You are staring at photos of smiling, happy families on a photographer’s website. These families are smiling back at you from beaches, parks, and picturesque fields of sunflowers or lavender. They are all adorned in seasonal colors, their arms lovingly wrapped around each other.
Your family could have photos like this—even better than this—if you buy this photographer’s Groupon deal. This time it will be different. It won’t be like the last time you attempted a family photo and your son refused to smile and the dog jumped into the pond. Or the time before that when you cut your hair too short and the baby cried the entire session. This time you will be able to control everything. This time your family will happily cooperate. You set a date with the photographer. You buy coordinating outfits. This time it will be an enjoyable experience.
It is the day of the photo shoot and no one is ready. You have to leave in ten minutes and suddenly your son’s only pair of shoes without lights or cartoon characters don’t fit. Your husband is cranky that you are making him leave the house at 3pm on a Sunday to take a “dumb photo.” The baby has just fallen on her face and is slowly developing a purply bruise in the middle of her forehead. She has not napped.
Everyone is miserable because you dared to ask them to take an hour out of their day to capture these precious memories that they’ll all be looking for when they have to make a funeral collage for you because THEIR OBSTINANCE IS SENDING YOU TO AN EARLY GRAVE.
Mutter to yourself about how this is why they call you from the bathroom to deliver a towel or extra toilet paper—you are the only one with any goddamn foresight.
You had provided a shot list to the photographer, but ten minutes after arriving, you’re ditching the dream of an album full of sun-dappled images. Through forced smiles you whisper bribes to all of your family members if they can just take one decent picture for the Christmas card. There will be more screen time, happy meals, ice cream for dinner, a blow job (maybe), if we can just get one photo where everyone is looking in the same direction and appears mildly happy to be there.
Just. One. Photo.
You get the proofs from the photographer in your inbox. Your family, to their credit, looks super cute. You are a different story. Did no one object to your disappearance when you were somehow replaced by a swamp troll? You stare at the images of yourself and start picking apart every bit of your body, outfit, and hair. The worst part is you thought you looked great at the time, but here it is, the photographic proof of everything you secretly feared.
Carry around a suitcase of self-hatred for days.
Put down the suitcase. It is heavy. You look like you, your kids look cute, your husband looks annoyingly better than he did when you got married. You are surrounded by people who love the body you happen to occupy right this minute. You will look back at this photo in twenty years and wish you looked like this again.
You will wish your kids could both still fit in your lap at the same time. You will wish you didn’t waste so much time wringing your two good hands over the shape of the body that made these children and the flyaway hairs on the head that contains the brain that made this damn photo shoot happen in the first place.
Slap the photo on a Christmas card and send to 100 people. Make it your Facebook cover photo. Smile when you realize you actually do love it.
About the Author
Shannon J Curtin is the author of two poetry collections and the mother of two delicious children. She holds an MBA, competitive shooting records, and her liquor. She would probably like you. Find her at @shannonmazur on instagram or www.ablogofherown.wordpress.com