Several weeks ago, Facebook started bugging me to update my profile picture. The website reminded me that my photo was several years old.
I’ve not been feeling very photogenic lately. My pieces and parts are too wide, too lumpy, too gray and too squinty.
However, I’ve recently read a flurry of articles, all encouraging moms to participate fully (even if it required swimwear) and get in front of the camera so our kids can someday find photos of us. The logic made sense, so I’ve been doing just that — leaning into the photo rather than out of the frame.
My husband is a fantastic photographer. He takes exquisite photos of flowers, moths, and our kids. All closeups. He likes to attach the zoom lens that allows him to invade personal space from afar, and capture every detail.
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I browsed our most recent photos, and found one he’d taken of me. Up close, it was.
I wore a slouchy gray T-shirt and no makeup. My eyes were asymmetrically squinty. Middle-aged acne (I thought I’d be done with this by now) dotted my face. My cheeks were spread back with my smile, making my cheeks appear even wider than they are. The gray of my crazy, windblown hair showed around my temples. A dark shadow, combined with divots from my sunglasses, made it appear that I had a shiner. My eyebrows appeared wacky and uneven, thanks to a cowlick in my left eyebrow.
All the criteria I use to choose photos told me it was a bad photo. Yet, I tagged it as a possibility.
You see, I remember when he took that photo. We were on vacation, chillaxin’ on the beach while the sun set behind us. I was on a four-day no-makeup binge, and loving every second of it. The kids were nearby, building a sand castle next to a tide pool. I felt relaxed, happy, and even a bit silly.
I remember my husband pointing the camera — its wide lens only a couple of feet from my face. I smiled big, not caring about the photo. It would be just one of many. Nobody would ever have to see it. There was no pressure to look good.
I browsed to see if I could find a preferable photo, and found others I could have used — ones where I posed, had brushed hair and wore makeup. But it was my beach photo, where I was all a mess, that I finally decided to use.
Much like choosing an outfit to wear to a class reunion, we choose profile photos that represent us as we hope others will see us. I chose the “me” I wished to portray, and in this case, it was “happy, friendly me, au naturale.”
The interesting thing about Facebook is that anything we post invites others to engage in conversation and offer their opinions. Within moments of posting, people started clicking “like” or “love.” The comments appeared on my photo, in private messages, in emails and later, in person.
“You look so happy...” “So authentic…” “I love this…” They, too, liked my selection.
The funny thing about this photo experience is that I’ve started being more concerned about how I look. But the criteria has changed. Do I laugh enough? Do I greet people with a warm smile? Do my kids see me enjoying myself and loving their company? Do I spend enough time being silly?
We don’t want to see our friends’ eyeliner. Our kids don’t want to look at our lipstick. People really want to see a genuinely friendly face. Don’t believe me? I have photographic proof.
Reach Overland Park mom Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @emilyjparnell.