Just Close Your Eyes and Think of England

By Cornelia Read

It is reputed that Queen Victoria’s advice to her daughters on the subject of their wedding nights was “Just close your eyes and think of England.” 



That’s about how I feel about having my picture taken. Not like the camera’s going to steal my soul or something–hey, camera, welcome to it–but more like it’s going to superimpose the face of this weird looking chick who is not at all what I think I look like.

In short, I have a bad case of what my sister calls “Camera Face,” in that I totally freeze up whenever I know the lens is focused on me. I end up with one of two expressions:

The Joker, if I smile,

 or Queen Victoria if I don’t.


I shit you not. Here, check it out… smiling:


Not smiling:


 I mean, pin the Order of the Garter on that sweater and throw a linen napkin on my head…

…and I could be Victoria Regina Imperatrix Redux. Shut your eyes and think of Belgium, for chrissake. Or possibly Bumfuq, Egypt:

This is all rather on my mind because of a new feature on Google, which is that when you Google yourself they show four pictures of you on the front page about halfway down if there are that many of you tagged with your name online. And, of course, you can’t control the four pictures that actually come up.

I mean, this one doesn’t suck, which is why I may have it on my dust jackets forever (okay, it’s three years old and yes, Photoshop *is* my friend):

And I even kind of like this one (which my ex took which may be why I look so fucking pissed off):

But could those two show up on the first page of Google? God forbid.

Instead I get that one of me in Scottsdale sitting next to Jacqueline Winspear which is so far past Queen Victoria it’s kind of into Zero Mostel territory. 

And this one, in which it appears that albino Oompa Loompas have dumped a bucket of Clorox on my head, to achieve unwitting solidarity on my part:

I am not particularly vain, but I just like to think that the off sighting of a picture of me online for some random stranger kind enough to Google me should not induce the proverbial technicolor yawn, you know?

Frankly, the only shots of me I like these days are the ones in which I am drunk, such as this:

Or this:


Or even this:

Which of course has a dash of the old Cesar Romero, but still at least has a little style.

Better yet are the photos in which my face does not actually feature, such as this shot of my thigh boots at the Edgars this year (the elegant wearer of wicked pumps is the justly famous Christa Faust):


(although I would like to add that that is TWO of my legs, it’s just that I’ve got one foot tucked behind the other. Ahem.)

Anyway, I need to get a new author photo for my third novel, Invisible Boy. Wouldn’t it be great if I could just send in a blank sheet of paper and go, “hey look! INVISIBLE CORNELIA!!! With her best friend, POLAR BEAR IN A SNOWSTORM!!!!!”

Or I could give them this one:

Yes, I’m fat, pale, shiny, and my hair is bright orange, but at least Tony Broadbent and Jacqueline Winspear look wonderful, so maybe that will distract people from looking at my scary visage.

Just shoot me. Or better yet, don’t.

So, basically, about the only thing I don’t like about being a published person is this whole ugly-pictures-of-me-widely-disseminated thing. Well, and self-employment taxes.

‘Ratis, what’s the worst picture of you ever taken? (provide URL if you dare… they can’t be worse than mine, right?)

31 thoughts on “Just Close Your Eyes and Think of England

  1. Karen C

    you are hilarious

    please move back to Northern California immediately

    Karen C
    PS – the Edgars picture with the "L" on your forehead is classic

  2. Tom

    We’re in a state without you.

    No, that’s all right, you take of (sniff) yourself and we’ll just sit here in the dark . . .

    Photos of me look nothing like me. As a result, they’re not really bad (unless you need one for identification).

  3. karen from mentor

    Hi Cornelia!
    As soon as the title showed up in my blog roll, I said OH BOY!! that has to be Cornelia….one of my favorite lines btw……
    Loved the post….

    Lived for four years with a driver’s license photo in which I had a unicorn horn sticking out of the upper right side of my head. I had a long curly perm and had been holding my daughter who was playing with my hair, there was no mirror, I plunked down and smiled for the camera and voila! BIG FAT UNICORN HORN……every time I wrote a check (this was pre debit cards) the cashier *giggled* and I don’t mean smiled politely or smirked, I mean full on GIGGLED at me….. *sigh*….
    but you know what?

    I almost miss it because in my current dl photo? I have the biggest HEAD ever………

    Hugs sweetie!

    Hope you’ve settled into the new place ok.
    Karen :0)

  4. Cornelia Read

    Karen C, I miss you guys!! I have to starts skyping…

    Tom… *sniff*… you are so kind!

    Karen fM, new place is AWESOME, and my house in Cali just sold so now we can go to IKEA and Goodwill and find furniture. YAY!!!!!

    Dusty, in that case let’s make sure we’re standing next to each other for all of Bcon, whenever there’s a camera present. And also that would just be fun.

  5. Karen in Ohio

    You’re way too hard on yourself–there is zero resemblance to the Joker. Just stop it.

    The key to having a good photo is to shut up and smile. Most people are in the process of saying "I take bad pictures, stop!", and of course the camera catches them with their mouths all contorted. I’m sure you are perfectly lovely at all times, the camera just froze a split-second when you were not just so.

    My first–and only–author’s photo was hideous. I was wearing a jacket with ginormous shoulder pads, and my hair was more helmet than hair. And one of our best friend’s, who is a professional photog, was taking the pics, and this was the best of a poor lot. We’re always more critical than anyone else is, I guess. Personally, I always expect to see Jacklyn Smith looking back from the mirror at me. It’s always such a surprise when it’s just plain ol’ me.

