Loath to the camera

I hate having my photo taken. I hate it with a passion usually reserved by others for more teeth-grinding ordeals. Like enemas. That is not to say that I’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing an enema, but even if I did at least I know I wouldn’t have to see the outcome of it — unlike a photograph.

I have no illusions about the way I look; I am well aware that unless I go through at least half of my usual makeup routine (or ‘putting my face on’), I should not be allowed out in public, as I have the pallid, colorless look of a chronic invalid, which only gets more haggard — and more unrecognizable — as the day wears on.

So it was with a heavy heart that I read the email sent out to my entire division yesterday, announcing that we would have photos taken for our new staff IDs this morning. While my colleagues agonized over what to wear (‘bright colored dress’, the email said) and how to get their hair done and subsequently sleep standing up, I agonized over how I was going to get yet another decent photo taken.

The last time I had my photo taken in these circumstances was back in March, when I had to renew my passport. I had smiled my best smile, and with God’s grace (and a little help from the photographer), I had my first decent passport photo in twenty years, which I vowed to use until I’ve aged too much to pass off as the same woman in the photo.

And this morning, having chosen a pale pink shirt over mourning black, as I don’t own anything belonging to the neon family, I stomped up to the ninth floor of Tower Two with the same kind of dread one feels when awaiting a jury’s verdict in a murder trial. And after three (three!) tries, I apparently managed to have a relatively normal-looking photo taken, which was lauded by the photographer as ‘very nice’.

It didn’t help that the photographer, who was Chinese, was shouting instructions at me in Malay (“Jangan gelak! Jangan gelak!“* which I swear I wasn’t), ceasing only after I said, “I’m Chinese, you know.”

* He meant to say, “Jangan gerak,” which means “Don’t move” in Malay. However, the Chinese tongue is unable to tell l from r, and therefore it came out as “Jangan gelak,” ironically translating into “Don’t laugh,” which I was too irate to do anyway.

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