Sunday, March 04, 2012

Ideal Beauty ...

My mom, her sister, and a family friend used to joke that when they arrived at a certain age, they were going to get a group discount on facelifts.

That was a long time ago. I was young. I may have been an age denoted by a single digit.

My mom never did go in for any plastic surgery. Hell, my mom doesn't even color her hair. A lot of people know my mom by her hair, its whiteish-silverishness and her long braid. The braid is much shorter these days. Every so often, she gets her hair cut for Locks of Love.

She is who she is, is my point. She doesn't wear makeup anymore and what she used to wear was so minimal, she was barely wearing makeup even when she was wearing makeup. I take after her that way, though I use eyeliner and she never did.

And she's beautiful. She's just entered her 70s – mom is proud of her age, so she won't mind my disclosing it – and she zips about the world in her sporty sedan and wears jeans and sweaters on her casual days and slightly dressier clothes for church, but she's never fussy. She's classic, my mom, in her own way. She doesn't look like a Ralph Lauren ad or like a mannequin at Talbots. She's just her.

All of which is a prelude to a wee post about being oneself. One's true self. Not that we should all eschew hair color and makeup and dress in sweats, but the older I get, the more I look around and I see people frantically trying to erase all evidence of aging and I'm grateful, so grateful, to have my mom as my example, my guide.

Someone recently took the time to write to tell me that I should stop using the "gosh-awful photo" that I use on here and Facebook and elsewhere. "I just know you have a better photo you could use. Something that actually looks like you--beautiful and smart. This one makes you look ditzy and it does not in any way show your looks to their best advantage!"

She went on to tell me that she had some new software to improve photos and that she would be happy to work on a picture of me to give my look "what we all need at a certain age--a little more rested, a little slimmer, teeth whiter, eyes open a little more or whatever."

So much for living an authentic life, eh?

Yes, it's true, I'm in my 40s. But I don't yet think of myself as a woman of "a certain age." I'm not sure what I'm supposed to look like in this decade, but I'm happy with who I see staring back at me in the mirror each morning.

And I've grown so weary of the Photoshopitization of women. Sure, I like the sassy feeling I get when J-D makes my hair all pretty. And yes, I brush on a coat of mascara before I run to the store. I'm not against a little beauty. But I draw the line at altering images of myself. It feels dishonest.

I'm not talking about color correction or exposure. I'm not purple in real life, so if I look a bit lavender in a shot, I'm A-OK with using the settings in iPhoto to counteract the lavenderness into a more natural hue. But I'm not about to start tinkering with my physical features.

Years ago, in my voiceover days, I had a headshot done because my producer more or less commanded it. And it was fun to have my makeup done. And it was kind of fun to have the photographer snap off shots. But the contact sheets were not a lovefest. I didn't like most of the images of me. I don't like most images of me as a matter of course. But there were a few that worked. And the one that I chose was pretty. (The photographer called it when he shot it. He was right. It was good.) And so long as I had a headshot, I used it on Match.com in those days. Why not, right? Why not use the best picture I had of myself? It was me. It was just a really good picture of me.

And one guy wrote to ask if the image I posted was really me or if it was a picture I got in a frame when I bought it.

Yes, really.

Yes, I told him, it was really me. As if I would post a picture of a different person. That would make any potential first date rather awkward, wouldn't it, if a completely different person showed up?

Someone on Facebook commented that that photo is my "Jane Pauley" look. Which is funny. But which is also true, in its way. It's a very stylized shot. Headshots look like headshots, they don't look like candid snaps. Also, I don't appear to the world in black and white.

Perhaps one day, I shall have another headshot taken if my professional life becomes more professional. If I'm speaking at a conference, say, no, I won't be using my "gosh-awful photo" for promotional purposes. But on my blog? On Facebook? Yep, that's the picture I choose to use.

I like my "egg-beatered hair." I like that I snapped that picture with my laptop one night for L.A. Dave before heading out to see a friend's band. We had been on the phone and he wanted to see how my hair turned out. He was always fascinated by my hair. So that photo is a happy reminder of that night and my friend, who is no longer here.

I admit to being taken aback that someone would write to me and offer an unsolicited assessment of a picture I chose and to tell me that I should submit to being digitally enhanced.

No, thank you. For a host of reasons.

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