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Photo Friendly

Have I told you about why my blog is called better in real life? I’m sure I have at some point. Maybe even on this post (but I’m too lazy to go back and read it right now… I’m head-achy and grumpy that I have to go to work in the morning). Well, if I haven’t here’s the breakdown:

I feel like I look bomb dot com in my head. Not all of the time, but most of the time I think I’m doing pretty good. I am also, simultaneously, incredibly hard on myself. I struggle with self image, self hate, with an insatiable need to be better, more improved. But, in general, I think I leave the house looking pretty fly. But! I don’t think this translates to photos. It never has translated to photos. I think I’m rockin’ it, and then I see a picture and part of me is crushed. The shirt isn’t falling correctly, my hair is weirdly poofy on one side, I have a double chin, my shoulders are slouched, my pants are cutting in too tight, and how did I ever think those shoes were “edgy”?? But when I look in the mirror, or catch a reflection from a store window I still think I’m doing ok. So, it turns out, I must just be better in real life. And this blog is betting that you probably are too. Or maybe you’re worse… but definitely more honest.

This brings me to this weekend. This weekend the weather exploded into awesomeness. It was 85 degrees in my neighborhood on Saturday. Clear blue skies, butterflies, birds singing, all the windows open, heaven on earth, the whole bit. And of course, my body hasn’t seen the light of day since our honeymoon over 9 months ago. So ya know… I was freaking Edward up in here. But the sun was amazing and I didn’t really care – except I did.

I have always been anxious and uncomfortable with how white I am. It’s embarrassing to have people tell you you glow, or have boys tell you they won’t date you because you’re too white (yes, in early high school this happened), or be the one constantly worrying about applying sunscreen religiously so I don’t burst into flames. And also – I hate shorts. I hate them. But sometimes shorts are necessary for outdoor activities that require movement and possible sweating. I’ve reconciled this fact. But I don’t have to like it.

Ok, I’ve gone slightly off topic. The weekend’s weather was AMAZING. And I wanted to go explore a pretty sweet park that was near-ish the airport so we could watch the planes land and play frisbee. Also on this day I felt ridiculously bloated. I hate that feeling, and I hate shorts, and I hate being so effing white. Here is a cute photo of me before we left the house:

Here is something else I need to admit to: We haven’t been working out as regularly as I had been or want to be. The last month has been one event after another and I pretty much only had time to catch a flight, come home, go to work, come home, and sometimes sleep. So, on Saturday I was bloated, white, in shorts, and blessed with an internal monologue telling me that I wouldn’t feel so bloated if I had worked out more the week before, hadn’t had pizza the night before, and were just a better, more disciplined person overall. Because, duh, I’m lazy and disappointing. (Yay monologue!)

The park was perfect. It was hot out, I was playing catch and throwing some sweet throws and catching some sweet catches. Kamel and I were running around outside and really could have stayed there playing all day. It was our first weekend together at home in a month or more and it was glorious!

Until Kamel wanted to take a cool picture of me throwing the disc for Instagram. It may seem because of this blog that I want to document my whole life, but it’s not really true. I married a photographer so I often have to say, “No, please don’t photograph this.” Sometimes I just want to enjoy the moment and having photos of it takes me out of the fun. Not only does it mean I need to be aware of being “publicly presentable” but it also kicks in my major self-awareness (self critique). I wish it didn’t, but it’s one of those human things that happen.

So, Kamel took several pictures… and this is one of them:

Here is what I see:

  • gross whitey-whiterson skin
  • a gut hanging over my shorts
  • un-toned lumps of thighs
  • there is something about my elbow that I hate
  • I’m making a weird face

Here is what Kamel saw:

  • his wife throwing a frisbee
  • amazing legs
  • olympic-like pose
  • focus and determination

This picture ruined a portion of my day. And that is stupid. In my mind I was kind of a bad ass. I was playing in the sun, being athletic, not feeling out of shape at all, and I was having SO MUCH FUN. But when I saw this photo (and a few others that Kamel shot) I was immediately ashamed of myself, immediately angry that he had taken the photo at all, immediately wanted to go home.

