Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Dullness of Perfection

My kids have school pictures this week. I was looking over the various packages, trying to figure out which one gave the most bang for the buck, when I noticed a new option. For a small fee, the photos can be retouched, brushing away blemishes and scars, birthmarks and moles. For a second I was tempted; my little guy has a honking mosquito bite right under his left eye. My fifth grader has something (Is it a zit? Bug bite? Boil?) hanging out at the tip of his chin. If I checked the box, my kids could have faces as smooth as GAP models. Very tempting...

But then I thought about my husband's fourth grade photo. The weekend before picture day he'd gotten into his first (and only) fistfight with his younger brother. Tom walked away with a split lip; his brother rocked a black eye. Those photos look like stills from The Little Rascals. And every time I look at them, I tell myself the story.

When I took my senior photo, my mom talked me into wearing this blue and white cotton sailor dress (??) because according to someone it was all the rage (I suspect she'd been browsing a 1936 Ladies Home Journal at our elderly dentist's office.). I showed up looking like Popeye gone rogue while my classmates all wore black, fake cashmere sweaters and pearls. Flip open to the senior section of our yearbook and you'll see row upon row of Betty Drapers with Bon Jovi hair and frosted lipstick. Then you'll see me. My eyes show embarrassment, humiliation. Something in my smile, though, reveals the faintest hint of defiance, and maybe, if you look closely enough, dignity. I'm proud of that girl, but no, you are not seeing that picture!

I love that my little guy spent every moment he could this summer running around outside with his friends, mosquitoes be damned. I love that my tween is at the start of all those changes guaranteed to wreck havoc with his complexion (among other things!). I want to remember those stories in twenty years; I want to glance at those photos and feel all the things I'm feeling now come back in a rush. I look forward to it.


  1. Wow-good for you for not doing that. What kind of message does that send to a child if a parent has their birthmarks or moles 'erased' in a picture? That they aren't good enough the way they are? What's next? Parents air brushing their kids to make them look 10 pounds thinner? Our society scares me sometimes.

  2. God, that was so good. They came out with that new option when I was in high school, I think, and I've always thought it was weird.

    What you said is so true, and now I'm DYING to see that senior photo. What a bad ass.

  3. I agree! Keeping life real is important and fun! There's too much pressure as it is on kids to be perfect. Touching up school photos in many cases seems over the top.

    Although maybe I could retouch the one with the 3 pigtails, or when my mom 'trimmed' my bangs, or...

  4. Yes, I love those imperfections too! I love to look back and see how my daughters once very crooked smile is now beautifully straight and covered in braces! Oh, and I check over those photo deals every year too, trying to outsmart them and just get what I want at a reasonable price, but I always end up spending a fortune and having way too many pictures!

  5. Re-touching elementary school pictures? Very, very bizarre.

  6. For kids photos? REALLY? What is this today...the Stepford Children? Creepy.

    Go you, Loretta! J & D don't need that--they're adorable enough.

  7. That is so depressing, a photoshop of horrors for kids.

    I can just picture Tom's swollen mug, and your sailor dress with Mona Lisa smile.