Unlike my daughter, I never wanted to be a Victoria Secret’s model. While the fame and notoriety might have been cool, the job security was far too tenuous.
(Side note: VS wouldn’t have had me anyhow with my 5’6” frame and normal human shape. When I told my 13-year-old that they’d probably pass on her, too, she only looked slightly crushed. I think she knows how genetics work.)
Regardless of never having strutted down the cat walk wearing four-inch heels in a diamond-encrusted brassiere, there are times I pull myself together and the “perfect storm of beauty” occurs: my clothes fit well, the blowdryer cooperated, and the unsightly blemish, which I had decided to adopt as a red “beauty mark,” had finally faded.
It’s on those days that I put my shoulders back just a bit more and hold my chin a few degrees higher. It’s on those days I think, I look pretty good.
I had this feeling the other evening when I got ready for a birthday party. It was held in a function room at a nicer restaurant. I opted for a new-to-me LBD (a/k/a little black dress found at a thrift shop) and heels. I pulled my hair back in a small barrette and accessorized with a colorful scarf. Catching myself in the mirror on the way out the door, I thought, If there are any photos happening at the party, I’d be happy to be in them because I look attractive.
(Side note: The restaurant place was so nice that my two younger children were banned from wearing what we have allowed to be considered “school clothes,” that is, the boys had to wear something without Adidas stripes or words emblazoned across their chests.)
Well I was wrong about how I looked.
And I have proof: I got the pictures this morning.
In my defense, I was only half wrong: I was happy to be in the photos, however, I did not look attractive. I looked completely unlike I thought I looked. While I thought I looked young and vibrant then, I saw myself this morning as old and pasty in every snapshot.
Who is this person in the LBD holding a club soda and lime? Who is this gray-haired crone with the weird face and furrowed forehead? How did I get to be so old? Why don’t I look comfortable in my own skin?
Strange how in the moment I thought about how good I looked and confusing how this morning I can’t seem to understand who that is in those pictures. How can my perspective be so off from what is evident in photos?
I imagine it’s sort of like hearing your own voice, say, on an answering machine or in a video. You know what your voice sounds like until you hear it, as others do, without the benefit of the bone structure of your skull to change its pitch and tone. (That’s how the perceptual difference was explained to me years ago.)
That doesn’t explain why the appearance of one’s self would look so radically different. You see what you see. I’ll concede that it might be the case that I look better in 3D than in 2D, but I’ve seen other 2D snapshots of me and haven’t been so struck by the contrast.
So it got me thinking: When was the last time I saw myself in photos looking like I thought myself to look in reality?
I think that was about a year ago. This got me to wonder about what’s changed in the last year. I was married with four kids a year ago. Still am. I was writing and editing a year ago. Still am. I was drinking enthusiastically and with no real moderation a year ago. That’s changed. I was a vegetarian. That’s changed. I was going to a lot of yoga but no real set schedule. That’s changed.
Nowadays, I’m a teetotaling, vegan, Ashtanga yogi practicing six days a week.
That must be why I look old and pasty instead of young and vibrant, right? Maybe I should get back to the gin over ice, cheese omelettes, and an inconsistent yoga practice? Maybe that would change me back to appearing the same in 2D and 3D?
Or maybe I should get onto my mat, have a tofu and kale scramble for breakfast, continue to steer clear of alcohol, and come to accept the fact that my perspective of me is not in concert with how I imagine the world sees me. It could be worse I suppose: I could be in a position where I never saw myself as “looking pretty good” or “attractive.” Such is not the case, because I do have those days where I like how I look.
Maybe the next time I have one of those “perfect storms of beauty,” I’ll hold up my hand when the cameraman comes around and decline to be included. At least that way I’ll be able to preserve in my own mind how good I looked and not be challenged with photographic evidence to the contrary thereafter.