Monday, July 9, 2012

Ugly Duckling

The Pictures that DIDN'T make FB

I’m a sometimes model.  If you’re a friend on Facebook, you’ve maybe seen some of the photos like the ones at the bottom.  I like modeling.  I like wearing pretty clothes and getting my hairs did. But mostly, I like having pictures that I’m not afraid will scar my children.

While these photos are nice, they aren’t exactly representative of my life.  Actually, NOBODY’s FB photos are an accurate representation of their life, which is why studies have shown that the longer someone spends on facebook, the worse they feel about themselves.   I thought about this while finishing up my bike ride this weekend with a fluorescent red face. This was not  facebook-worthy.  You know what we miss out on by editing these juicy details from our timeline? The ability to laugh at ourselves, connect with other people over the painful reality of life, and the ability to move on and get over ourselves.

The best guarantee to maintaining surface-level relationships is never admitting our imperfections, the chinks in our armor, and the things we are most ashamed or embarrassed about. We are all goof-ups. My dirt is just as bad as yours. If you want to talk about it sometime, let’s get coffee. I bet I could learn a lot from you, and maybe spare you some pain by sharing my own mistakes. Mostly, we just want to know each other (all parts of each other), and be known wholly in return. This is what we miss out on when we hide our indignity.

Absent from the internet are pictures during my “growing painfully” years.  You know. The ones you shriek over when your mom inevitably lets utter strangers paw through the photo albums. “Don’t judge me!”, you think. “I’m not that skinny/fat/ugly/blotchy/red/desperate/awkward anymore!”  These are the photos that mysteriously go missing after you realize it’s a parental sifting strategy for future husbands. Looking through my ‘memory book’ is a little like watching the horrifying Michael Jackson aging videos.

We did not have a touching slideshow with Taylor Swift singing softly in the background at our wedding. Partly because my Dad thinks those things are egocentric, and partly because…well, if we selected good pictures from my childhood, my portion of the video would be about three seconds long (David would fare better).

It’s my personal belief that it’s a mom’s job to make sure they’re child goes through a healthy awkward stage. This is when we learn that we are not God’s gift to mankind. That there are other people much better than us out there, but we still have to do our best anyway (Parents: this is something to prepare your children for, NOT protect them from!). That brains and personality are just as important and valuable as knowing how to do your hair. Deep down, we all still feel like an awkward turtle sometimes.




without this:

is NOT the full story.

When I graduated High School, my mom went through and tried to pull out some of the best pictures from each year. Bless her heart, some of the raw material just wasn’t there, which is why this picture was picked for a full-page spread for seventh grade. Yes. That's me. As a drowned rat.

I could tell you about how I completely forgot it was picture day, and had to be at school extra early, but the reality of it is... I had to be at school early every day. So, it seems I rocked this  'look' every. day.

Below is Dr. Phil with his two friends, troubled teen "Shank", and her boozy mother. This was for Dr. Phil's expose on the secret life of teens on this side of the Mississippi. Shank was whipped into shape by a Correctional Officer, who was also played by the boozy mother. Somehow, this was all related to English class, though I don't remember the connection.

Triangle Head plays in the snow with Indiana Jones' girlfriend and a small boy.

The period from 4th grade through 6th grade include many pictures of me wearing what I thought were super-cool wide-leg pants, with a high waist. Here is a picture of me wearing such pants, with my fang bangs and a man sweater. I sometimes joke that I am actually a 12 year old boy. This picture just proves it.


 Although the two pictures (above and to the left) aren't necessarily terrible, I think they reveal how I have been an awkward turtle from a very small age. Friendly and happy...and frizzy and goofy.

'Wacky Day' always was an excuse to let my freak-flag fly. I had help from my mom, which is just further evidence that she was really trying to just help me become a well-adjusted adult.

My mom had pity on me in fifth grade and made sure I had at least a few pictures that were presentable during this particularly awful multi-year period. Too bad my face is totally obscured by 'dappled lighting'.

By the picture below I had finally figured out how to take a decent picture. Read below. That's my gorgeous sister, and handsome brother. 

