Awkwardness is part of the human genetic footprint. Not many people know this, but there is a gene (the awkward gene) that controls how awkwardness is uniquely expressed in each one of us. To date, scientists have not been able to isolate the awkward gene because it is expressed across such an enormously broad spectrum of human behaviors, but I assure you it exists. Take for example the young man who becomes tongue-tied around girls. Awkward gene. And we’ve all seen that guest at every wedding who insists, in spite of a complete lack of rhythm, on dancing in the center of the party circle. Awkward gene. Or the rabid baseball parent who makes a habit out of screaming and flailing at umpires because, “He was safe, darn it, why don’t you wake up and get your head in the game…boy did you miss that one…whatever happened to the tie going to the runner…yeah, I’m talking to you meathead…” (Sorry). Awkward gene. Anyway, you get the picture.
I am predisposed to awkwardness when being photographed. Video cameras do not bother me and I look fine in candid shots, but ask me to pose for a picture and I immediately turn awkward. The minute the flash pops up and I am commanded to, “SAY CHEESE!” I turn awkward. I always feel like I’m smiling nicely, but it turns out I look like I’m in pain, or sick, or worse, like I have gas. I am not normally shy or self-conscious, and I admit I fancy myself a bit of a looker so the only plausible explanation for this must be the awkward gene. There. It’s out of my control. I can’t help it if I look stiff and unnatural. This is my normal smile and no, I will not pose for just one more, Pat, put the camera away.
The sad thing is that this variant of the awkward gene is hereditary. Apparently I have passed it on to my sons, rendering them un-photogenic. What other explanation could there be? Surely such handsome and cooperative young men would not intentionally make awkward faces just to annoy me when I ask them to pose for a photo, say in front of Buckingham Palace, I mean how many times are you going to be with your brother in front of Buckingham Palace for Pete’s sake! Of course they’re not making faces on purpose. The only plausible explanation for this must be the awkward gene. Yes indeed.