Do you remember when you were in middle school and it was class picture day? For many students, and certainly also in my case, picture day was an annual event that should be dreaded a least a week in advance. What to wear, how to look, how to make sure that one’s eyes stayed open during the group shot? Now, I’ve always been taller than everybody else in my class, and in the 6th and 7th grade (the time where no one really wants to stand out) I was reaching far above all the others including the teacher.
Well into my 30s, I had assumed that surely those days were behind me. Little did I know that my Korean school experience would take this horrible event and spin it completely out of proportions.
A couple of weeks ago, our homeroom teacher at the Sogang Korean school announced that we would have our pictures taken the week before our final exams. She also suggested that we start planning in advance, which outfit to wear, how to do our hair and makeup, and start practicing cute poses in front of the mirror at home. How’s that for homework? She even gave us the specific time of the shooting in case anyone was planning to come straight from the hairdresser. True story!
So, 20 years later I found myself standing out once again. The tallest of the group and the only white girl. Let the fun commence! After a group photo in front of the blackboard in our class room, it was time for our individual head shots! I always hated those, but I would soon find out that this time was way worse than anything I ever did before. Why? Because we were not allowed to be alone with the photograper! Oh no, the individual shot was taken with one’s back toward the blackboard thereby facing the laughing crowd of one’s classmates (…or class enemies, haha). Not to mention our teacher, who would comment on our individual levels of cuteness, suggest poses to look even cuter, and laugh at the shots, which, adding insult to injury, would instantly appear on a huge Samsung screen in our classroom. It was truly a prime study in peer-pressure induced aegyo, where most of us felt forced to do one or more of the following: V-sign, finger-heart, contouring your chin with your thumb and index finger, cupping your entire face with both palms, or… well, the combinations of aegyo gestures are endless. And according to our teacher, you only look awkward if you don’t do at least one!
After then each having decided on our best shot (tried so hard not to think of Tyra Banks commenting in “America’s next top model), and one of the Japanese girls asking the photographer to photoshop her shot to make her prettier, my pulse was finally back within it’s normal range. Ha! Too soon! Now for the outdoor group shot!
The entire ordeal lasted almost an hour. I’ll be graduating tomorrow, and boy have I worked hard for it. Leave it to camera-obsessed Korea to let me relive my childhood traumas. For your amusement I’ve posted a selection of our pictures below. Enjoy!