And we did go home. And I cried. And that really sucks. And I wish that I didn’t have that reaction. So here it is, here is the photo that stopped frisbee play for a few hours. Here is me, thinking I’m totally awesome in that moment, and then a few moments later being crushed by a stupid cell phone photo. I’m trying really hard not to care. I recognize that caring so much is irrational and that this was a moment of motion and that I’m a real person and not an airbrushed model. And that, no matter what photos are out there I really am better in real life.

32 Comments

  1. I’m with Kamel on this one. Just LOOK at that olympic-like pose! Haha. Seriously, though. No one looks in photos like they look in real life- not really. And you look super cute.

    Also, I suffer from the glow-in-the-dark pale skin as well, so I understand. But I do think it’s REALLY not as big of a deal as it feels like to us. (Although… someone actually said they wouldn’t date you because you were ‘too white’?? What a douche.)

  2. Hey, whities unite! I used to care, and still kind of do, but now I just try to think about how in the Victorian era paleness was IN. And it makes us unique nowadays! AND we’ll have the last laugh when all those lame fake-n-bakers get skin cancer someday!

  3. Mmmm well if it is any consolation when I was 14 or something a boy said he would not date me because I was flatter than the door…
    Just this weekend we were talking about how I am just not good on photos… specially when looking at picture perfect other persons haha, but I think it is all subjective.
    Also, the pic looks like you are having fun. And running, playing frisbee on a sunny day in the park is the best ! The boy used to play frisbee in a team and funny enough we randomly met some of the people he used to play with at a field by her grandma’s place yesterday…synchronicity

  4. When I was 12 a boy told me I would be pretty if I weren’t so tall. Which sucked for years, until I realized tall was hot, and I didn’t have to be insecure just because boys were. I like this post because I like how brutally honest it is. And maybe taking the time to acknowledge how you feel is one step toward being able to play frisbee all day, even if photos are happening?

    • This is exactly it. Even as lovely as you all have been, it’s really about having the courage to post a photo I hate and say “this is me, playing frisbee, in the sunshine, and I was having a really good time.” Regardless of how I pick and pick at myself.

  5. I looked at the picture before I read your commentary below and I thought “Dude, she must be a professional Frisbee-er, with that pose and all.”

    and then I thought

    “I would like to look that good in shorts.”

    after which I thought

    “Pah, even if you looked as good in shorts, you wouldn’t have the guts to wear them. You should figure out how she gets so self-confident and learn from it.”

    and then I read the rest of your post and wanted to hug you. I’m sure you are better in real life. But on your blog you are also kickass. I know that because I’ve been following you for a few months now. Also, I’ll ride my spinning bike tonight and think of you. Onwards to shorts and more self-confidence!

    • You saying this BOGGLES ME. I’m admitting that I’m boggled. But I really appreciate your thoughts. I used to love that show “How to look good naked” that dealt with all the crazy shit that people thought about themselves and how we viewed ourselves as SO MUCH WORSE Than we actually are. I just don’t know how to shake it except to admit to it every time it happens, and then carry on anyway.

  6. Well, it’s just human to care, and it sucks when it feels like you’re just hurting yourself over and over with those stupid things. I feel for you.
    But know that you’ve got at least one thing right: it’s wonderful to be convinced that, at least, you’re better in real life!

  7. This is the post you were anxious about? Sadface! This is a good post! I have a ton of these insecurities (internal critique) as well. I’m super white and I’ve never been able to tan, so I identify with those problems VERY WELL. I used to joke I was born in the wrong century (my blue veins visible through my pale skin would be the height of beauty in a former time). And I know what you mean about shorts. Skorts are the way to go, my friend. Especially the type found in those outdoorsy stores. They’re the bomb.

    Frankly, if you’re actually better in real life, I don’t know how Kamel stands the awesome. You’re fantastic here.

