Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Still life with double chin

In any group of people, I’m always the one who’s yodelling, ‘Look this way … Closer together … Left a bit down in the front there … That’s it … Now smile!’

While I’m aware that this relentless snap-happiness has irritated people from time to time, I’m the only person in a large, disparate and geographically far-flung group of friends with any sort of consistent photographic record of the last quarter of a century. So much so that recently, when Kevin, a friend I hadn’t seen for 22 years, turned up out of the blue with his wife, and I showed her pics of us all as very young adults, it was the first time she’d seen any photographs of him older than about 10 years. She laughed her head off. ‘You were so skinny!’ she said to her husband.

And indeed he was – as were we all. No matter how bizarrely posed or outlandishly dressed (and the ones from the ’80s are simply a series of fashion disasters), we all radiated the slightly bony beauty of youth.

I’ve always loved taking in my pics to be developed. Back before the miracle of one-hour photo-booths, this involved handing in your film at a chemist (usually), filling in a series of forms and waiting a week. By the time the pics came back you’d more or less forgotten what you’d taken, so going through them meant reliving little adventures. It was such fun.

(I don’t do digital. I did have a digital camera, but first it got broken when I accidentally dropped it and it cost me a small fortune to have repaired; then I lost it. I am just not organised – or, apparently, careful – enough to own an expensive piece of mobile equipment. I am, rather, a big fan of the throwaway camera. It’s cheap, it takes great snaps, and if it gets lost or broken it’s no biggie. It has been pointed out to me, however, that throwaway cameras aren’t eco-friendly; I’m still wrestling my conscience on that one.)

So it was with the usual excited anticipation that I took in my throwaway camera yesterday to have the pics developed. And while all of them were truly fabulous – there were my friends and family dancing their socks off at a Christmas Day party, paddling down the river over new year, and chatting across the table at my record-breaking lunch – I was a bit puzzled by the occasional appearance in some of the pics of a woman who was vaguely familiar to me. Who is that large woman with the double chin? I wondered to myself.

It will probably come as no surprise to you to learn that it was me. Because I’m usually the person wielding the camera, I seldom appear in my own pics, but it seems that at some stage during my record-breaking lunch someone else got hold of the Kodak and snapped off a few spontaneous shots, including a couple with me in them.

I looked at these pics for a long time. How, I wondered, had I turned from the sylph-like young woman I feel I so recently was, into this middle-aged person with overly generous upper arms, plump knees, big boobs and two chins?

Then I remembered what Kevin’s wife had said to him – ‘You were so skinny!’ – and I looked again at the recent pics of him. Sure, he too isn’t any longer the gorgeous youth he once was, but in the filled-out features of his face I could still see the Kevin I once knew. In fact, the laugh lines, thinning hair, crow’s feet and other signs of age lent him a gravitas I rather liked – and, more interestingly for me, mirrored my own changing appearance.

And I realised that growing old per se isn’t the issue. It’s growing old with friends that’s important.

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1 comment:

angel said...

i also take pictures constantly!
and once in a blue moon i'm in them...