"I can't take the picture if you're crying."
Every parent who has ever attempted professional family photos has probably heard that sentence uttered. But when the photographer said it, she was talking to me.
My children had long gone inside the house. The freezing temperature outside and subsequent death glare from my daughter had cut the family portion of the photography session short. These pictures were, after all, just a nice addition to the booking. I needed new pictures for my website, and seeing as we were paying someone to come to the house and shoot photos anyway, why not get a few of the family against the gorgeous colors of the changing trees? The 27-degree wind chill quickly broke that plan — as well as my daughter's fever, which magically spiked to 102 degrees at the mention of going outside but was gone by the time I came back in from my session and found her happily cuddled on the couch in front of a movie. If she had been older than 3, I'd have accused her of tampering with the thermometer. But knowing her age and her sheer will, I believe she can summon and send away a fever with a snap of her tiny fingers. I had no such fever. I was not so lucky. I, along with the frosty photographer, remained outside for the long haul.
Nothing about the conditions was suitable for picture taking. The sky was gray. The wind slapped across my face, causing my nose to go Rudolph red and my eyes to tear up. The selected sleeveless outfit was no help, either. If I hadn't been about to head out of town for work, I would have rescheduled. By the time I was to return, the trees surely were going to be bare. Despite the bitterness, this was the last opportunity to look cozy and free on the outside, even if inside was frostbitten, rigid and surly.
Photographs and I have never been friends. I imagine that it began around the time when my cousins all, in a single year, seemed to become professional models. Smiling for pictures was less about joy and more about your professional future. It marked a change in the assessment of pictures. Whereas it was once about capturing true life, it became more about the objective beauty we could determine and pick apart. I wonder, in the age of Instagram, whether my daughter will ever know that pictures can be snapshots of pleasure or whether she'll see them only as things to build up or tear down her growing self-esteem. I wonder whether my son will fall prey to the same filtered life.
Perhaps that is why my tongue is sticking out in nearly every one of my wedding photos, why for years my friends commented on how I'm eating food or making a crazy face in every photo. It was a rebellion of the expectation — rejecting the beauty requirement and forcing the lens to capture my essence.
But these frosty pictures were for work. They had to look professional. They needed to scream "read me; trust me; know me." I insisted we take pictures of me on my kids' swing. And I had tears streaming down my cheeks as the wind whipped my face.
Not sure the tears sent the right message.
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Marketing experts say to make the pictures of you something others will aspire to. Clearly, I will solely be attracting those who are dead inside and longing to feel and folks suffering from aqueous tear-deficient dry eye. By golly, she's crying! Right here on her homepage! Maybe if I learn to write with Katiedid, my glands will produce teardrops of equal measure!
The photographer gave me a blanket to wrap around my body as we took photos. When it became too much, we moved inside. I made a pot of coffee. Tried to thaw my face. Reapplied my mascara, which had streaked down my cheeks.
We sat in my writing room. She took pictures as I sipped the coffee. "I can't take the picture if you're crying," the photographer said.
"I know," I cried and laughed simultaneously. "It's just, it feels so good to be warm, and the coffee is so good."
"I think the cold got to your brain," she said as she clicked her camera.
True. Life. Captured.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.