  8. When I was in middle school (aka the most awkward phase of all awkward phases ever), one of my teachers (who was well-meaning, but came across as rather creepy) said to me, “You’re a pretty girl, but you just never take a good photo.”

    Talk about crushing! Everyone has that internal monologue, but to hear someone else say it is rough! But true, haha. I am notoriously unphotogenic. I like to remind myself that in real life, we’re moving and talking and smiling and laughing, and most of the time, that is extremely hard to freezeframe and NOT have people look like buffoons.

    You look amazing in that photo — athletic, energetic, and like you’re having a great time — and I am totally jealous of your outside time this weekend!

    • One time in 6th grade we were all hanging around during a free moment where we were picking up the room, or it was just after lunch or something… and my teacher (a woman) was talking about something or other and mentioned how my friend had amazing lips, and how another had amazing skin. Just compliments, totally benign and probably fabulous for those girls to hear during an age of awkwardness. But she she didn’t say ANYTHING about me. And probably not on purpose, but it stayed with me for years. For YEARS her absence of recognizing any notable feature on me had me convinced (And still kind of does) that I don’t have awesome lips. Because if she didn’t notice them, then they must be bad, right?

      Ugh. It’s so infuriating the comments that stick to you like glue (or the lack of comments) and creep along next to you all the way into adulthood.

  9. Pictures can be so hard. Sometimes I think I’m so pretty and sometimes I think ugh. WTF? Where did that fat/frizz/etc come from?

    I think the key is to try and see ourselves as our friends (maybe specifically partners) see us. I hate how my legs look in non athletic shorts. Athletic shorts were made for people with legs like mine. Any other shorts? I look like I have trees coming out of the fabric. Forrest swears to me that this isn’t true. Apparently I’m going to have to listen…and then believe?

    Speaking of being white: I went over to Eastern Washington to go climbing this weekend. It was 80 degrees so there I was white as white could be (I never even got tan last summer so I’m PASTY, so white people I had just met were calling me “Whitey”) slathering on sunscreen so I wouldn’t get burned but hopefully end up with just a touch of color (success!).

  10. I want to “exactly” all of the earlier commenters. It’s amazing how self-destructive the inner dialogue is that many of us have, particularly in regards to our appearances. I hate the glimpses I’ll see of myself in a mirror or an unplanned picture.
    The thing is, no one else is close to as critical as you are (or I am) about how we look. Maybe I’m projecting too broadly, but I think that we each have our points of obsession about our looks – your whiteness, how toned you wish you were, etc and for me my height (I think I’m normal until I see myself next to people in images), my skin, my grin, the way my back looks from the side. And we obsess over those things until they are the only things we see.
    But no one else is looking with that close a microscope at you – they’re turning that microscope on their things (the shape of their eyes, the length of their legs, whatever) – so they only see their things, not yours. Unless they are blessed with extreme self-confidence, in which case, they don’t have bad things in their own images.

    In any case, I think what Kamal said about what he sees in the picture of you is more universal than you think – I think people see in a picture is what they like and admire about the subjects. So I agree with Kamal – you are strong and focused and athletic. and I know I don’t know you as well as he does, but you look totally sexy to me. I see strong legs and an active pose, which results in funny elbow angles and a stomach clenched as you deliver the frisbee to its target.

    I hope this helps, but I know how hard it is to reframe the dialogue. Instead of seeing only the things you dislike about the image, are there things you like? Can you try to focus on those?

  11. I know what you mean about looking way better for real than in photos. I am so unphotogenic most of the time it hurts.

    It’s actually one of the reasons that I am not a fan of digital cameras. I’m all over actual film, but digital pics? Not so much. It almost encourages us to instantly critique how we appear on screen with no time for reflection, and I feel like getting the results so soon isn’t really helpful. As you say, it takes us out of the moment.

    What I love about film is that there’s that delay between the picture being taken and enjoying the moment and the time when we actually get to see it that it to some extent negates that effect. I mean, I still look like sh*t in at least half the photos, but I haven’t been pulled out of the moment to notice how stupid I looked in the photo.

