This I Believe

carolyn - Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Entered on August 12, 2007

(I believe that photographs should tell the truth.)

It’s been a while since I’ve had a professional photograph taken of myself. When the photographer put my mug up on the screen, I was shocked to see how much I’d aged. It’s not like I don’t look in mirrors but viewing the enlarged, high resolution headshot made me cringe. That’s when he told me not to worry; he could fix just about any flaw I wanted him to. In fact, he asked how many years I’d like to erase. Five? Ten? Fifteen? Did I want my teeth whiter, my hair smoother, the lines around my eyes erased? The joys of Photoshop were at his disposal. And mine.

Out of curiosity, I asked him to make me look–refreshed. With a few skilled strokes of the mouse, my eyes looked less tired, the crease around my mouth softened and the stray wiry gray hairs blended into my hairline. Wow!

So I asked him to take me back about 15 years.

When that much younger woman smiled back at me, it took a moment to catch my breath. Fifteen years—gone! It was a creepy sight though. Repelling as much as it was alluring. The truth is; I was never that pretty, that youthful, that cover girl plastic.

I believe that in spite of our youth worshiping culture, a woman’s face is interesting because of its years. The original photo shows a woman who has laughed a lot, raised teenage girls, run a marathon, cried into her pillow, celebrated, mourned and lived life fully. The enhanced version didn’t so much take me back to a better time as it did make me appreciate the present.

It also made me realize that I don’t see a middle-aged woman in the mirror. Sure, I get a glimpse of her now and then. Sometimes even a flash of, hey, there goes my mother. But I don’t really see her. I’m too busy, too preoccupied with things that don’t require mirrors. But I’ve always believed in the quaint notion of inner beauty. My teenage daughters laugh at the thought that anyone actually believes in such a concept. “Nice liver, mom,” says my 17 year-old.

But, I cling to the concept that intellect, compassion, wit and passion can transform any combination of features into beautiful ones. And I don’t think that photographs should be manipulated to disguise flaws.

The airbrushed, altered celebrities and super models gracing magazine covers are as distorted and fabricated as the version I saw smiling at me from the photographers screen.

Nice face but I wouldn’t want to know her.