Now, listen.  This post isn't supposed to be "rah rah! Grow up and be something better!" It's supposed to be: stop pretending like the bad parts don't belong to you. Because they do.  I am flabbergasted when people act like their 'poo don't smell'. Listen, we've all been there. We've all felt uncomfortable with who we are or were. Those parts? Those everyone can relate to. When we don't admit this to other people, or even to ourselves, we miss out on growth (individually and collectively).  Open up that can of worms. Learn something from other people because you were big enough to admit you weren't and aren't perfect. People are more receptive when you humbly admit your gaping flaws first.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t learn a trick or two about taking a good picture, though.

Tips on taking a good/better picture:

1. Don’t clench your teeth. Natural smiles don’t involve teeth touching anywhere in your mouth. Avoid the “I’m a wooden dummy” look. If you can’t perfect a non-clenched toothy smile, smile with your mouth closed. A friend of mine always smiles like this, and I’ve never seen a bad picture of her. If your mouth starts feeling fake blow a raspberry and try again.

2. Larger people should be the farthest from the camera. I’m always appalled when a group of people take a picture and thoughtlessly put the largest person up front. Suuure, you think. But I don’t want to be the largest person in the picture either! Consider this: you’re taking one for the team here. If you’re reading this list, you already have a leg up on everyone else in the picture. 

3. Women are more attractive with their faces slightly pointed down. Don’t put your face so far down you are screwing your eyeballs up at the camera. The tiniest tilt is what you’re looking for. Too far down is just as bad as not at all.

4. The most commonly known piece of advice: put one leg in front of the other to give your lower body a more slimming, curvy profile still applies. However, schluffing your chin to your neck, and not being conscientious of your weird hand positions also ruins pictures.

5. Stop. Leaning. In. When people take pictures in a group larger than two, they always feel the need to lean in. Stop it. The people on the outside always look like they are sticking out their butts, or (worse!) their head is further from the camera than their butt, their chin is shoved into their neck, and the angle is shot from slightly below. This almost guarantees that the people on the outside are going to look really bad.

6. Don’t make faces. Don’t put your hand up. Just stop. I know you hate taking pictures, and being silly seems like the lesser of the two evils, but you’re still going to look unattractive later, and in thirty years, you’ll be wondering why you felt it was necessary to ruin every potentially good picture.

7. Practice makes perfect. What do you think the chances of having a good photo of yourself or your family are if you only take three photos every six months? Lots of pictures means lots of potential for you to find one you are satisfied with.

8. Ladies: learn how to do your hair. I know not everyone has a cosmetologist friend, a mom who knows how to do hair, and sometimes seem daft in the hand-eye-coordination department, but here is the honest truth, my friends: bad hair means a bad look.  Not everyone is going to be able to sculpt wedding-ready hair, but we can all learn how to add body, volume, and shape.  The internet has a ton of great tutorials, videos, and other resources. Great hair really levels the playing field.

9. Stop being so hard on yourself. Even if the picture is awful and embarrassing, now is not forever, and when your acne clears up, you put on or lose weight, or your haircut grows out, this picture will serve as a reminder of where you came from.  I know we always want to ‘edit’ these details out, but sharing these details with others makes you more human and relatable.


So there you have it.  All my ammo out on the table.

-KM Kristen Mrdjanov


  1. Your photo comments were hysterical. Well done.

  2. Kristen, this post reminds me of a conversation or two at the apt on LaSalle. ...I remember those short conversations with fondness, and I wish we could have one or two more in the future. - Your transparency and willingness to share some of your own growth in regards to self-conciousness in some of the little ways of looking at onesself was so very encouraging. I often want to go back to that summer and re-live it, in large part because of the relationships from that apartment. :) - Cristy

    1. Cristy-
      I loved that apartment. I loved being smashed in there with a bunch of girls who loved each other and loved life... I so wish I had gotten to stay longer. So many memories of stepping over bodies to get to the kitchen, of chats with you...Alias, scones, just...awesome life. What a gift that summer was.


Yes! Thanks for the love!

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