The Imaginary Orange Trick

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Candid photos have never been my strong suit. It seems like someone shouldn't be allowed to be so bad at something that by its nature requires no amount of effort whatsoever, yet I always manage to screw them up. I end up looking like some sort of rare, doofus-y pseudo-human—at some point the History Channel will probably add some Ken Burns effects to a collection of my worst moments for a “Rare Sightings!” episode, sandwiched between the chupacabra and Bigfoot segments. In the background, caught off guard in an otherwise not candid shot, accidentally walking in front of what would have been someone else's perfect photo, and especially in deliberate candids taken by people who subconsciously hate me...my bad angle is 360°.

'Ayeee... I seriously never care about this kind of thing, but can you take that photo down!” A friend had taken a photo of me while slumped into the couch on my phone, the exact same position I was in when the troubling photo popped up on my Instagram feed. And I do care about this kind of thing.

'It's cuuute!” She replied, emphasis on the “ute!” Oh, she was going to be like that? I tried to think back to a time in recent memory when I might have unknowingly wronged her, but nothing came to mind. Instead, I threatened to cry actual tears, and criticized the photo's lack of narrative, which ultimately proved successful.

Still, the image was seared in my brain: my entire head turtled down into my throat, the chins—so many chins. Where did my neck even go? My furrowed brows—what was so concerning? My lips—turned down for what? I'm used to looking weird in photos, but this was exceptionally bad.

On the train later that week I caught myself in a similar position, accidentally selecting the camera mode on my phone, which was left in reverse. Apple was mocking me. Wiggling back up into my seat and adjusting my shoulders into their proper socket positions, I glanced around to see the horrified looks on my fellow passengers' faces. Nobody cared of my existence, or of my double chin—the first of which is usual on an 8am commute, the second, as always—because this sort of thing isn't really something anyone needs to be worrying too much about. I did, though, notice another passenger huddled into her neck, mindlessly lost in her phone. Then another, the top of his spine protruding up painfully, his shoulders hunched so that his entire body domed over his Android. They, too, were melting into concerned, contorted, uncomfortable Candy Crush zombies—and that's a little worrisome.

And so, as any mildly dedicated student of Pilates, I've turned to postural corrections to inform my phone-reading pose. “Pretend you're cradling an orange between your chin and chest!” is probably the most useful piece of advice I've paid for—in class and out, if only for the sake of my jawline. Now I pass the wisdom on to you, for free, phone addict to presumed phone addict. But if theoretical fruit isn't your thing, remember: There's always the option of simply putting your phone away and experiencing the world around you.

—Annie Kreighbaum

Illustrations by Beth Zimmerman.