Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

We paid for that smile

April 11, 2013

This is what I don’t get about my teenagers. They take 1.2 million photographs of themselves and their friends every day of their lives and then post them on the Web for all to admire, and yet when I ask them to stand still and smile for one minute so that I can snap a picture, they run and hide.

We’re getting close to high school graduation here. I sent in the money for the cap and gown this week, and we sprung for some special purple sneakers for the prom. As parents, we will have funded the entire senior-year extravaganza with its yearbooks, gasoline money, college application fees and SAT tutors (and let’s just leave out college tuition for now). One would expect that would entitle a parent to a nice photo or two, wouldn’t it?

Ha! When my son sees me with my camera – a benign little digital thing smaller than his iPhone – he ducks his head and runs away. What could he possibly be afraid of? That I might show the picture to someone? That I might post it somewhere?

Isn’t that what he does every day?

It’s not like I’m trying to be photographed with him. I could almost understand his not really wanting to be with Mommy. He said he and his friends have turned to Twitter and Instagram because there are “too many moms and aunts” on Facebook. Social media are, of course, the land of the evidently parentless teenager. Based on what’s displayed, a visiting alien would have to conclude that young people here raise themselves and each other. And also that all the girls have permanently puckered lips.

What’s up with that pose, anyway? You know the one: lips in a big kissy pout, one hand on the hip and the other making a sideways V sign up by the face. Did Hannah Montana do this five years ago and they all picked it up?

There’s always a photo op before the prom. Last year we all gathered at a classmate’s home for couple and group photos. There, among all his friends, our son was cooperative. But right before then, at home in his tux, I tried to snap a photo on the front porch.

“Just one,” he said, as if he were Justin Bieber dodging the paparazzi.

“Smile,” I said. “We paid for it.”

Not that I’m making any plans for a facelift (although now might be a good time to get out ahead of the problem), but that money is pretty much in the mouths of both kids, the orthodontia for their straight smiles and strong chins having taken priority. My daughter had her braces removed last week.

“You’re not going to take a thousand pictures, are you,” she asked. Of course I wanted to, but I got in only one before she drew the curtains on her dazzling smile and ran off.

The senior prom is just a month away, and graduation is a month after that. I’m already laying the groundwork for my photos. Every so often I remind my son that I will be expecting him to pose for photos; maybe even some family shots – with big handsome smiles. Would it kill him to cooperate, just this once?

I mean, we paid for that smile.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at



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