People love taking their pictures. Since digital cameras and more recently, high quality phone cameras, it’s been happening a lot more. What’s interesting to me is that the pictures themselves have been de-valued since it’s no longer such a hassle to get them. Take a shitty photo? No problem. Take 17 more until you get it right. Even the most stubborn purist would have to admit that digital photography has made things way more convenient. A lot of times you can close your eyes and tell how old the ‘photographer’ is by the level of investment they have in setting up the shot, and the people in it. With younger people it’s snap snap snap snap snap. The older people remember having a roll of film with 24 photos on it, and the cost and time of having that film developed, and the harrowing disappointment of that family photo NOT turning out, and that memory lost FOREVER!!!! You could almost expect 4 or 5 of those pictures to not ‘turn out’, but if it was more than that, you would definitely feel like you wasted your money developing that film. That’s why whenever you took a picture of more than one person, you would always ask them to say ‘cheese’ right before you took the photo, to ensure everyone had their best smile, and just maybe that would be one for the photo album. (The what?? say younger people).
I didn’t know what ‘cheese’ meant, I have to admit. I never thought much about it, I just did what I was told. Probably from the time I could talk. My two-year old son says cheese when I ask him to. I’m sure he doesn’t know why either, but he doesn’t question it, he just does it. Same with me, I just did it. Only recently did I actually get in front of a mirror and say cheese to see what would happen. Yup, sure enough, it made my face contort into a ‘smile like’ position. Whoever first thought of that was a genius. Especially in those times where it really mattered that all look good during a photo.
Here was the problem for me. I have 2 smiles. A genuine smile, and a ‘cheese’ smile. I don’t smile just for the sake of it. I wish I did. I know there are people like that, and they’re my favourite people in the world. They smile because they’re happy, or it’s just their go-to face for various situations. My go-to face is not a happy face. It’s not because I’m not happy, or because I feel like I have something different to prove. Trust me, I’d love to be a smiley guy. I have dimples. When asked to say ‘cheese’ ahead of a photograph, I typically give a fake smile. The world might not know the difference, but my mom knows, and so do I. I tried not smiling, or ‘smiling with my eyes’ for pictures, and that sometimes works, but most people look their best with a smile on their face, and I would say I’m no different.
How do you make me smile?
You have to make me laugh. Easy, right?
I’m a funny guy. I know you’re not supposed to say stuff like that about yourself, but I’m 40. I’ve been told by other people very regularly for many years. I’m funny, get over it. Not just funny, but when I’m on, I’m really funny. It’s a schtick I’ve worked on since childhood. It’s how I tried to fit in. Sometimes the dimples weren’t enough. I worked on it for so many years, that I don’t have to try anymore. I instinctively almost always know what the funny thing is to say in just about every situation. Ironically at my age, the best thing I can do is not say it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it, EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Wait a minute, if I’m such a funny guy, I should be smiling all the time, right? That’s where it gets tricky. I’ve heard (or said) it all before with very few exceptions. I need something fresh and unique, or to be taken by surprise. A lot of times, the things that make me laugh hysterically are said by people who didn’t necessarily mean to be funny. It just happens that way. It would be a lot to ask of someone snapping a picture to have some witty banter just for me, because I’m the guy in the picture who won’t say cheese. It would also be a lot to ask for 75% of the population to have a sweet clue on how to operate a camera before getting a bunch of people together for a photo opportunity, and having us hold the pose for 30 seconds (aka 5 eternities) while they figured out if the flash was on or not, so………….
I’ve come up with a solution. It works for me every time, and if you don’t find it completely disgusting, you’re welcome to use it.
I’ve spent years brainstorming with friends, a list of words that could be quickly said in exchange for a genuine smile. The rule is that it’s got to be 2 words, said quickly as one. The first word is the name of an animal. Stick to something cute enough that it could be a stuffed animal. The second word is typically slang for genitalia. This is partially for shock value. Picture people posing for a picture, and then shout
That was the first one we ever thought of. We realized that if the first word was 2 syllables, and the second word was one that it had greater impact. Plus we’re Canadian, so the most enduring one, and less offensive than the first (just in case grandma is in the picture), is
It never fails. Even when they’re expecting it, they still laugh. Or maybe it’s just my particular group of friends that have a weakness for that. I can’t say for sure if it’s in fact ‘universally appealing’ or not. I encourage you to make up your own. Try to stick to the syllable rules though. Even though ELEPHANT-BALLS is hilarious to me, it doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely. The animal can’t be too fierce either. TIGER-NUTS doesn’t tickle the same way say PANDA-NUTS would. Also, respect your elders. Someone in their 80’s probably prefers Dick over Cock, unless it’s BUNNY-COCK which is so deliciously absurd that I’m sure it gets a pass from the silver-haired crowd. Wait until you’ve used all the obvious ones before you get into BUTTERFLY-SCROTUM, and remember that it’s too many syllables to use for an actual photo.
If it didn’t gross you out, I hope this helps with your group photos going forward. Feel free to leave me your own creations in my comment section.