River City Jules: Uncomfortable party pics

It was after midnight in Chicago. My husband had taken our kids back to the hotel earlier, leaving me to enjoy an evening out at my BFF’s 40th birthday party with college friends and my brother, now living in the Windy City.

While the snow fell outside, the crowd played merrily inside as the party’s photographer made the rounds, capturing strictly happy moments.

“Smile!” he directed.

“Smile!” he corrected.

“Smile!” he demanded, compiling a portfolio full of people enjoying themselves without question, per the wide grins on their faces.

I, however, had had enough of holding a frozen smile while he worked his lens and asked him to take a photo of me making a rather goofy face.

(Admittedly, a cosmopolitan or two may have played a role.)

After more consideration than a party photographer should give to such a request, he acquiesced and reluctantly snapped a photo of me not smiling.

But Party Pic Man was not about to step out of his comfort zone alone that night, as he suggested I take a photo with the guy next to me, my brother, Michael.

We posed arm-in-arm, the older sister with her baby brother. I was 7 years old when Michael and his twin brother, Philip, were born. I changed their diapers when they were infants and doted on them their whole lives.

“Smile!” Party Pic Man began. We smiled into the camera, just like our parents had taught us.

“No!” Party Pic Man exclaimed, “Get closer!”

We squeezed in a little tighter, but that wasn’t the look our aspiring Annie Leibovitz was going for.

“C’mon!” he pleaded, either not noticing or not caring how much we look exactly like our father, “Act like you REALLY love each other!”

Michael and I grimaced. This was quickly becoming the most awkward family photo I had ever been party to, even worse than the reindeer sweater photo of ’82. We smiled for an uncomfortably long time, hoping and praying the man would snap the photo and release us. I had flashbacks to the time Dad held our family hostage in front of a Budweiser Clydesdale as crowds of people viewing the horses in the stable piled up on either side of the focal point waiting for Dad to manually focus.

Except Dad wasn’t asking us to do anything weird.

“Let me see it,” he begged, surely unaware as to what, exactly, he was begging to see.

I was just about to explain that we were from Kansas, and, while I didn’t know how things worked in Chicago, my brother and I were not going up to bat, much less aiming for first base, when the flash went off, ending the Michael and Julie Show.

Instinctively, I started singing “May Tomorrow be a Perfect Day,” but my little bit rock-and-roll ditched me, leaving me to serenade our paparazzo alone with new understanding of Mom’s wisdom, that nothing good happens after midnight.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at go@ljworld.com.


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