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If you hang out with a mixed group of friends on regular occasions and at venues that encourage the taking of group photos, you can’t help but notice patterns in how the women organize themselves for the camera lens. This snapshot (heh) of female behavior illuminates so much more than lighting and focal preferences.
There’s always the Lens Hog, of course. She’s usually the hottest and most sociable girl. Her spot is right up front, center, and smiling like she has a huge secret about a rival she can barely contain. She stands with her hip jutting outward for maximum femininity. She is a leader partly as a function of her looks and partly because her looks have facilitated her fearless socialization, which often cows other girls to fall in line behind her.
Where it gets interesting is in how the women below the Lens Hog on the female hierarchy self-arrange for “spontaneous” group photos. The jockeying for snapshot status is nasty, brutish and short; a years’ worth of repressed emotions often gets played out in the few seconds it takes for a bunch of women to line up for a group shot.
First up is the Court Concubine. This just-short-of-pretty girl has flirted with every man in her social group, and has probably slept with at least two of them who have high fived each other over it. She’s fun, but she’s no alpha’s first choice. She will scoot right away for a position wedged in between the men standing in the back line of the photo, with her arms draped languidly over the adjacent dudes. She’s the one whose boob “accidentally” presses into some guy’s chest. (Or belly, if she’s short.) And in every photo her headlights are on, for some reason.
Next is the Queen’s Consort. She’s the second in command girl who’s almost as pretty as the Lens Hog but not as extroverted. She shadows the Lens Hog and will quickly assume a position at her side for a photo. Her smile hints at resentment. She looks like she sticks pins in a voodoo doll of her hotter friend. She screws like she’s getting back at all the Lens Hogs who robbed her of the throne, and that’s a good thing.
Then there’s the Chubby Jester. She’s sorta cute, sorta chubby, and lots o’ fun. She has the personality of a hot girl trapped in a mediocre girl’s body. She will beeline for a spot in no-woman’s-land, tucked between the front and back lines, so that her body is obscured but her face shines for the camera, looking like it sits, disembodied, atop the shoulders of the girls situated just in front of her. It’s all smoke and mirrors with this girl, but at least her smile is genuine.
The interchangeable Pawns are next. These girls are filler for the cheap seats. Neither pretty nor ugly, sociable nor shy, they dutifully attend to their posts in the wings of the photo, adding heft and preselective gravitas to the stars at the center. Many of these girls are off the market, and have grown weary of the group photo circus. They no longer care about maneuvering for status or pleasing the men or the Lens Hog; they’re just there out of a sense of obligation and to drink and say to themselves that at least they’re not like those couples who sit at home all the time schnoococoonoocuddling. They take their sweet time finding a spot in the photo line-up, which ironically makes them seem more photogenic.
In the mix you may toss the Facebook Whore. A subspecies of the classic attention whore, the Facebook Whore angles for a position that will produce a photo she can upload to Facebook that will best reveal her carefree, sexually wild social life to the asshole ex-boyfriend she still loves. She is the one with her tongue out, like Miley Cyrus having an epileptic fit. She’s not particularly well-liked by anyone, so she often winds up at the edge of the photo leaning way in, out in front of the other girls, grabbing some of the Lens Hog’s limelight. She’s a clueless photobomb. A photoboob.
The Pained Plain Jane cuts a sad figure. She hates these stressful social tests, because she knows she’s not pretty enough to compete with most of the girls but there’s no opt-out clause that would save her dignity. If she tries to ignore the group photo, her friends will think she’s being anti-social and draw attention to her pitiful solitude with cloyingly earnest solicitations. If she joins, she looks out of place, her bland features thrown into saturated relief, her smile so fake and try-hard and now permanently recorded for history. So she loiters around the periphery of the assembling and rapidly congealing group, takes a shot at a position well within the bowels of the group in hopes she’ll get lost in the jumble of faces, gets pushed aside by another girl gunning for the same spot, and eventually settles like a gimp sea turtle shuffling into a hole in the beach sand at the far reaches of the group to lay her forgotten eggs, where ironically everyone who views the photo will notice her because she’s the only girl not being embraced by anyone.
Finally, there’s the Photogeneric Fug. Ugly, knows it, has stopped pretending she’s not. She doesn’t need the excuse of a group photo opt-out clause. She just heads for the bar to munch on beer nuts and mentally formulate her next Tumblr post about cisgender privilege.
The group photo sociosexual dynamic provides plenty of opportunity for the player to exploit. For instance, take a firm hold of the shoulder of the Pained Plain Jane as she’s wandering in utter confusion and panic around the gathering crowd, and hustle her into your orbit at the center of the group. You’re now her white knight rescuer. Except little does she know you’re using her as a pawn to tease the hottie you really want. “Hey stop hogging the camera. Your big head is blocking out your friend here.” You get points for the chivalry and the neg. Caress your wallet condom, because it’s about to taste freedom tonight.
PS: There’s one other type of girl you sometimes see at group photos. She’s a rare bird, but getting less rare. Her sleazy beauty is juxtaposed against her abominable character. She’s the “group selfie” girl who will stretch out her arm and take a selfie — like Barack Kenyatta Obama recently did at Mandela’s funeral — of herself surrounded by her group of sycophants. It’s one thing to take a selfie in the privacy of your bathroom and tweet it because THIRSTY ATTENTION WHORE, or to take a selfie in public while on vacation because you’re too shy to ask for assistance; but it’s a whole other level of narcissistic indulgence to force all your friends to squat like a human halo around your awesomeness as you point that camera straight up your nostrils.
You, Group Selfie Girl, deserve exactly one pump — like Obama’s first term — and one dump — like Obama’s second term.