Denise Jolly figured it out within the first few frames of our photo shoot: I don’t like to smile. Or, more accurately, I have a fake smile. The one that has haunted me for years. The one that shows my bucked teeth.
Those imperfect teeth are a metaphor for my childhood. Every year, my mother would buy me a new outfit for School Picture Day. She would put my hair in rollers and make sure my outfit was ironed so that my picture would look nice on my grandmother’s mantle. I would stress until it was my turn because I already knew the outcome: a bad picture. The photographer was not used to kids like me: the ones in wheelchairs, the ones who couldn’t sit up straight. I was a kid before digital cameras and Photoshop. The photo package would arrive in the mail a few weeks later, and there I was, in 8 x 10 and wallet size, my face refusing to conform to all of my mother’s efforts. We would try for a better photo on Picture Make Up day, again and again for years.