  6. Catherine Shipton

    I have control issues with photos. About every tenth photo is ok. So that leaves about nine free floaters out there to scare children… from anytime someone comes near me with a camera.

    I just googled me….well not me all the other Catherine Shiptons…of which one is an actress who starred on The Bill. Strangely there seems to be a lot of other red headed Catherine Shiptons that all sort of share my hair cut…but then my ex husband married another Catherine and she strangely looks a bit like me too.

    Although I shudder to think that anyone looks like my last drivers license id too. My glasses are on crooked, I’m squinting and look a few biscuits short of a the full packet…seriously look like I shouldn’t be let near the steering wheel.

  7. KarinNH

    I swear the universe chooses different ways of f*ing with me, just to keep things interesting. One year, it was photos. I had a driver’s license photo that was so hideous I didn’t cash a check for over a year. Then the guy taking my passport photo insisted on taking another set, absolutely free of charge and even though I was in a hurry, because the first one was so awful he refused to let it go out the door. And the improved version is hideous. I look dead.

    Currently my nemesis is convenience stores. That is an easier one to live with than photos.

    And congrats on the house sale!

  8. Twist

    O thank you for telling me about Google’s new feature. The selected photos show the "animal" in me: deer-in-headlights stare, wrinkled-bunny nose, wolf-teeth-sized smile … And Jackie Winspear NEVER takes a bad photo. If she weren’t my friend, I’d hate her.

  9. Janet Reid

    All you REALLY need is a picture of the boots you wore to the Edgars. I’m not sure I ever looked at your lovely face that night, so besotted was I by your footwear.

    For everyone mourning your departure from the left coast, there’s a bunch of us screaming "yay! she’s HERE!" on the right one.

  10. Cornelia Read

    Karen in O, I notice you don’t mention my lack of resemblance to QV, but that’s okay, I’ve learned to live with it. And you’re sweet!

    Catherine, you crack me up. And your ex obviously still has a thing for you… I’m just sayin’.

    Karin NH, convenience stores? That sounds even scarier, somehow. And of course there’s the security cameras… *shiver*. Glad your photo karma has improved, though!

    Twist, OH PLEASE!! You are fucking gorgeous and totally photogenic to boot. Remind me never to stand next to you at The Edgars whenever there’s a camera in the vicinity!!!

    Janet, you ROCK!!! And I don’t want to stand next to YOU at the Edgars, either. You’re a babe.

    Guys, I have to drive to New Jersey now… will take me about five hours before I can answer comments again. Hope everyone is having a fabulous long weekend…

  11. Sara J. Henry

    I think my worst picture ever taken was for my my grad school ID. After my dad had survived serious surgery (one with a 50-50 survival rate) to celebrate I went to an unknown hairdresser – I’d been staying in the town where he was having surgery to be with him – and got my long, thick hair cut.

    I’m just glad it wasn’t a tattoo.

    Thick, wavy hair cut badly = the Bozo the clown look. Incredibly hideous. If looking ugly is good for the soul, I’m set for life. At the time I also had rather ugly big-framed wire-rim glasses that perhaps had been trendy years previously. The hair took more than a year to grow out enough to look decent – fortunately it was passable by the time I graduated and went to work at a publisher.

    No one will ever see this photo. I keep it under lock and key.

  12. BCB

    God, you’re funny. And I thought I was bad about having my picture taken. I just endured a trip home two weeks ago — "home" being that place where family members live who hardly ever get to see you and so feel compelled to take pictures of you every five minutes regardless of the potential for damage to their cameras.

    My problem (well, in addition to not being the least bit photogenic) is that I’m not good at maintaining a smile for more than a split second. If that. I’m mostly Norwegian. I don’t have the gene for smiling. If people would just take the damn picture right after they told you to smile, it might be okay. But they wait, and then wait some more, until it looks like a forced grimace. Which, by that point, it is. And if I don’t smile at all, it looks like a murderous glare. Which, okay, it is.

    I really liked seeing the other pictures of you. Your polished "author" photo is gorgeous, but it’s of someone I’d be too intimidated to ever speak to. Now I feel like maybe if I ever saw you drunk in a bar somewhere, I’d come over and say hello. 😉

    Congrats on the sale of the house! Have fun shopping…

  13. toni mcgee causey

    I think BCB and I are soul sisters. Especially with the murderous glare bit.

    I hate to have my photo taken. I also don’t understand why people don’t understand that. No one needs a photo of me. Pretend you know what I look like, Whatever it is, if it has green eyes, that’s close enough. Which would probably give you some idea of how much of a pain-in-the-ass I am when it comes to getting author photos. I still wouldn’t have any if my publisher hadn’t made me get one. Then they wanted one smiling. I looked, my editor said, like I was pissed off and about to kick someone’s ass. Seemed fairly appropriate to me.

  14. Fran

    Come to Seattle. Now. We have a photographer who did a photo essay of Bill, and he did FABULOUS work! Pinky swear, he’ll do something you like or I’ll pay for it!

    But it doesn’t matter, because I think you’re lovely no matter what!

  15. Ralph Waldo

    Yes Cornelia you might, at first, find it funny and even amusing. But in truth, most fat people from California smell funny. The fatter they become, the more the incredibly viscus vapor doth linger and permeate one’s nasal orifices, until thou art overcome completely with hairy, unbearable STINK!!! And one may pass out or even expire. Wow, I’m sure glad I got that off my chest at last!

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