I hate posing for pictures. Not a little bit, like a lot. I am not photogenic, and I am awkward in general, and immortalizing this forever in photos causes me great emotional distress. That is why you only rarely see me take selfies. It’s because I feel ridiculous.
Here are some important facts you need to know about this story: 1-my mom thought it was hilarious to flip people off. She didn’t do it to strangers or when she was mad, she did it as a “family thing.” If she was irritated with us, or we smarted off at her, or we said something horrible but true and funny, she would either say, “You’re making my middle finger twitch,” or she would flip us off, depending on what we had done. Number 2, Mary Ann is my mom’s soul in a child’s body. Now you’re prepared.
Anyway, today when I was on the way home from work I was in a horrible mood. Not for any particular reason, just because. My mom used to tell me, “If everyone else is the problem, it’s not them, it’s you.” And that is where I have been this week. Irritated with the entire world when, in reality, the problem is in my own head. It was in this frame of mind that I realized the deadline for me to submit a photo for my new employee badge is tomorrow by 5 pm. This is a problem because: 1- Every day I go to work with my hair in a pony tail, minimal make-up, day spent in an N-95 mask which makes imprints on my face, usually in either hospital scrubs or old Lularoe baseball T, and 2- the photo had to be taken in front of a white wall and for reasons even I don’t understand I have a personal vendetta against white walls which has led to every wall in my house being blue or gray or another shade of blue. White walls make me think of hospitals and having to be perfect so you don’t smudge things with your dirty fingers and walking towards the light. It’s just not my thing. When we moved into our first house, I picked out nine different colors for the rooms inside, and Other Half nicknamed it The House of Crayola.
I guess the aversion to white walls is genetic because no one in my immediate family had a white wall I could borrow, so I ended up stopping at Wal-Mart on the way home to buy a white sheet to hang on the door in the hallway to create the illusion that I was a normal person with normal colored walls. Immediately when I got home, I showered and did my hair and put on make-up and put on what hopefully would pass for a business casual sweater, and came downstairs with the new white sheets and the little clips you use to keep your towels in place on your beach chairs. I hung up the sheet, printed out the employee info sheet, and stood in front of the now white door.
The picture was terrible. Like beyond terrible. It was a cross between a mug shot and a passport photo, and the sheet was so wrinkled that even if I sacrificed my dignity and emailed this photo to my new employer, I would have to look at those wrinkles forever. Not to mention that I’m at least two weeks past getting the haircut that I desperately need, meaning I’m starting to look like the textbook photo of a thyroid problem.
Other Half got the bright idea that I could just stand in front of the window shade instead. It was a little better, but there were stripes, and the instructions clearly say that the background needs to be a “white wall” which in my mind means it should look uniform. Not striped. I did the barely smile that passes for professional, but Other Half kept saying, “You have to smile better than that,” and Mary Ann jumped around behind him snapping her fingers like I was a toddler and they needed to get my attention to have me looking the right way for the picture. I was still in a horrible mood, and eventually Other Half gave up and left to get takeout for dinner because clearly this photo was going to take A LOT longer than we planned, and everyone was getting hangry.
I went upstairs and walked by Mary Ann’s room and saw her white cabinet in side profile and got a great idea. This could be my white wall. So I yelled for her to come upstairs and take my photo. I got on my knees so I would be short enough for the cabinet to pass as a wall, and then held my employee information sheet in front of me. Mary Ann snapped the first photo, made a face, and said, “Let’s take another one.” She tried again. Two more times. And both times said, “That one’s good,” all while making a face that said neither of them were good. I took a look at the pictures.
“I need you to take another one,” I said. The first time she did it. The second time she was exasperated with me.
“What you need is to smile like you mean it,” she said, “and a hair brush. What’s wrong with you? You have frizz everywhere! Your mama taught you better than that!” In that moment, I swear I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t actually my mom taking the photos because it is exactly what she would’ve said.
Mary Ann went to get a brush and smooth my frizz, zoomed in to crop out the pink walls, and told me to smile. I did the polite professional smile thing again.
“A real smile,” she said. She positioned the phone and then, instead of saying “1, 2, 3” or “cheese!” She said, “I got it.” And then, with her cell phone in one hand, she flipped me off with the other. My smile spread wide that time, reaching all the way to my eyes, and she snapped the picture.
“There,” she said, “Much better.”
And now, every time I wear my badge, I will remember that Mary Ann gets me, and that my Mom was the greatest. Her parenting might not have always been conventional and mine definitely isn’t, but the memories are priceless.