“Smile!” the photographer exclaimed, a fake, cheesy grin on his face.
I continued to stare at him from the stool in front of the dull gray backdrop that was going to be the background of yet another year’s school picture.
The photographer snapped the picture. He didn’t seem at all disappointed that I hadn’t smiled like he had asked me to. Inwardly he was probably ecstatic. More money for him if my parents wanted a reshoot along with all the other parents whose kids hadn’t smiled. Not to mention all the ones who thought their dear son or darling daughter didn’t look perfect enough to send those photos to all of their relatives with the annual Christmas card, bragging about how great they were.
I hopped off the stool and grabbed my backpack, ready to head back to class. I didn’t care where I went, just as long as I could get away from all the girls frantically brushing their hair before it was their turn and the boys teasing them by saying they had a zit, causing them to once more bring out their mirrors.
On my way out into the hall, I heard one girl tell her friends, in a very serious tone, “This picture is going in the yearbook, to be seen by everyone. If I don’t look perfect, I’ll die. I’m not even joking, I’ll just die!”
I straightened up, unable to keep from listening as her friends murmured their agreement. Since when had not looking ‘perfect’ in a picture become a cause of death? A cause for embarrassment if you cared about that sort of thing, yes, but not for death.
I couldn’t help it, I just turned around and marched right over to that girl and her friends. I looked her right in the eye, readjusted my backpack so it wouldn’t fall off my shoulder, and said, “You know, I’ve seen my parents’ yearbooks. You’ve got nothing to worry about now, but in ten, twenty years, there are going to be a lot of people laughing at your picture. Not to mention everyone else’s.”
I turned around, knowing that everyone within earshot was probably gawking at my retreating backside, but at the time, I really didn’t care. After all, it was the truth. And that girl really needed to hear it.
© October 2011