    • “it almost encourages us to instantly critique how we appear on screen”

      Yes! Sometimes it’s awesome, because you can realize immediately that you accidentally, e.g. lopped off someone’s head, or so-and-so was blinking vs. waiting to have the film developed and then there’s nothing you can do about the lost moment. But sometimes it just ruins the moment: “Lemme see how it turned out!” “Oh, I hate it, take another.” Ad infinitum. And suddenly you’ve forgotten what the moment was even about in the first place and you’re just playing Top Model.

      I’ve actually been trying really hard lately NOT to ask to see how I look when someone takes a digital pic… it’s surprisingly hard, though.

  12. “and were just a better, more disciplined person overall. Because, duh, I’m lazy and disappointing.”

    That sounds uncomfortably familiar. :P

    It’s amazing how quickly a bad photo can ruin a good mood, a good outfit, hair day, whatever. I try to remind myself it’s not a full representation of “real life,” that it can often make things look worse, i.e. it’s NOT the one-and-only-truth. I think it’s sweet that you let Kamel take your picture anyway; I didn’t marry a photographer, but I have a hard enough time with the rare shots I take myself or that friends insist on snapping.

  13. TOTALLY hear you. I hate photos of me. Which is why whenever one IS taken of me, I’m usually making a funny face. On purpose. Because then, you know, at least I *intentionally* ruined the picture.

    But that photo of you? Girl, if I could throw a frisbee that well, I’d be over the moon. And your legs look frickin AWESOME.

  14. You’re the greatest. I know exactly what you’re saying about the photo – I can’t look at a single one of myself and not make some sort of critique – but Kamel’s right, you look awesome. And this whole entry makes you look even better, because what’s more brave than sharing a part of yourself you don’t love with the whole world? Here’s hoping that next time, the picture won’t ruin the afternoon. Or, that he won’t show you it until you’re home.

    I sometimes worry that on my blog, I’m much better than I am in real life, because it’s so much easier not to write about all the real-life crap. On the blog, I can pretend that I spend all my time writing poems and making peanut butter and living in a gorgeous apartment. In real life, I am mostly crying over laundry, accidentally stepping in urine on the way home, and then collapsing into bed before anything gets done.

  15. I agree with Kamel. You look great.

  16. Just showed this to Mark and the first thing he said before reading it at all was : “wow she looks professional and all ” :)

  17. I’ll take authenticity over airbrushed, any day.

  18. I react like this to photos of me as well, and its something I was really scared of happening with the wedding photos- I think I was helped by 1) being thrilled with the day and 2) sheer luck. I have photos on facebook from a tough hike up a mountain (not a very big one, I forgot how high now) with a friend- I’m sweaty and red-faced, my hair’s a mess, I’m wearing a crappy sleeveless undershirt and my glasses and every time I look at them I still have a moment of “Crap why is that picture on the internet” before I remember “That was awesome. I need to remember that I did that.”
    I think the pause that film gives you helps a lot (on the mountain adventure, i was too tired to want to look at the screen and judge my photo, so I didn’t have the freak-out moment that would have happened (even though I knew I probably looked gross at that point, I always hope I turned into Wonder Woman when I wasn’t paying attention))

  19. I hate photos of myself in general. I have quite a wide face, and have many pictures of me and others where I look like my head is a good half meter closer to the camera than theirs.
    Lesson: When shooting Mark (who has a very angular face) and myself, I now tend to park myself behind him and shoot over our combined shoulders. Much prettier shot of us, and my face is also at better angles :)

    My other big problem is I have a huge chest. Well. Its several sizes smaller than it was at its biggest, but its still quite large. I’ll wear something and think “yeah, I look ok in that” and then see a photo and realise how frikin huge I look. See for example http://www.flickr.com/photos/lesmillswellington/6939910999/ (admittedly, its a team t-shirt, but I really did not think I looked that large in it until I saw the photo).

