Friday, June 18, 2010

An open letter to Egyptians trying to take pictures of my kids

(I considered a few ways of writing this post and decided on a letter format. It ended up sounding grumpy no matter what I did. I'm not really grumpy about it, I'm just tired of it. I appreciate a society that values children. It's one of my favorite things about Arabia. I just wish that "appreciation" didn't go into hyperactive mode around little blonde kids and manifest itself primarily in the form of taking pictures of them, that's all.)

Magdalena is about to get intercepted (al-Azhar Park).
Dear Egyptians trying to take pictures of my kids:

There is a right way to take a picture of my kid, and a wrong way. Actually, there are lots of wrong ways.

Asking me ahead of time if you can take a picture of my kid is a step in the right direction. But if I say yes, I don't mean that you can completely arrest the flow of her play in order to get a good shot. Don't ask her to get off the swing. Don't grab her by the arm while she's climbing up the ladder to the slide. Don't snap your fingers in her face. Don't physically move her face so that it's facing your camera. Don't force her to sit down on the slide so you can see her better. Don't wait to take her picture until she's giving you a perfect smile. My kids don't even smile for the pictures I take of them. When they're being harassed by a perfect stranger, the chances of a smile are even slimmer.

Don't follow her around with your camera for long periods of time.

Don't gather all your friends together and surround her and all of you try to get pictures at once.

Don't haul her off out of my sight to take pictures in a different setting, at least not without asking.

Don't continue to pester her even after she's made it abundantly clear (by crying and hiding behind me) that she doesn't want her picture taken.

And most of all, if at any time I feel like your picture-taking has taken precedence over my kid's fun-having, and I intervene to tell you so, just stop it already. Don't pretend like you don't hear me telling you, "OK, all done." I know you do.

The people like you, the people who do it wrong, are the reason I have to gear up my kids for public outings by telling them, "You don't have to say hi if you don't want to. You don't have to have your picture taken if you don't want to. You are in charge of your body and if gobs of people come up to you and touch your hair/face/cheeks or give you kisses, you can tell them no, in whatever language you please, including just body language. Even if they give you candy."

I know, I know, it's just a picture, right? What's my damage, anyway? Well, I used to think it was no big deal, too. It never has been, really, not in Syria or Jordan. But you Egyptians are over the top. You might think it's just one little picture, but you are LITERALLY the twentieth person to ask in the last 30 minutes. We paid for the taxi to come here (al-Azhar Park). We paid to get in. Our girls haven't seen wide expanses of grass in over a month. I'm not going to let "one picture" get in the way of them running and playing their little hearts out. And I'm not going to apologize for that.

I mentioned there is a right way to do this, and there is. Be a genuine playground friend to my kids. Play with them. Help them. Follow them, sure - I don't mind. And maybe at the end of some good, quality fun, just maybe, you can take a picture.

The right way - these girls genuinely played with Magdalena and helped her enjoy her time at the park.



Jen said...

Wow. You're a lot nicer than I.

Andrew said...


Spencer said...

I have a friend who lived in Japan with his family for almost two years. Their youngest was about 6 months old when they left. He attracted so much attention for so long (basically the first two years of his life) that he is still terrified of kids almost a year later.

It's one of those things that sounds kind of cute and non-threatening when you here someone talk about it, but is usually just way too much for a child that age (or a parent) to handle. Watching our friend's child come home after such an experience is one of the reasons we hesitated to travel with our little one this year.

I'd love to hear any effective strategies for dealing with the situation (and helping your kids to deal with it) you discover.

Nancy said...

Today after someone petted (is there another term?) Rachel in the metro she screamed, "Don't touch me! I don't like people touching me! But 'cept my mommy and my daddy! And Miriam! But not OLD people! Leave me alone!"

I think she might be a little too aggressive on the playground when we return to the States.

Of course people won't be flocking her there, either...

Anyway, to Andrew's amen I will add an "and amen!"

Anonymous said...

When I lived in China people were CONSTANTLY wanting my photo. They wanted photos of me by myself and me with them. Perfect strangers wanting my photo. When I walked past artists on the street, they wanted to draw my "big nose." After all, there are no Chinese with our big European / American noses sticking off of their faces. Even more baffling, I went to watch an American movie in China and the people were actually photographing the actors and actresses on the SCREEN in the movie theater with flash photos!
I'm so glad I didn't have a child with me at the time. I'm sure I would have had to purchase some sort of large stick to carry with me. Hint: start charging for the photo-taking (at least from those who are obnoxious about it).

Liz Johnson said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA. Egypt sounds so hardcore, man. It just sounds like an intense experience. I love all of these stories. Sorry to laugh at your (and your kids') expense, but... yeah. So funny.

Crys said...

Insist on them paying you money...yup you can take my kids picture...for 5 dinar :)

Kat Clark said...

When we lived in Hawaii every Asain (can I say that? Is that pc?) on the beach wanted to take pictures of Jack. They would use "sign language" to ask and then all of a sudden pick him up and take him away. It freaked him out! It was crazy! Then one time, we were in the mall and a woman stopped in front of Jack's stroller and started snapping her fingers an inch from his face. Bananas! I hated that. Sorry your poor little girls are being mobbed. Sorry they act like they don't hear you. Lame.

Jeremy Palmer said...

I'm going to implement a no photo policy. We'll see how it works. I'm going to tell people they scare us.

Shannan said...

Your girls are the Suri Cruise of Egypt. Start putting them in desinger duds to start new children fashion trends. kidding, of course.

sarah said...

i hope jeremy's plan works, for your sake. good luck!

Anonymous said...

When I visited my brother and his family in Japan, their 7 month old daughter drew a lot of attention from the Japanese. Once we were on the train when a teenage boy stood up as if to get off, crossed to where we were sitting, touched my niece on the cheek, waved, then got off. It was strange how much they cooed over her. And they would ask to hold her or take her picture. Mostly there was a lot of staring and making googly-eyes. But that time the boy poked her cheek was surreal. (Although, I couldn't blame him; her cheeks are really chubby. I love to poke them!)


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