The photo is 14 years old.
I’m wearing a long black dress, shawl and long earrings. My mom is in an elegant black dress, with a long slit up the side and looking glamorous.
It’s the last time we posed together in a photo - just mother and daughter.
14 years ago.
If I want to extend the generation to include my mom’s mom…well, I can’t. I don’t have a photo of just the three of us.
Think about that. I was one of two granddaughters; my mom was the only daughter, and yet there are no photos of just the three of us. Not a one.
You know why? Because the three of us didn’t only stay out of photos, but ran every time someone pulled out a camera.
It started with my grandmother I’m sure. But mostly what I remember of my mom when I was growing up and we got a video camera, was her tearing out of the room (and I mean spinning her wheels to vacate the premises) every time the red light was flashing.
It was the quickest way to anger my mom, was to put her on camera.
I'll be the first to tell you that I think my mom is beautiful. With her dark brown eyes and infectious laugh and kind ways, she was mortified when I took up photography as a hobby in college.
She loathed posing for photos.
Tucking her chin, standing behind other people or just running away, she made every effort to stay away from the camera. But she's not alone.
Women stay out of photos all of the time.
A client brought this topic up to me two years ago, challenging me to recall the number of photos I had with my mom. Later that summer, as my brothers and I planned for the 70th birthday party for both of our folks, we were reminded of just how few photos our mother was in.
The gammut literally spanned from my little brother's first holy communion to his high school graduation. I mean you can't even make that up.
Because what happens when most women end up in photos?
We hate ourselves for it.
"Oh my goodness I am so fat."
"Is that what I really look like?"
"I am such a whale……."
And do you know what happens when we do that?
We deprive our loved ones of memories.
I don’t have any photos of me with just my grandmothers. Think about that.
I mean my niece and nephew easily have dozens of photos with my mom (and I'm glad).
But I have no photos of me with either of my grandmothers.
And I have very limited photos of me with my mom.
Maybe that’s harder these days, to stay out of photos. Because there are cameras everywhere we look, on phones, and iPads and well, just everywhere.
But I still see women refusing to be photographed.
We avoid mirrors, we avoid photos, we avoid reflections of ourselves - mostly based on our own individual body dysmorphia. And I don’t use that term lightly. It seems like most women have a certain perception of themselves that doesn’t always line up with reality.
And I’m no exception to this rule.
When I first joined Facebook, I didn't post any photos of myself. All I could think was that people from high school and college would look me up, anxious to pass judgment on me for my current appearance. I imagined people from my past judging me for all of the same flaws that I see everyday in the mirror.
Not once did I think of someone uttering a kindness about me.
Photos and videos are important because they jog our memories. I know my mom and grandmothers were around me a lot as a kid. I know they were at birthday parties and holidays. But knowing that is different than seeing a photo of me sitting on my Dad's lap and remembering that he blew out the candles out with me.
I don’t have kids. But I have a niece and nephew that I think are pretty awesome.
As they get older, I’d like them to have evidence that I got down on the floor and played with them. Or that I got in the pool in a sports bra and my brother's gym shorts because I didn't have a bathing suit but they wanted me to swim with them anyway.
Those are not flattering photos. But I genuinely hope that Ady and J.D., when looking at those photos, remember that Aunt Kimmie was up for anything.
I have some very unflattering pictures of myself with the two of them. I see the bad hair, the awful tan line, the sports bra from 1997 that I should probably throw out. But I hope when they look at those pictures years from now that they will remember that we had fun.
And they will not only remember, and wonder, but they will know that I was there.
Looking at photos of yourself without judgment is more than just hard; it is a life-long practice. But allowing yourself to get into pictures so that your family and friends and kids especially can think of you as the fun, loving, kind person that you are is worth the trade off.
Mother's Day is this weekend. People who love you will want to buy you dinner, buy you flowers, and take pictures with you.
So I implore you - get in those photos. Embrace those moments. You are loved. You are special. You are kind.
Though it is one of the hardest actions of all, let people love you. You are worthy. You are worthy of that love and appreciation.