(Spoiler! Or giant weird chair the same color as my dress) or look into the mid-distance contemplating world peace, while fixing my hair with a tiny bad comb.
I remember each yearbook picture of my youth was exponentially more horrific than the preceding year's horrific photo.
One year, I think a well-meaning (Or? Evil) teacher went at me with bobby pins, and aforementioned bad comb, before photographer tried to make me say "cheeseburger" 100 times.
I do not like being told what to do, and that is a lifelong trait.
So is fear of bad pictures of me being taken and circulated widely.
The bobby pin year is memorable because I was SO not saying "cheeseburger," or anything.
I was dry-mouthed, with very vivid "deer in headlights" facial expression adding to the pitiful weird hair.
And while I am myself a terrible photographer, I can discern when others are taking bad pictures of me, and the Venn Diagram of "Horrible Pictures of Me" and "All Yearbook or Directory Photos of Me" are completely overlapping circles.
That thing being, terrible photo.
And pre-iThis and iThats, when you had to either wait for the yearbook to come out at the end of the year, when you'd just managed to forget THE HORROR, freshly reminding you of the bad comb and the "cheeseburger,"
Or you had to walk uphill in the snow, to a photo place to develop film, surely containing a variety of photos that I find unacceptable, there was a kind of helplessness - the picture is what it is.
You have to secretly rip it up when no one is looking.
And you can't gather every single yearbook ever (Note: I totally would have done that if possible) to exact-o-knife your horrible photo out of existence.
One year during a very unfortunate phase in my adolescence, our church decided to redo the directory, and our family was summoned . . . and I have completely blocked out the entire thing, other than, when I saw the picture, I was astonished at how very, very, very unfortunate the picture was.
I had to look at it sideways, such as when staring at the sun, as not to go blind with humiliation.
Also, I totally do not get how the photographers try to make you buy the photos afterwards.
Clearly, they are going to be terrible.
We all know that.
I wanted to pay them to NOT put my picture in the yearbook/directory.
I would have sold a kidney.
Once digital cameras, Otherwise Known As, Allison Grabs The Camera And Deletes All Photos That She Does Not Like were invented, you had to be pretty fleet of foot and quick with the camera-hiding, because I am relentless in wanting all editorial approval on any picture of me, and I delete with wild abandon.
Matt is like, "I am not giving you this camera. You will delete pictures when I am not looking."
And I am all, "You can watch me delete them if you want."
And he is all, "One day this will be a treasured memory" or something like that, and I try to use his waxing poetic on precious moments to snatch the camera and run.
So he was aware, as we head to the photographer for the directory photo recently, that I might go off the rails.
I mean I will go off the rails.
It is certain.
I try to bribe the DMV lady into retakes on my driver's license.
Also, this photo session conflicts with Matt and V painting our wrought iron outside furniture, in anticipation of excellent super fun house concert coming soon.
This means V has black paint, smudged with insufficient paint-removal substances into a grim shade of "Zombie."
She is hesitant to even go to this thing, but has confidence I will grab the camera and run off with it until all evidence of her being a zombie is deleted.
(Note: She is NOT a zombie, she just kind of has zombie hands and feet for a while, for a good cause)
We kind of dress up, because the photo people have called to remind us twice that this is a "dressy affair" occasion.
Tangent: Do not even get me started on the fury and red rage I get when someone gives me a fashion dictate that does not make sense.
Those are MADE UP.
That is an invented category so that the hostess can wear the outfit she picked out.
And they are always directly oppositional words.
NOT A REAL THING.
In fact, I prefer no dictates
(Shock, right?) on wardrobe, and instead phoning my friends to see what they are wearing, and working from there.
So headed to photo session that all my life experience
(Note: I am still very, very young, but still) dictates will result in Worst Photos Ever, along with several reminders that this photo session is a "dressy affair?"
Matt is already like "Allison, do not go insane."
And I am like, "If they don't make me insane, I won't go insane. Otherwise, game's on."
And I can visualize the white backdrop, the badly placed lighting, the same bad combs from when I was in first grade, and the photographer trying to make us say a weird word and making us tilt our heads in nonsense directions or gaze into the mid-distance while contemplating the meaning of life. (Or, how to wrestle the camera away and flee.)
And though I have been instructed to not be awful, the first second we go into the room the waft of "really old musty photos that are creepy, surely the photographer has a squeaky toy in his pocket" hits me.
And they've got all these examples, FROM 1975, of "famous" "celebrities" they have photographed, as they are top tier fancy photographers.
I am not buying it, because: I can see the setup with the weird huge chair, stools, crates for height issues, and photographer who I can just tell has a squeaky toy in his pocket.
Also, while photographer sets up the chair and crate area, the salesguy tells my girls to behave
(Note: They are already totally behaving) because he has "a connection" and then whips out a creepy old picture of Santa.
