just try to keep it real, even when real isn’t as gorgeous as I could be if…if I were someone else.

Do you know the real reason I don’t want my picture taken? I don’t want to end up a fond reminder on a page but rather a living memory in the hearts and minds of those who care about me. Photo albums are full of pictures of “Remember whens?” and “Wow! Look I young I looked” moments. I don’t want people stumbling across a picture of me while they are trying to recapture their own youths or relive the glory days that will never return.

No, I’d rather have someone think of me because I’m lodged inside their hearts instead of stuck between the pages of a book. And when they think of me, I don’t so much care that they recall a moment-in-time story like “Do you remember what you told the cop when he asked you if you knew how fast you were going?” as much as they remember the times I made them feel good, cared for, special, the times I made them chuckle, or at least the times that I made them glad that they were not in my shoes…

If those people think of me favorably after I’m gone, well, that would make me happy. And if they were to tell me what I meant to them while I still have ears to hear, so much the better.

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