Monday, September 13, 2010


There is a an area in Aruba that women flip their hair back and smile while thinking,  "I feel fat"as they do their best version of sexy, one leg over the other, chest slightly forward. Dads tries to get the whole family to smile at once without their teenage sons rolling their eyes. Children are ordered to stand still and strangers are given the instruction "it's easy just push here." For some reason all tourists in Aruba find the Renaissance Marina dock an inviting location for filling their memory card. The scene is nice but not overwhelmingly beautiful. It's a man-made marina cluttered with a couple local fishing boats,  a lot o Bertram and Viking sport fishing boats and a few sailboats. The main shipping port is directly behind the marina to north so if you're facing west taking a picture of someone with the water at their back I imagine you'd be inclined to crop the right side of your photo to remove the giant ugly freighter that is poking it's nose into "Aruba Vacation" album. There isn't anything designating this area as a great location for a Kodak moment but for some reason, Americans, Europeans and Latins alike all decide, right here, this is it, we need to remember being right here. It isn't that they snap a photo of the marina itself, it's that this is where they say, "Honey, go stand over there, I want to take a picture of you here." and out of the fanny pack comes the digital camera.

I am not a shutterbug myself but I enjoy watching strangers take photos of each other. It's an awkward situation with squinting, excessive fake smiling and accidental blinking. Whenever I see people taking these type of posed photos of each other it makes me feel that I am significantly better than them. It's not that I am, it just makes me feel as if I am because at least I am not holding a goofy smile for 30 seconds while someone with a straw hat that says, "Aruba" across the top tries to capture a moment in which I look nice. It feels overwhelmingly contrived and forced. I feel uncomfortable for them. And when I see these models, especially women, posing at the marina, to me it says, "This is me, trying to look as happy and as cute as I can." I can't help but smile at how cliche and self conscious they look. It goes beyond age and culture. At those moments I wish someone was taking a picture of me watching them take pictures of each other because I am smiling and it's big, excessive and not fake at all.

It makes you feel that even if there are so many differences in the world. If we don't understand each others languages, cultures, religions and politics at least we all agree on where we should pose for a photo in Aruba. I imagine the different homes these pictures are framed in. Some nice extravagant homes with granite and ceilings that reach to the heavens while others are dusty sort of places with stained carpet and little decorative gnomes. Some in hallways next to hundreds of other family photos. Others are on display in the bathroom, featured next to the liquid soap dispenser. A guest over for dinner might admire it while washing their hands and think "What a nice family." but what they never ever think is "What a nice fake smile." And meanwhile back at the marina in Aruba a dad is scolding his teenage son, "Steven, please... Smile, you're ruining the photo, Steven, now!"

And I'd like to put my arm around Steven like the Ghosts did for Scrooge and say "look don't feel so bad, your family is a bunch of dweebs but look around you, every family is a bunch of dweebs, it's the way of the word. When your dad wants you to fake smile for him, oblige and everything will move along a lot less painfully. You are just humans, doing something humans do, trying to remember a moment."

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