They all look at him with the same expression: "Don't condescend to us.")
Since his Santa gag falls flat, salesguy attempts to quiz me on who the famous celebrities are, as distraction from the chair and stools and crates.
Sadly for him, he has chosen a grouping of photos that fit within my (Note: Weird and normally unhelpful) knowledge base:
Political figures, Anchors of Entertainment Tonight, Ice Skaters from 20 years ago, and Smokey Robinson.
Apparently I am the only one to ever correctly guess Smokey Robinson.
That is a shame, people.
"Tracks Of My Tears" rules.
My next challenge?
Sandra Day O'Connor.
He says no one ever gets that one either.
Except me, and my kids.
Because if there is one thing I impart upon my children, other than snark and irony as life skills, it is this:
You better know your Presidents, First Ladies, and Supreme Court Justices.
We have placemats to help with this learning process.
E, Known List Maker, Makes Lists.
Sandra Day O'Connor is a softball.
He follows up with Kristi Yamaguchi.
Ice skater from when there were three channels on TV?
This guy is now kind of sweating, because I guess Political Junkie Music Freaks Who Watch Figure Skating are not the majority of the population?
I am shocked by this.
He finally releases us to photographer man, and here's where it starts to descend into "Rest of the Family Waiting For Allison To Start Trying To Steal The Camera."
He has this giant green chair, like a chair in a law firm office, but huge.
It is green.
I have on a green dress.
He wants me to sit in the big giant green chair that matches my dress.
He is not thinking of how to actually photograph the five of us pleasingly.
He is doing his rote 3 groupings, then solo shots, who cares what these people look like, are wearing, or are saying repeatedly they do not want to do.
I realize if I sit in the big giant green chair, blending in as chameleon, except my face is showing, and also my name will be on this,
I will look like a combination of:
Crazy Southern Matriarch In Tennessee Williams Play That Scares Everyone,
And Giant Chair With Human Head.
I point this out, he ignores me.
He wants V to put her paint-stained zombie hands by my head.
We tell him, she's got paint on her hands, she does not want to have them in the picture.
He does not care.
He does not care if we were real zombies, so long as we complied with the 3 groupings.
And even though I am very pro-vampire if you make me pick monsters that are/were pop-culturally relevant, I was hoping a zombie would come along and get this guy.
Matt, behind me in Giant Chair Of Unflattering Doom, is too tall.
No he is not, ridiculous photographer.
Don't force us into weird formations that do not work with our clothes, zombie hands, height, and overall bossiness of lady person.
Matt has to STRADDLE a wooden crate instead of standing, so that he appears shorter (Honestly this is insane) and V has to drape her zombie hands next to my head as I blend into the giant chair.
He then wants us to tilt our heads to the left like we are a dog hearing a far-away whistle.
And he tries to get us to say stupid things like "Mom is right"
(Which? Note: I am, that is true.
However, he is not listening to his own words, since Mom is demanding to get out of the giant chair and for Matt to not have to crouch on a crate.
Also, the stupid words photographers in this situation make you say are supposed to help you make a smile.)
(Subnote: "Cheese" can result in smile forming, that is why they say that so often.
"Cheeseburger" makes you have sour lemon face.
"Mom is always right" phrase, which Matt gamely agrees to say because he is 10000 trillion percent nicer than me, results in the guy taking a picture while Matt is mid-phrase, and I can hear him, stuck on crate behind my giant chair, going "oh. ug."
Because he is too kind to assume the photographer does not care at ALL if we look insane, and is playing along.
Meanwhile I am blinking nonstop on purpose - as only method available to me at the time is sabotage - during the Giant Chair Bad Photo groupings, so he can't use them.)
Next, Matt is stuck in the Giant Chair, but he gets M the seven year old stylist along with him in Giant Chair, which is bogus.
I got no cute kid shield.
He has me stand behind Matt and Chair, with poor V's zombie hands and E, already using her very good read-the-room skills to know all sorts of fireworks could go off, mainly due to me, watching and filing away for future fits she can throw.
Photographer tells me to take off my shoes, as I am too tall behind Giant Dreaded Chair.
I say, "NO."
He asks salesguy, "Should she take her heels off?"
I say, "NO."
M the seven year old stylist says, "She says no."
Final grouping is the always horrid Whole Family Looks Off In The Distance At Their Dead Dog Old Yeller.
This is an idiotic grouping, but I have realized at this point that nothing good is going to happen, and I will try to minimize the damage, or else grab the camera and run.
I start working myself up into Defcon Fit Level Orange when he advises us:
"Don't worry if you are shiny or the colors are off or if it is not flattering. We can retouch or airbrush the pictures."
(It is not spoken but totally understood:
He's going to take crap pictures of us and blackmail us into fixing them so we do not look like 100 year old zombie persons with oily complexions and jowls.)
After Super Fun Family Time, they want solo shots of me and of Matt.
