Irreverence Entry #1: Born Awkward…Just Like Everyone Else

Irreverence Entry#1: “Born to be Awkward,” a photo/comedy book, by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack

borntobeFrom the authors who brought you Awkward Family Photos, Awkward Family Postcards, Awkward Family Holiday Photos, and (yes!) Awkward Family Pet Photos comes a new addition: “Born to Be Awkward.” If you liked any of the variety of Awkward Family photography mentioned above, you won’t be disappointed with the new arrival, as it follows in the same format and invocation of our intrigue with looking at photos that remind us of our own awkward families. But this time…there are babies.

It’s a short “read” of mostly pictures with small captions, and I breezed through it in about 30 minutes during some quality family time in which my brother and his girlfriend watched football, and my dad phubbed us all as he checked the Facebook feed.

“Born to be Awkward” is composed of the best of Awkward Family Photos of the wee little ones, babies, spawn, etc. And who doesn’t love babies? Well, actually quite a few people…but who doesn’t love pictures of babies looking terrified, being distressed, and generally failing hard at being a small human? Right! That’s more like it!

Why do we enjoy looking at awfully composed photos of families that we don’t know? Why do we laugh when we see parents in Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore costumery with their progeny in the middle of traumatic childhood scaring photographic evidence? Why will we scroll for hours through to see children screaming on the laps of Donnie Darko-esque Easter Bunnies or glamour shots that remind us painfully of an era where our shame paled in comparison with the size of our teased hair?

Photos themselves capture our essence at any given moment in time. Even a bad photo, selfie, or glamour shot is still a record, a documentation, of us. Everyone has heard the idea that photographs steal a piece of our soul, and this is true at the most basic level, because photographs are, undeniably, an impression of us that will most likely (especially in the digital age) survive our physical bodies.

Photos also allow us to see ourselves through a different eye than that of the mirror. Sometimes we glimpse ourselves in a way we have never considered before. In this way, photos reveal a part of ourselves that is otherwise inaccessible.

More to the point though, why are the Awkward Family photo book series such a hit? My theory is that in addition to photos providing proof of our existence, and allowing us perspective, photos (of the nature in the Awkward books especially) allow us a shared experience with humankind on a larger scale.

In some capacity or another, we all have families. And our families sometimes do things that make us groan, or laugh, or gasp, or any other manner of reaction. Having photographic record that these emotions extend beyond ourselves and are part of the larger human condition is a relief and a fun way to relate to humans for even the most antisocial of us out there.

To say it another way, family is a lot like poop.

Stay with me here please….

On Facebook the other day, I was commenting on Burger King’s Halloween Whopper (that monstrous meat-thing with the black bun) and how it turns your poop a terrifying shade of green. Subsequently, I got a more than average response on this post from friends who could relate to the topic at hand. People were telling me of times they had green poop, or how they liked to study poop for health concerns, or other foods that turned poop colors. In short, everyone poops and everyone has a family. It’s a common ground on which we can usually form a minimalist human connection. This is the connection that forms the bridge of small talk that leads to the ground where we become friends, lovers, etc. Relatable moments within family groups (and poop) brings us closer together as a species.

Anyways…the photos that I could relate to in “Born to Be Awkward” were the ones that I enjoyed the most. It’s a little known fact that sometimes newborn babies are not very good looking. They take a few days to sort of “pink up” and adjust to the conditions outside of mom. I was definitely one of these unattractive newborns, with my wayward punk rock assemblage of black hair, my arms covered with rolls of fat like the Michelin Tire mascot, and beady, souless eyes that give me the shivers even to this day. Seeing some of the other bewildered and frazzled babies in this book make me feel better about being a late bloomer.

Comedically speaking, it’s not that hard to get a laugh out of me. The pictures of toddlers in mid-freefall, hovering inches above the ground because they were squireling around when the cameraman was adjusting, and are about to pay the price, are gold. And “Born to be Awkward” provides plenty of these within.

There’s some sibling shots I can definitely relate to. Namely the ones where the older sister is pushing the brother out of the shot or clamping a hand over his mouth, eyes, all airways, etc. Oh yeah, I totally did that. And the re-creation shots with side by side photos of the childhood pose and the present day subject in the same pose are good for a chuckle.

What I considered a big negative of this book was the last chapter; 11 pages that contain no photos whatsoever, but rather glossy photostock pages of photo frames where you can chronicle photos of “My Awkward Baby.”

Look, if I’m going to pay full retail price of $15 for this book, I do not want 11 essentially blank pages to include the product of my reproduction skills (baby) with this lot of clown babies that have been offered up for the amusement and scorn of the entire world. Those photos of my own (hypothetical) child are sacred, and to be kept within the photo album and away from the harsh, laughing world. These photos are for my family and I to look upon and fondly share the inside jokes, and flaws we have grown up with and taken an entire childhood to make peace with. These photos….these photos are OUR AWKWARD.

We’ll probably pull them out years later when the girlfriend/boyfriend comes over to the house though. I mean…it’s only fair. Because some family traditions are worth relating.

File Under Awkard in the thesaurus: amateurish, rude, stiff, all thumbs, artless, blundering, bulky, bumbling, bungling, butterfingers, coarse, floundering, gawky, graceless, green, having two left feet, having two left hangs, incompetent, inept, inexpert, klutzy, lumbering, maladroit, oafish, stumbling, uncouth, uncoordinated, unfit, ungainly, ungraceful, unhandy, unpolished, unrefined, unskilled.

I received and reviewed a complementary copy of this book as part of the Blogging For Books program.

This is the first entry in a new blog effort called Irreverent Thesaurus. Please visit and follow for more.