The True Story Behind That Profile Picture
I was one step away from finishing my first online dating profile when I was stopped dead in my tracks. I needed to find a photograph that captured the essence of the comfortable-wearing-a-Tuxedo-as-blue-jeans-ballroom-dancing-skinny-dip-loving-cuddle-crazy-macho-poet Frankenstein that I created in my bio. No photograph that I had could compete with that.
When I put up my first dating profile, I was in my forties and asking another person to take my photograph for the website was not something I wanted to do. Not that there is anything wrong with dating profiles, but I would have rather gone into stealth mode and not told anyone until I had several dates under my belt. Fortunately for me (maybe not so much for him), I had a friend that had recently faced the same dating profile picture dilemma. He told me he had a camera and a place to take pictures (suddenly my life felt like a very-special episode of Diff’rent Strokes).
To start with, I am not a fashion person. I truly believe they should make Garanimals for adults so that I would know which shirt to wear with what pants. It was quite a challenge to pick out shirts that did not make me look bald, fat, and desperate (that is a lot to ask from a shirt). I finally selected a half-dozen or so that I felt had the best shot of making me look not-half-bad and headed off to the “photo-shoot.”
Once at my friend’s apartment we discussed the logistics as to where we should take this photograph. He suggested outside, but I did not feel comfortable with that. I couldn’t help but think what his neighbors thought when they saw this six-foot-two-tall man enter the apartment with a change of wardrobe; I wasn’t about to put on a fashion show for them as well. We agreed upon a relatively neutral corner of his apartment, far from any rogue reflective surfaces (we’ve all seen the naked man in the teapot).
I don’t photograph well because I don’t know how to smile on cue (yeah, that’s the reason). I thought if we could make it look like a candid shot maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. My head turned back as if someone just tapped me on the shoulder or that surprised expression when I suddenly realized there’s a man in the corner with a camera taking my picture (what are you doing here?).
That was my Saturday — I changed shirts and positions while I looked thoughtfully-casually-surprised. After we worked for an hour, to get a spontaneous photograph we finally agreed upon the least-worst picture to put up on the site. It was a shot of me from the waist up, left hand in pocket and right hand partially raised as if I were about to ask the viewer for spare change.
The funny thing was that in the end it was all for nothing. Fate, having watched my sad attempt at self-portrait, stepped in and took care of everything.
A few weeks later, at a family function, while I stood out on the lawn my sister called over to me. I turned around (what are you doing here?) and she snapped what turned out to be the best picture of me — ever. It was so good that people didn’t even recognize me. I was smiling. I was tan and fit (not sure how that happened), with one shoulder jauntily dipped lower than the other.
I must have reminded my sister ten times that night to email me that picture; I wanted it for my profile. It went up the next day and has been reused on every social media site that I have ever been a member. If I could go back in time and put it in my high school yearbook, I would.
That picture lived up to the bio I created much better than the awkward poses in my friend’s apartment.
Fate is a wonderful photographer — I should ask it to do my wedding.