3… 2… 1… Say cheese!
No. Just take the picture. No countdowns, no orders. My best photos are the ones that were taken out of nowhere, shot by a professional sniper. Either be tactical or I won’t look at the picture afterwards, or I’ll pretend to look at it while inspecting your fingernails or analysing the pattern on the wallpaper. Because that face isn’t my normal face.
Whenever someone gets a camera out and messes around with it, I become conscious of my face. Let’s make this a good one, I think and then my face leaps out of my control, becomes its own entity. The spasms take over and I end up fighting them down as if trying to iron out a tent in a storm. Sometimes my face impersonates Popeye, sometimes it settles on a wink, sometimes it screws up like a hedgehog. Most often it’s all three. All it had to do was act natural.
I’m fine with it up to a point: I’m impersonating Jim Carrey impersonating every one of his characters at once. But turning into The Mask can have its frustrations. I live in dread of passport photos, for example. Somehow I entered a zen place for the last one and discovered that I look like a badass on a revenge mission when I don’t smile. For my first passport, however, I was taken to one of those photo-booths you find in the middle of a supermarket.
It’s a porterloo with a square-inch of curtain and a stool. First off I hate stools. Anyone who claims to have ever been comfortable sitting on a stool is a liar. With my legs dangling in the air and my body wriggling I may as well be preparing to jump headfirst off a roof, there’s that much adrenaline. So even if I can keep my face loose and natural it will be a face of fear, and you’re not allowed to show fear in a passport photo are you? In fact you’re not supposed to show any emotion whatsoever. It’s all written on the photo-booth screen: keep your head still, DON’T smile, DON’T laugh, DON’T gurn, keep your head still. don’t do anything that might suggest you’re human. Then it says: You have four chances. Just four chances? Shit, I’d better get this right…
3, 2, 1, click. Damn, I smiled. 3, 2, 1, and I laughed. 3, 2, BANG BANG BANG as I shoot the machine into a million pieces.
The other situation I’d rather avoid is that moment when somebody cooks something special for you, and they give you it and await your opinion. Except they don’t wait for your opinion, do they? They sit there and examine each inch of your face to see if they can beat you to an answer, because I guess the average face can’t lie. Inevitably they’ll start asking me what’s wrong.
‘Well it’s obvious you don’t like it.’
‘I like it. Give me some more.’
Then they feed me more and my face is ten times worse. It’s like being back in the photo-booth; once you mess up that first shot it’s hard to regain control. This time when I secure a mouthful I turn my head away and go, Mmmm, oh god yeah.
‘You turned away. You don’t like it.’
Cerebral palsy can be a funny old thing, but it teaches you a lot about patience and self-acceptance. Another reason why I may be better off single: weddings.
‘Taste this trifle I made especially for your day…’
And then there’s those expensive, all-important photos that you know you’ll be looking back at when you’re 80. Fuck that, I’ll stick to gurning at funerals thank you very much.