So I Have This Unsympathetic Daughter…

I might have been complaining yesterday about how limited my life has become with broken ribs, to the point Molly had enough.

“What can’t you do now?” she demanded. “What?”

To tell the truth, I had to think before I could reply. I’ve improved a great deal. I no longer flinch and scream when people draw near, which is handy when you’re out about in the mall. I can drive if I don’t have to back up very often. Yesterday I managed 24 hours without any pain meds whatsoever. So it took a few moments, but eventually, I settled on an obvious choice:

“Push-ups. I was mere months away from doing  one-armed push-ups. Now this is all I can manage.”

I put my palm on the table and flexed my fingers, making the universal childhood motion for a five-legged spider’s calisthenics.

Molly might have rolled her eyes.

But I’m proud of her. In tones displaying her two years of nursing-school experience, she challenged me to view my life through a different lens. Didn’t I have a fresh appreciation for my  mortality? Didn’t I have a sense of a ticking clock? I could use this to seize the day and plow through the fears that held me back from being my best Jan. Carpe the diem, and all that. Done right, all who have known me before and after The Great Crunch would marvel at my transformation.

She’s good, you know? Inspiring. As she spoke, I could see a vast future unspooling before me. There would be the speaking engagements, and a regular spot on CNN. Then the book deals. They’d call me the female Tony Robbins and I’d stride around on a stage, pumping up millions of people in my slim and vigorous body.

I’d forgo the power suit, of course, because wool makes me itch, and the signet ring wouldn’t work, because I’ve never got the hang of jewelry. (In any case I’d prefer something less chunky.) Then, too, I’d have to hire extra security to keep people off my deck, lest they seek to achieve their own skeletal damage at the wellspring of my change, but the advantages were compelling.

What were mere push-ups compared to these?

That got me thinking about getting a new avatar, to demonstrate my intent. Armed with my iPhone and Instagram, I had fun taking these:

Jan O'Hara

Not bad, huh? At least I thought they were okay until Molly saw them. I’m informed she likes my eyes, but I look pissed-off in all of them. This, in spite of the fact I used every trick I know to relax in front of the camera: laughing uproariously seconds before I took the shot, curling my toes in my shoes, which supposedly recreates the same chemical reaction in the toe-curler as when in the throes of an orgasm. (Apparently I’m using the wrong shoes.)

I must have betrayed my dismay, because Molly said, “Don’t worry, Mom. I look like that too. It has to be genetic.”

Now she’s got me wondering. All those years in family medicine—all those times I was in a compassionate space, when I thought I wore an expression that invited confidences—all those times I thought I was signalling an implicit “trust me” to my patients, were they reading it as “fuck you”?

What are your tricks for obtaining good photos? 

26 thoughts on “So I Have This Unsympathetic Daughter…

  1. My shoes work fine! Though it’s still not quite as good as that other thing.

    Glad to read all is improving, notwithstanding the lack of pushups.

  2. Some peeps I know swear by looking down and then up at the camera right when it clicks. I’ve never tried it, but you can! 🙂

    1. I think you’re onto something, Liz. My best photos are me with my family, my absolute best where both kids are leaning in to plant a wet one on each cheek. I’ve tried to crop it to protect their privacy, but I can’t edit out their lips. Hee.

  3. OhmyGod, the last line had me laughing until MY ribs hurt. I really like them both, Jan. Not just spooning singing gum here. The bottom one is a bit more pensive, but the top has that slight knowing smile. Very authorial. Your eyes make that connection–that cut-to-the-chase, just-between-us jena se qua–even if the rest of you might be unintentially saying ‘Fuck you.’

    That’s the kind of doctor/writer I can trust. It’s all in the connection. So glad you’re feeling mo’ betta! (I’m getting there, too, fyi. Worked for about four hours yesterday without paying for it during the night.)

    1. When you say “work,” I hope that means the writing variety, and not more sanding and painting! Glad you’re feeling better.

      Thanks, Vaughn. I’m partial to the top one, too. I think it’s more artsy than my daughter is used to. 😉

  4. I got to thinking about it and realized that it’s ages since I had a pic of just me. I almost always have one or both dogs or other people in the pic. I’ve cropped them out occasionally, but the original has them in it. Hmmmm…

  5. Dammit, Jan, I have not been keeping up with you, and now I come in mid-story and learn you’ve broken your ribs. I’m going to have to go back and read previous posts.

    You’re such a hilarious writer. You know that, don’t you?

    And for the record, I love the kind of freaky brownish-orangish photo. You look like you’re just about to open your mouth and let the truth set you free.

  6. Jan, you always make me laugh. I wish I’d been your patient when you were a doctor, then I could tell you whether or not your doc-fact signified trust or the other. LOL! My secret to good photos … get some young guy who loves to flirt to take your picture.

  7. Wow, Jan, you have gorgeous eyes. I especially like the Instagram shot.

    My sister-in-law took modeling lessons. She says to practice the look you want in the mirror and memorize the feel – how far up your lips are turned, how wide your eyes are open, how your head is angled, etc. I’ve tried it a couple times, because my spontaneous smiles tend to be all teeth and chins. Having the photog shoot down on you, rather than up or straight on, also helps. And there’s the studio photographer’s trick of turning your body away from the camera, then looking back across your shoulder.

    Have a fun shoot with your oh-so-sensible daughter!

  8. Jan,
    I’m glad you’re feeling better. And, I love the photos (especially the first one).
    I have no tips for “best photos”. My tendency is eyes half open, 95% of the time. A stunning look. When I was sixteen and we had family portraits done, my eyes at half-mast in every one, I had my mother and my sister laughing to hysterics during the photographer’s review. Thank god for digital now, where retakes don’t cost and arm and a leg.

    On that note, I need a new headshot. Fly your daughter to Wisconsin?….

    1. I have a friend who does those half-mast photos. She manages every time. You’re right; this is where digital provides a HUGE advantage.

      I’ll ship Molly if I can come along for the ride. I’d love to finally meet you.

  9. Jan, I love your new avatar! I assumed it was a photo of you as a young girl. Wow, you look fabulous. My ‘trick’, if you can call it that, is to smile wide. It lifts my nasolabial folds, smoothes out some wrinkles and hopefully takes your attention away from all the stuff that age and gravity has done to my face! Hey, I need all the help I can get! I’ve had that look for a long time now, though, so I might experiment with MJ’s suggestions. 🙂

    Also love the interaction with your daughter. She doesn’t let you get away with much, does she? Hope you’re well and truly on the mend today.

    1. Thanks, Deborah. That photo was taken in my office in natural light just last weekend. 🙂 I shall have to practice smiling. I don’t do it very well. But you do. I’ve never seen a bad photo of you!

      Re Molly: no, she’s fabulous. We are plain-spoken people in this family, all of us. I love that it’s so easy to know what people think. I’m not super patient with games.

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