I am all, "My dress is green. I do not want to sit in the big green chair."
He is all "Sit in the green chair, and lean forward and put your arms on this weird stool, so I can better take unflattering pictures of you looking enormous and featuring your armpit prominently."
I am all, "Fine. This is going to be bad. And I see the lights are aiming at the side of my head, which is the directory photo version of overhead florescent lighting while bathing suit shopping. I know what you are doing."
Next I have to look into the mid-distance, and I do so, so that I can picture best how to grab the camera and bolt.
Matt is up next, and he has to do the Official Stodgy Portrait poses, which include, propping one leg up on yet another crate, putting his hands on the back of the Dreaded Giant Green Chair, and one where no props or stools were involved, he got a better deal than me.
And since technology (and cameras I can throw in the pool or drive over) makes it so that they can print off these atrocities for us to pick from, and then of course try to upsell us into giant faux oil painting on board monstrosities.
He shows us a "before" unretouched photo of a couple in their golden years, totally unflattering, as if Crisco has been smeared on their faces and they have not slept in a week, due to the poor lighting.
He tells us not to worry if we, too, are shiny, or shadowed, or have fake beards.
They can fix it with retouching, for a small fee.
He then reveals the "ta DA!" of the retouched giant image.
Of apparently that same couple, with blurry, unrecognizable faces.
I know based upon this that nothing good is going to come off that photographer's printer, and we are going to have to sell the good dog or the bad dog to get the imaginary hunchbacks removed from these pictures of us.
We have to all sit in a row and wait for the horror.
And it is Dante's Inferno Rings Of Hell level bad.
Photographer goes off and hides, probably so I can't stomple his wicked camera.
Salesguy was all, "If you are shiny or don't like the way you look, we can discuss retouching or airbrushing or painting fake heads on you."
And the onslaught begins.
He first brandishes the Me In The Giant Chair photos.
He displays them like a tarot reader placing out cards.
I then shriek , "This is horrible. Those are awful. That is my worst nightmare" (Note: Verbatim that is what I said).
I then snatch the foul photos, face down away from me, away from his reach, and repeat that they are a nightmare.
Then he pulls out the other seating arrangements.
Of course, we are as shiny as greaseballs and look terrible.
Malaria, plague-like coloring, in areas where the bright pools of oil are not glaring at the camera.
Talk about lesser of evils, we pick one that we all hate but is not completely loathsome to all of us.
And then for dessert, Total Humiliation!
Otherwise Known As Solo Photos.
He pulls out the first shots of me alone, where I had to do weird things with my arms on a stool while sitting in Dreaded Chair.
They are terrible, and really the subject of the photo is not me, it is my armpit.
I screech again and grab those away to hide as well.
While pointing out that my armpit is featured prominently and that is a terrible picture.
So he tries to put a cropping thing around it, making it then look like my upper arm is actually Chris Farley's "Lunch Lady" on SNL sketch's arm.
And tells me they can retouch it.
And I say, see how the light is only on half of my hair and makes my face look shiny?
That is the worst lighting and I do not even want to see these.
He puts the last ones out, and they are awful as well.
They are hideous pictures, and he's trying to push me to have them retouched to hide the horror.
There are apparently many ways they can retouch them - to hide all my flaws that they specifically took pictures of , in order for me to have to pay to hide them.
Matt's are ridiculous too, in that he is not a Stuffy Dude Holding On To Hideous Dreaded Chairs.
One he has his foot up on a stool, like a fake newscaster shot, and I laugh at that one and say he looks absurd, which is true.
He is way cuter and does not do stupid things like put his foot up on a stool and look like a newscaster unless forced to by bad photographers.
He is way cuter and does not do stupid things like put his foot up on a stool and look like a newscaster unless forced to by bad photographers.
And then the next one he is holding onto the back of Dreaded Chair, which has been turned sideways, and I laugh at that one too, and say it looks like something hanging in a law firm 30 years ago, which is true.
Every photo of him ever taken is better than this nonsense.
But the kids are getting twitchy, probably afraid I am going to make a run for the camera and destroy it.
And the last one of Matt is the least objectionable, so we pick that.
And then, since this guy is either Eternal Optimist or Worst People Reader Ever, then he tries to sell us packages of these horrible photos, all the ways we can have these nightmares hanging in our home.
At which point, I pick up my purse and we leave.
Before I can smash cameras or embarrass my family any further.
But let me say this:
I promise, when the girls are home from college for the holidays, The Time We Had To Get Pictures Taken With Zombie Hands And Giant Chair And Mommy Almost Hit Things And Why Did That Happen will be a fond memory of lunacy.
I will have, of course, removed every single copy of anything featuring these photos, so they will have to be remembered in our mind's eye.
Minds' eyes that will howl laughing at the Dreaded Chair and Crouching on Crates and At Least Mommy Did Not Get In Trouble.