As a kid, I couldn't smile in photographs. I could laugh, and I was happy most of the time, but my mom would get behind the lens and I'd lose the feeling in my mouth. "Smile!" she'd say, and I'd stretch my lips, squint and clench my teeth. This would reignite the continual argument between my mom and I. "That's not a smile!" she'd say, and I'd get defensive. We'd get frustrated, me for my facial failings and my mom for wasting film. Thankfully, as my siblings filled out the ranks of my family, the pressure was more evenly distributed. Georgi is her own harshest critic in photographs, and Miles laughs in each shot, his face manic. For my mom, each additional child in the frame made the difficulty of capturing unanimous smiles exponentially more difficult.
I got better with age. Unlike many, I was proud of my braces and beamed in the school pictures. In middle and high school, my circle of friends didn't carry many cameras between them, so photos were sort of a special occasion for me. As my mouth shaped up in still life, my eyes got sloppy - I alternated between a bug-eyed, "crazed killer" grin and a half-lidded, "substance abuse" smirk.
For a while in college, I took a stand against silly faces. Maybe it was prematurely curmudgeonly of me, but I couldn't imagine looking back and being happier with crossed eyes than a real smile.
I'm finally getting comfortable with smiling naturally in photos. Now, if I could only do something about my hair...