(originally published August 6, 2008)
Since man first learned to walk upright, he spruced up the cave by drawing pictures of friends and family, the occasional bird and that saber-toothed tiger that had just moved into the neighborhood.
It’s our instinctual need to leave a record of our presence, so future generations may glorify in our historical identity, point and ask, “What’s up with her hair?”
It’s what separates man from beast.
Or at least until the saber-toothed tiger dropped by...for lunch.
Surprisingly, we haven’t learned much in the ages since. We are still obsessed with that terrifying rite of passage, the anxiety-ridden decision to record for posterity our domestic dynamic.
The Family Photo.
And when all is said and done, we naively believe we’ll have a delightful and visually appealing memento of the love that brought us all together.
What a load of saber-toothed tiger dung.
It wasn’t the 3-year-old who caused me grief. Nor was it the spastic golden retriever who tips the scales at 100 pounds that I insisted be in the photo with us.
Nope, it was my 44-year-old husband who got things rolling.
“I gotta do what?” he screeched. One would think I’d asked for his kidney or something. Again.
“We’re taking a family photo,” I answered in a this-is-not-open-for-discussion tone of voice.
“Oh, man,” he groaned and shoved his hands through his hair. Then he shocked me by uttering words more suitable coming from a 15-year-old girl worried about prom. Or a Tuesday.
“What am I going to wear?”
So I answered as any respectable wife would, “You’ll wear what I tell you to wear.”
“And what is that?” he replied.
Good question, I thought.
So I scoured the Internet for tips on what to wear for a family photo. Whoa, big mistake, I thought as the computer screen filled with more hits than a college bong party.
I quickly decided that using the Web to research information was a bad idea. It was like going online to diagnosis that weird pain in your oh-so-private-place and stumbling onto a site from Indonesia to discover you’ve got an unpronounceable disease that is only curable by drinking juice squeezed from a rabid chicken on a moonless night during the equinox while you dance naked in a circle with the surviving members of Menudo.
Wait a second…do chickens get rabies? No? There goes that medical diagnosis. And whatever happened to Menudo anyway? Back to the Internet.
As I clicked on links that gave dress tips and sample photos, I soon realized two things.
One - gone were the days when our parents dressed us in plaid sweaters and corduroy pants in colors bold enough to offend Elton John. No more dads in powder blue sports coats or moms in floral muumuus. Nope, these days everybody has to match. No plaid. No prints. No stripes. One color. One style. One world.
Two – there are a lot of ugly people out there.
One site said it was OK to wear white. Another said only wear white if you wanted to look like Dracula’s bride. One site advised to wear dark colors if taking a photograph outdoors. Another said only wear lighter colors if taking a photograph outdoors.
One site said wear shoes. Another site suggested you go barefoot. Ick, I thought, nobody wants to see that. Moving along.
For the next three days, I searched for guidance and found none. I finally announced to my grinning husband, “Wear whatever the heck you want. I don’t care anymore. I’ve seen things no respectable person should see.”
As for picture time itself? Let’s not think about working with a 3-year-old who has the attention span of a gnat and a dog that can’t stay clean for five minutes. Or is it the other way around?
Oh, well. I don’t have to think about it. I have medication for that now.
I gasped in awe and held up the photo proof sheet in absolute reverence, “He’s a genius.”
“Who?” my husband asked, peering over my shoulder to look at the photographs we’d just picked up.
“The photographer,” I replied. “We look good. Really good. Like normal, law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes and don’t throw water balloons at the neighbors.”
“Hey,” my affronted husband said, “I only did that once.” He paused and added, “Man, that 8-year-old got mad at me that day, didn’t he?”
You can e-mail Kelley Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.