School photographers like to shoot kids in order from tallest to shortest, so they don't have to readjust the stool for every single weirdly-shaped fourth grader in the class. By the time it was my turn at the end of the line, they'd always have raised the stool completely and slapped down a phone book for me to perch on so the camera could capture my face in front of the woodsy or graffitied brick wall backdrop. Going last meant several things. I had more time to practice my smile, decide whether to take my glasses off like my mom told me to, read a Babysitters Club book, etc. Most significantly, I got to hear the photographer cajoling all of my classmates, particularly the girls, into smiling for their yearbook picture:
"Well, hey there Miss America!"
"Look-y here, it's Cinderella!"
"Aw, hi Ladybug!"
"Well, I'll be! It's Princess Jasmine!" (This was to Meenal Patel.)
"You must be a fairy princess!"
"Come on Sweetheart, big smile!"
I couldn't wait for him to liken me to a Disney role model or complement my jumper or ask me if I'd skipped a grade because I was so tiny. But fourth grade dramatically altered my future school picture day experiences and here's why: When I slid onto my booster seat in the library-turned-portrait studio, the photographer glanced at me and said, "Hey there, Chicken Neck." He proceeded to prod at my head until it was stuck at that terrible angle so popular in school photos, where my chin, forehead, and eyes were all pointing in different directions. His only cajoling was, "Yeah, you got a real long neck, Chicken Neck."
I didn't say much of anything, because I had to run catch up with my class as they trailed out of the library. Although if I could do it again, I certainly would make a point of asking that particular school photographer why he possessed only three fingers on his left hand.