Not too long ago a series of posts found their way on to my social media feeds. They were photographs that have apparently gone viral, pictures of older folks who for some reason or another decided it would be fun to recreate their engagement and/or wedding photos. Are you kidding me? A picture might be worth a thousand words but getting me to recreate staged photos from my past, especially a past where I looked a whole lot younger, is worth way more than a thousand words and frankly, I don’t think I can afford it!
Engagement photos….remember those? Cheesy, staged pictures of the two of you gazing “meaningfully” into one another’s eyes (these days those looks mean something else entirely) or holding hands as you walked down an “abandoned” railroad track (first – hello dangerous and secondly, no one is taking pictures of me from behind these days!) Perhaps instead the photographer pictured you with your toes dipped in beautiful blue water (sure it looked warm but the actual temperature was bone-chilling,) or the pièce de résistance; the classic covered bridge photo taken just before the swarm of bees descended from the rafters? Yup – good times. Certainly, an experience I want to repeat – now that I’m regularly commuting on the train (translation – bad memory association) and due to the symptoms of menopause would rather swim, fully immersed and buck naked, in that chilly water because I’m so damn hot All. THE. TIME. As for the bridge and the bees – let’s just say it took a week before the swelling subsided and the movie Bridges of Madison County caused a resurgence of my PTSD. I think you get where I’m going with this. Recreate my engagement photos? Not in this lifetime! As for wedding picture “do-overs?” Ha! That problem was solved three pregnancies ago, pregnancies that pretty much permanently ensured no part of my body (not even an arm) would ever fit into my wedding dress again!
I think the people who started this trend must have meant it to be a joke. I hope they meant it to be a joke because I can’t imagine anything worse than staring at pictures of me when I was young, wrinkle free, in love and naïve and then comparing those to photos of my older, wiser, more cynical and “laugh-lined” face. There’s no scenario where I’m going to come out of that experience feeling good about myself. I don’t care what euphemisms you use for aging: “mature adult,” “60 is the new 50,” or “you earned those laugh lines,” the truth is that in a side by side comparison of your engagement pics and current photos, AT BEST you might say something like, “Not bad for an old broad!”
Now – with all that said, it’s only fair that I also share these thoughts. When I clicked on the actual links and took at look at some of these pictures, at least those compiled by photographer Sujata Setia, I saw a series of stunningly beautiful shots of seniors that, if I’m honest, took my breath away. The posed pictures were pure artistry in my humble opinion. Showing an older couple, still so obviously very much in love, gazing at one another in a tender moment was visually arresting. In them, you can literally see the love etched into their faces, line by line, wrinkles that recall a smile or shared memory from both the happy and the sad times they’ve experienced together. You can almost hear the laughter that might have resulted from the photographer’s initial suggestion of a certain pose but then you see in the picture itself, the comfortable and the familiar…how he knows to hold her hand “just so” and she knows exactly where she fits into the nook of his shoulder. It got me thinking rather than scoff at the notion, instead, if we’re lucky, such a photo is something we all might get to experience.
It also reminded me of a certain photo of my husband and I. As a result of nothing but chance and the whims of a fickle universe, we found ourselves, with two teenagers in tow, in Jamaica, staying in the exact same hotel (redone, renamed and much pricier!) that we had honeymooned at 30+ prior. We tried to find places that still looked familiar and found a stretch of beach in a cove we recognized instantly. We swam for a while, reminisced until the kids grew bored and left us alone and then along came a photographer who asked to take our picture. Convinced it would be some cheesy shot of old farts on a beach I said no but she took it anyway. It’s one of the few pictures of my husband and I that I actually have out on display. It’s in our bedroom where no one else can see it, but “visible” nonetheless. Because it’s actually a nice picture – and reminds me of both the happy and sad times – the many memories we’ve made along the way, of the freak chance that landed us, with our kids, in the same hotel where it all started, and of the life we’ve shared together. It’s no engagement photo (cheesy or otherwise) but maybe a picture really is worth a thousand words.
Written by Sheralyn Roman