About Those White Shirt Beach photos….

They say death and taxes are inevitable. I say so are the family photos that arrive at my house each Christmas. Specifically, The White Shirt Beach photo.

I have to admit, the white is pretty perfect. It provides a lovely contrast to all that sun kissed skin. It doesn’t detract from the gently waving grasses on the dune, and the uniformity of the white helps me focus on the smiling faces of some of my favorite people  — people who are having a much better, much more serene time at the beach than I have ever had.

I’m not buying it.

I don't know these people. I wanted to ask my friends for their photos but my husband assured me they would not talk to me after this blog.

I don’t know these people. I wanted to ask my friends for their photos but my husband assured me they would not talk to me after this blog

Before my dearest friends and family angrily denounce this blog as a personal attack on their White Shirt Beach photo, hear me out.

I love the photos. You all look great, you really do.

But you look too great. Brady Bunch great. Reality show before the drunken fistfight finale great.

Take for example, my friend. A lovely mother of two who spent a week at the beach with siblings, nieces and nephews, and in-laws. Oh, the 24 hour a day joy. When it came time for the White Shirt Beach photo to be taken during that golden hour before sunset, my friend had the audacity, the audacity I say you, to show up with her son in a white shirt with pale blue stripes. She explained it was the closest they had to white. I explained that was a lame excuse. The mother-in-law saw it as the worst sort of betrayal, a photo-ruining-blue-striped-catastrophe.

And then there was the sweet baby girl I watched throw up on her white shirted mother moments before the photo. A male family member held the baby at arms length(think Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom) while the mother frantically washed off in the ocean before rushing back for ‘Say Cheese!’ I bet that mom was blissed out.

This photo totally works. Because this is a fake family whose members were paid a pant load to pose for this. -cast of ABC's Modern Family

This photo totally works. Because this is a fake family whose members were paid a pant load to pose for this. -cast of ABC’s Modern Family

As sure as my eight year old hasn’t met a hotdog he doesn’t like, I know there are teenagers who want no part of the white  shirt — likely grumbling, “Every f***ing year,” as they pull on the one their mother packed for them.

Just this week I saw a very drunk man in a black t-shirt with a big extended white shirted family. It was the finest, most obvious example of a black sheep I have ever witnessed. He was stumbling about in the sand, belly protruding, beer in hand, the dozen family members unsure what to do. I didn’t get to see how it played out because we were too busy trying to take awesome, carefree pictures of our kids flying a kite.

Which is why I am no better than my white shirted brethren.

This is when the family photo jumps the shark, ditching white in favor of weaponry and alcohol. Courtesy of Doug Richards and his lovely, non gun toting family.

This is when the family photo jumps the shark, ditching white in favor of weaponry and alcohol. Courtesy of Doug Richards and his lovely, non gun toting family.

Let’s be honest. These pictures are more for others than for us. How many times have you snapped a photo and your first thought is how you can’t wait to post it to Facebook to see what kind of comments it will get? We hope people will proclaim our kids/dog/friends/spouses ‘Handsome!’ ‘Adorable!’ ‘So fun!’ ‘Love this!’ And yes, this even applies to the friends who post sarcastic and snarky photos because this makes them look cool(this is often the same crowd that professes disdain for fast food even though we all know the best french fries come from McDonald’s).

The White Shirt Beach photo and the effort that goes into it — the matchy-ness, the golden light, the surf blown hair — shows how deeply we are striving to present a sort of family perfection that we know, having endured said family and life thus far, does not exist.

And despite knowing this, I still look at other people’s photos and think, Why can’t we be more like that? Oh, wow, they get to have all the fun! I would love to be their friend because they are so happy! I believe your projection of perfection and it makes me feel bad about my life — with my husband who blinks during every flash,  with my kids who endlessly bicker and shove each other, with me a miserable ball of sweat before it’s over.

I am posing a challenge to those of you who have yet to make a trek to the beach, the lake, or your backyard.

Shake up the white shirt. I’m not suggesting anything as insane as wearing color.

Just make it your own. Make it real.

We got this photo on the first take. That never happens.

We got this photo on the first take. That never happens.

Real for us is that my six year old still sucks her thumb. My teenagers live on their phones. Their father yells too much. I nag too much.  Our son’s bottomless ADHD energy is part of why we yell and nag too much.

The best part of this silly photo? My kids have never been more excited to pose for a picture in their lives.

I can’t wait to send my Christmas cards this year.

 

Posted in Off the Air Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
11 comments on “About Those White Shirt Beach photos….
  1. Will says:

    I can’t say much……too many friends and relatives send me those pictures. I favor more realism. As you have seen from my family photos there is little planning and no staging. Thank you again for words that make me smile.

  2. Scott says:

    The best fries actually come from Wendy’s!

  3. Lea-Anne Jackson says:

    Yes!! Tom and I have talked about doing a “People of Walmart” version of our family Christmas photo.

  4. elizabeth godard says:

    I love it! we tried to do one a few years back but had some rogue dressers.. though our colors were blue tops khaki bottoms and we were no where near the beach.. but I always saw the all white picture on a former colleague’s desk and thought how cool that looked. It will never happen for us!

  5. Jill Becker says:

    We’ve never taken a “white” picture, although I’ve often admired them. We’re that family who always has to get the German shepherd in the shot…probably equally obnoxious?? Anyway, as always, a beautifully written piece, about a wonderfully interesting topic, my talented friend….xoxo

  6. Jill Becker says:

    We’ve never taken a “white” picture. We were/are that family who always has to get the German Shepherd in the shot…probably equally obnoxious?? Anyway, great topic, beautifully written, my talented friend… Xoxo

  7. Trudy says:

    My favorite family photo – which we made into a holiday card – was the only photo of all of us that I could get with us looking at the camera. Doug’s arm extended to get the shot and max sucking his thumb in the foreground with a slight smile. Elias was a smushy baby. And I don’t do khaki pants.

  8. Your one-take photo is killer.

  9. Hilarious – and no we’ve never done one. I was thinking of a charcoal sketch of us all instead to hang above the fireplace. I want your take on the Christmas/New Year’s letters that we receive from friends that not only tell us how perfect they all are, but also how much they have achieved the previous year. I will write one one year I tell you – when I have that perfect year.

  10. Totally what I want to say … and do … and why I love your family even though I really don’t know them all … but now I do. I have had to promise friends that I will post some “real” photos on FB as they think we are all smiling, happyhappy & enjoying one another all of the time. Not. Even. Close. Thanks for keeping it real.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "About Those White Shirt Beach photos…."
  1. […] my family, and it’s to lure you into reading Jaye Watson’s entertaining rant about silly white-shirt family photos taken at the […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*