Isn’t it a strange dichotomy of our perceptions that leads us to want people to know us well enough to treat us the way we need or want to be treated, but we find ourselves insulted if someone has told us they have “figured us out?” We long to be defined, by jobs, by clothes, by music, by creeds, but we don’t want to be pigeonholed. Why?
Before I make a purchase I have found myself asking, What would this item say about me if I bought it? If I like the answer, I am more likely to go ahead and buy it. Sometimes it’s something big, like a car. I have always been less than friendly to the notion of a minivan. I am “not a minivan person.” What the heck does that even mean? It’s nothing more than an impression of an idea on my weak mental constitution that chooses to see myself defined somehow by the car I drive. Isn’t that goofy? (My dream car has always been a pickup truck. For no other reason than I just love them. But apparently buying a minivan for no other reason than that’s what makes sense is not enough.)
This week my sister, my husband, and my eight-year-old son were subjected to endless photographs of eyeglasses as I tried to choose a new pair on a website. There was one pair in particular that I loved, and save for the fact that they might be a touch too big for my face, the reason I hesitated was because I was unsure if I could get away with the style of them. A hot pink pair of cat-eye frames seemed like so much fun! But, seriously, am I cool enough to pull this off? I even uploaded a rather unattractive picture of myself to the website to see what I would look like with no make-up and my hair pulled up, because as a contact lens wearer, I usually only wear my glasses at night and in the morning, when the makeup has come off and I am ready to relax.
The “image-building” of ancient days is not gone, is it? It has just shifted, to an internal place where it simmers away all our individual potential. We have ideas about people, and we want to make sure they have the right idea about us. I have put to rest a host of my insecurities. I no longer wear makeup with the purpose of hiding anything, nor do I avoid wearing it out of a fear of finding myself to be vain. I think its fun to wear, and so, I wear it. Giving myself permission to wear what clothes I wanted as a stay-at-home mom was beneficial, too. You might imagine I’ve got someplace to be if I am in a dress and boots, but I will rock those suckers all through the grocery store, like a boss, if that’s what I wanted to wear that day.
In my page about the name of this blog I talk about my goal to live life unposed. (see “Why Candid Calliope?”) I don’t want to aim to live life posed in poised perfection. I want to become the person who is so real you can’t help but be real with me. I want to put you at ease with yourself. Have you ever been around a person like that? It feels like unzipping your skinny pants on a fat day. You were doing okay, but, man, you didn’t realize you had been holding your breath like that. That’s my new goal. I want to be that person.
A couple of years ago a very talented photographer, Liz Byers, spent some time taking pictures of my kiddoes. This was no Sears Portrait studio session. She was so patient, so clever at making the kids comfortable, that each picture from that day is a treasure to me. I looked through them tonight in order to use them for this post. I lingered. My kids are quite a bit bigger now, their faces aren’t so round, and in my son’s case, those baby teeth have been replaced by teeth big enough to match his smile, and his heart.
I can pick out even now the pictures where we told him to smile, and the ones we got an honest giggle out of him by saying, “Don’t you smile! Get angry!” and then proceeded to growl at him. I love the pictures of his pensive look as Liz snapped a few he didn’t realize were being taken. I think I love them so much because this is how I see him everyday, thoughtfully working through problems as he grows into his teeth. And the one of Theo trying not to giggle as Chloe inspects her curious sweater, or Chloe crying in a chair, who knows why.
How often are you posed? And how can it be undone? Like the moment of truth at the end of a well-written story, what would spill from you if you unzipped a little?
To see more of Liz’s beautiful photographs , visit her site at lizbyersphotography.com.