OK, I ain’t no Cindy Crawford. The camera don’t love me, it feels sorry for me. I am always the one with lipstick on my teeth.
It has been this way since I was little. My mother never sent family photo Christmas cards. Either I had my finger in my nose, or I was scratching my armpit, or I had turned completely around to look at a squirrel.
When we went on vacation to Washington D.C. there was a photographer taking souvenir pictures of families in front the Capitol. We all lined up and said “cheese,” and I glanced across the street and saw a car about to hit a dog. The camera clicked, the car missed, the dog was fine and nobody saw it but me. So in the picture, which was mailed to us in a red-white-and-blue frame, everybody else is smiling all happy and I look like I’m watching a horror movie.
I don’t even want to think about class pictures. I was the one who sat behind the potted plant on the end of the stage and had to peek out between the fronds like I was one of the Three Stooges.
Even today, I can’t even take a decent selfie for my Facebook profile. I got to use the cat. He takes a good picture.
But this year, at my Celibacy Academy class reunion, when they line us up for the group picture, I decide that finally I’ll beat this curse.
I plop down in the center of the front row, plant my feet together like the nuns taught us, check for lipstick and smile with all my teeth. I am sitting right in front of Mimette Fulton, the senior class president, who suddenly remembers she has her frozen daiquiri in her hand and tries to put it down quick. And spills it down my back. Click, click, click goes the camera, and then the photographer is out of there because he got a wedding to do.
We all get free copies of the picture in the mail, courtesy of Celibacy Academy. And yes, the curse is still with me. I got my teeth clenched; my eyes are bugging out and my legs are splayed apart in an unladylike fashion, if you know what I mean.
Then I read the little note from Mimette that’s also in the envelope, saying that the photo will appear in the community section of the papers next week.
Before I can call Mimette, she calls me. “I don’t know how to tell you this, Modine,” she says, “but we’re going to have to Photoshop you out of this picture.” I understand. It got nothing to do with my looks, she says. It is my – um – sitting position. (By which she means any pervert with a magnifying glass can plainly see that I’m wearing the pink lace drawers I caught at the Krewe of Shangri-LA parade.) She is going to ask the photographer – he ain’t our usual school photographer; he is her nephew, it turns out – to put a potted plant in the front row to block me out.
A potted plant. Again. I think about it. “Why would a bunch of women be sitting around a potted plant?” I say. “Have him Photoshop in Penny the Penguin.” Penny is the Celibacy Academy mascot. She leads our dance team, the Prancing Penguinettes.
Well, Mimette thinks this is brilliant and she calls her nephew, and he says OK, send him a picture of the penguin. So she does.
And that should solve that.
Except this nephew ain’t the brightest bulb, and he got a whole lot to do this week. Besides us and the wedding and God knows what else, he does a little work for a friend of his who sells car insurance. The car insurance has a mascot, too: that lizard with a British accent.
And that’s what’s in the picture in the Sunday paper. The headline is “Celibacy Academy Holds Class Reunion,” and in the middle of the front row is (You saw it coming?) a lizard. In this picture he’s human-sized, not lizard-sized. And because somebody slipped up, he’s identified as Modine Gunch.
I thought one of my friends might call and say that I seem to look like a lizard in the paper, but nobody does.
Like I said, I take really bad pictures.