    Plus my face does funny things sometimes. I’m well aware of it and have some really ugly photos of me reacting to things, and so on our wedding day, I took care to not let my eyebrows get out of control, and in return, I have no emotion in most of our photos! Gah, you just cant win! Its also really hard when I have a pair of cousins who always look good in photos, even when they are really drunk and pulling stupid faces, plus my brother is just gorgeous in photos. We used to joke that I got the academic smarts and he got the life smarts and looks. He definitely got the better end of the bargain!

    To me, your photos are nice. You look healthy, and yes a little pale, but its the time of year! You look like you are having fun as well, which is key.

  20. OH! This is a large chunk of my life. I fully relate. Hitchdied.com has a great post about how you just need to go out with people and take a ton of pictures, and get used to seeing yourself (like listening to recordings of your voice) and figure out what angles/poses work best. That’s awesome advice, and someday maybe I’ll get gutsy enough to follow it.
    Someone said that their reaction was how cute you look in the shorts and how they wished they had the confidence to wear something like that, and I’m right there with them. I have a ton of capri length things for just that reason.
    PS your calves are AWESOME.

  21. We’re always so much harder on ourselves than others are. I’m hard on myself too, but I try to remind this.

  22. i adore the honesty of this post. and i definitely feel the same way you do about pictures of myself! it’s especially frustrating because my fiance always looks amazing in real life and in photos! oh well. i think that we could both cut ourselves some slack and keep trying to make progress with our issues every day! thank you for sharing, lauren!!

  23. Oh, yeah, this is me. Just “exactly” to everything in this post. I always WANT to take pictures because I’m having fun or I think my outfit is cute and then I see the pictures and I’m like “ohh, I guess I am NOT having as much fun or looking as cute as I thought.” As if pictures are capturing some greater truth than living in actual reality. I kind of wonder if facebook has made us this way, since you know that EVERYONE YOU KNOW is likely going to see every photo of you, so we become way more self-conscious about all of them? I think it’s done that to me, anyway.

    Like francine, I love how honest this post is.

  24. I’m late to this party, but I just wanted to say thank you for the honest post, and I can relate to all of it! I wish I didn’t have those voices in my head. Good for you for posting the pic (which to my eyes is lovely).

  25. So, I’m horribly late with this, but I completely get the glowing white skin. I was recently showing wedding pictures to friends who hadn’t been able to make it. My dress was short, below knee/mid calf length, the wedding was in October, so you might assume I’d spent time outside during the summer getting some color, but I also hate shorts. And I worked inside in a lab where long pants were required. Anyway, I mentioned how white I thought my legs looked and my friend said she thought that had been my pantyhose. So, yeah…

  26. Your blog posts have started to become very thoughtful. I’m really enjoying them.

  27. You are the voice of the “irrational” feelings of so many women. We appreciate your candidness! I know I feel this way all the time, too. My belly is being squeezed by my tight jeans, so I wear a loose shirt and then I look like like I have chicken legs. I’m embarrassingly pale and avoid wearing short sleeves until I can get a little sun, but it’s starting to get hot here in NYC! We all go through these feelings all the time, but we just can’t always share them with others, so I know I appreciate that you are open about them! Go Lauren!

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Who the hell is she?


Lauren

I am a writer living in Seattle and I believe that life is a grand adventure and only boring if you believe it to be. Plus! You don't need money to have fun.

I live with my husband, a photographer by education and a maker-of-video-games by trade, and a baby named gabe in an apartment on the hill.

I am romantic about most things and I cry... about almost anything. I tell stories to entertain you, I spread stories to keep you in the loop. I am not a grammar freak, but I do know how to spell it. I am exceedingly proud of my scrambled eggs and I really could eat an entire pan of cupcakes. If I met me, I would be my best friend. I tend to be irreverent.

If you would like to chat with me or see what else I'm up to you can follow me on Twitter (betterinrealife), on facebook, or email me at betterinrealife at gmail.


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