by Christy Heitger-Ewing
These past few weeks, my Facebook newsfeed has been inundated with countless prom pics—all with gorgeous backdrops of peaceful ponds, rustic bridges, and flowering bushes. There are poses beside the limo. In the limo. On top of the limo. There are solo poses. Group poses. Date poses. And then a nice mixture of all the aforementioned. There are poses by ponds with ducks. Poses with duck faces. Poses holding irritated ducks. (Okay, this I haven’t seen, but surely one exists somewhere in rural America.)
This picture extravaganza is not just limited to prom night. The numerous iteration of poses and backdrops encompass a wide variety of occasions, including senior pictures, graduation pictures, engagement pictures, wedding pictures, pregnancy pictures, new baby pictures, baptism pictures, confirmation pictures, first communion pictures, we-just-found-out-the-sex-of-our-baby pictures. You get the idea.
Of course, in the era of social media, every event has the potential to be documented. This is why we are subjected to the “Look! Our dog just pooped on our expensive Asian rug!” pics as well as the “I’m hungry, and this is the food I’m about to consume” pics.
I grew up in a simpler time when every event wasn’t made into a major production. So, for instance, when I zipped up my prom dress (after applying my own makeup and curling my own hair), my mom told me and my date to go stand in the living room beside the recliner where the lighting was better.
We stood. We smiled. Click. One more in case one of us was blinking in the first one. Click.
Mom was pleased and we were hungry so off we went to dinner. Mom didn’t make us stick around for another round of pictures in the foyer, on the porch, in the backyard, and on the driveway. Nor did she upload prom photos for friends and family to see because in those days we had to drop the film off at Osco and wait for it to be processed. It was only three weeks later (when we remembered we had pictures to pick up) that we would discover that most of the shots turned out blurry and that our eyes looked demonic because of the flash.
It was always a bummer when photos were ruined due to red eye. This never happened to my Grandma Heitger’s pictures, however, because she notoriously cut off the tops of everyone’s heads in photos. Short folks were often safe, but anyone over 5’10” were bound to be headless. Now whenever we glance through old photo albums, people ask, “What’s the story there?” Then we sit and study the photographs like a who’s who of puzzles and determine the people in them based on chin acne and facial stubble.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be the first to admit that well before digital photography, I took countless snapshots of my cats Furry, Fluffy, Puff, and Princess. I have more pictures of these four cats than the Kardashians have pout faces. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I started the movement for taking pics of felines snoozing, stalking, and staring out the window. My husband can attest to my cat-picture-taking compulsion because back when we were dating, I sent him (through snail mail) hand-written love letters, and in them, I always—and I mean always—included a photo of one of my cats. The fact that he not only married me but also kept every single kitty cat photo I ever sent him is hard evidence of true blue love. Because let’s get real—nobody wants or needs to see that many cat photos, no matter how darling. Just like nobody really needs 12 million prom pictures.
Still, I must admit that as I scroll through my Facebook feed, I get all smiley. These kids look happy, proud, and snazzy. And I’ve gotta say, I’m thrilled that today’s youth has the patience to stand still and hold a fake smile for 30+ minute photo shoots. Seriously, that’s impressive. I think back to all of those Easter Sundays growing up when my brother and I darted through the garage door and raced to our rooms to change even as my mom yelled, “Don’t you dare change out of your church clothes before I get a family photo!”
We usually ignored her because we were so eager to get out of our pastel sundresses and plaid trousers and into something comfy. Therefore, we don’t have those goofy family photos of me, my brother, and my parents on Easter Sunday standing beside the lilac bush in the front yard. Now, of course, I wish I had stayed fancy for just a few moments longer so that I would have those pictures to cherish. Just like the prom goers will cherish their pictures—all 87,000 of them.
So, snap away, I say. Chances are, I’ll like the photos you post. Especially the blurry, non-perfect ones with the heads chopped off. Because I have to say, I kind of have a soft spot in my heart for chin acne and facial stubble.
Note: This piece was first published on the Huffington Post on May 19, 2014.