Last week’s NewYork Times had an article about the legions of school photographers offering retouching of school pictures on their order forms. Of course, I knew just what they were talking about because I checked the box next to “Retouching, $7.00” on my kindergartener’s picture order form. Maybe it was $9, I can’t remember, but before you judge me (as my own sister immediately did), let me explain.
The example shown on the order form showed a teenager with unfortunate acne. The retouched version showed said teenager with pristine skin. I thought back to a high school friend with horrible skin and I thought, what a great idea – money well spent. Let me be clear: my son is adorable, you would agree with me without doubt. He is also a lip licker or sucker or whatever it is that he does with his tongue and spit — invariably any time one would want him to look particularly cute, he has licked or sucked the side of his mouth until he has a giant red clown smile. All the Aquaphor in the world can’t fix it. So for $7, rather than worry about whether or not Jake had a “licking episode” the day before Picture Day, I only had to hope that he smiled and remembered to put his sweater back on before the picture. (Last year he removed his sweater and so my son, the little boy with the whitest skin and whitest hair in the whole school had his school picture taken in an almost white turtleneck: if not for his blue eyes, you wouldn’t even know that he was in the picture.)
Phew, another problem solved , I thought to myself. His pictures finally came and I eagerly pulled them from his backpack, ready to quickly cut them up and send them off to family members across the country. At first glance, they’re perfect. Then I saw the big one (the big photo, definitely not the picture; this is definitely not a big picture issue): what is easily missed in the wallet size photo is glaringly apparent in the 8×10 — Jake has “crazy eyes” in the picture — like a wild horse, perhaps. Or like the photographer is doing something so horrific that my young son can’t quite fathom it — intrigued and repulsed at the same time.
I quickly emailed my sister the picture for an opinion and she agrees, crazy eyes. I muse aloud about having the pictures retaken on retake day, in another week. She quickly points out that “we aren’t retake people. I mean, really, ” she continued, “I never had retakes, you never had retakes and none of my kids (she has 3) have ever had retakes.” In order to reinforce her point, she quickly emails me her 16-year old son’s kindergarten picture: he defined “deer in headlights.” So, two boy cousins, both in kindergarten 11 years apart, with school pictures not bound for the cover of a magazine — it must be a 5-year old thing. I have already mailed them to the grandparents and I can hardly wait to see his picture when he’s 6.