Back in 2013, I was given some news that threatened to upend my life. I was midway through my third Klondike bar when my Mom informed me that we were finally getting family photos. Normally, I wouldn’t have been so averse to having my picture taken, but I had put on some serious summer weight that I didn’t want immortalized through a family portrait. To make matters worse, I was told about the upcoming photoshoot a few days before it was scheduled to take place, so I had very little time to take some drastic dieting action.
It was only a few hours into day one of my Devil Wears Prada regimen (waiting until you’re about to pass out before eating a cube of cheese) when I gave up. I reasoned that I wasn’t cut out for the crash diet life and preferred eating ice cream to looking slender in photos. That strategy of blissful ignorance worked well until the day of the photoshoot arrived.
I woke up realizing I hadn’t lost any of the weight I’d briefly attempted to shed and had instead gained a pound or two over the past few days. I lay in bed weighing my options. The most prominent idea was to fake my own death to get out of the photos, but I reasoned that might be a little too extreme. I felt defeated in the moments following that realization but soon had an epiphany. I remembered that people during the Victorian era would use elaborate corsets to display an appealing figure. The more I thought about it, the more I realized a corset is exactly what I needed to look flawless in the forthcoming photos. Unfortunately, our home didn’t have a closet full of corsets at the ready, so I had to settle for what we did have: duct tape.
Soon, my pudgy self was using excessive amounts of tape to create a corset underneath the bland JCPenney shirt I had picked out for the photos. It was quite the process, but after much patience and hard work, I had my duct tape waist trainer on and was ready for my moment in the spotlight.
Before moving on to discuss the modern-day tragedy that is the photoshoot from this day, let’s talk about this photo. First, the expression. My face is exactly how I picture the person who coined the phrase, “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” It’s a mixture of shock and excitement, which is pretty disturbing given the fact that I looked like the byproduct of a redneck trying to duct tape his murder victim. Next, we have to talk about the resulting shape. I wanted a slim, manly figure but ended up with an hourglass shape popularized by Kim Kardashian in 2007. Lastly, the unbelted Aéropostale jeans. Enough said.
After taking one more proud look at myself in the mirror, I headed outside to begin getting my glamour shots. Well, “glamour” might be an overstatement since the shoot mainly consisted of your typical rural poses: family on staircase resting their hands on the person in front of them and me posing in front of a barn with my arms crossed. All was going smoothly until the photographer moved the family to a setting where she wanted me to sit for the photo.
Upon starting to take a seat, I realized I couldn’t move the upper half of my body because, in my quest to have a svelte figure, I had taped myself too tightly. Panic coursed through my body as I struggled to think of a way to sit down without bending my torso. I considered telling the photographer I wasn’t comfortable sitting, but like an amateur desperate for a Wilhelmina modeling contract, I decided to shut up and do what the person behind the camera told me to do, no matter the cost. That blind obedience led to the following photo:
Moment of silence for my dignity. Ultimately, my family paid for photos that include a few too many of me struggling to breathe while rigidly sitting. I thought that sticking my arm out to encourage airflow might come across as a welcoming gesture, but it instead caused me to look like a plus-sized mannequin in a Lane Bryant store.
After the shoot was finished—and two family members had laboriously hauled me up from the ground—I headed inside the house to painstakingly unwrap myself. And as I did so, I couldn’t help but wonder, was the discomfort worth feeling somewhat skinnier? I now know that it wasn’t, but my young, delusional self sincerely believed that it was. Well, I thought it was until I saw the photos of me posed as the most unnatural Ken Doll ever manufactured by Mattel. The lesson here is quite simple: just do what everyone else does before a photoshoot by following Anne Hathaway’s Les Misérables diet. I promise it will produce much more appealing results than a DIY corset.