But almost all of the photographs evoke happy memories. And I realized something: photos of me that I once thought were hideous now don’t look all that bad.
Interesting how a few years offers such a different perspective.
And I suspect it will only get worse. I mean, it’s not like these wrinkles are going to disappear. And those jowls that started to appear in the last year? Not going away. Even if I were rich and could afford a facelift, I don’t think I’d do it. I mean, I look at some of the aging stars in Hollywood who were young and beautiful when I was young and, well, they look like caricatures of their former selves.
Take Meg Ryan who is about my age, for example. I loved all those movies she was in – When Harry Met Sally, and You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. She was, by turns, cute or pretty or edgy – depending on the role she was playing. But at some point in the last few years, she went from attractive to a little scary looking. I’m not sure if it was simply bad plastic surgery – or it was just what happens when you go under the knife. You’ll never really look like you again.
So, no, I don’t think I’d opt for any of that stuff. Lips that are supposed to look “bee stung” instead look like someone popped ‘em in the mouth. Not an attractive look. So I think I’ll stick with my thinning lips. And lifted eyes never look youthful; they merely look lifted. My solution is to reach for my glasses more often than my contact lenses.
As my mother says, “Eyeglasses can cover a multitude of sins.” When she first said it, I didn’t quite understand. But now I know she means all those eye crinkles and under-eye circles that I see when I look in the mirror these days.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has actually located the Fountain of Youth. So to continue taking halfway decent photos as we age, our best bet is to find a camera with a “soft focus” setting and leave it on there. Permanently. Either that or invest in a really good Photoshop program.
When I was younger, my mom used to say, “Jane is so photogenic; she never takes a bad picture.” Ah, mom. If you only knew.
Back in the days of actual photo development when you dropped off your film and picked up your pictures later, I used to do a quick flip through the envelope before showing them to anyone else. Any photos of me that were really bad went in the trash. These included any pics where my eyes were closed. For some reason, I look dorky with a big cheesy smile on my face and my eyes closed. Perhaps everyone looks a little dorky with a big cheesy smile on their face and their eyes closed, but I tend to be particularly hypercritical of myself.
Nowadays in our digital world, I simply hit “delete” before the dorky photos become permanent.
But I can’t control everyone – and there are a bajillion cameras out there. Even toddlers barely able to walk or talk know exactly which button to push on a cell phone or digital camera in order to take a photograph. Those same toddlers also know how to pose for pictures. The second they see an actual camera pointed at them, they strike a pose.
This behavior will eventually change. My 80-something mother hates having her picture taken. I can understand that. I mean, do we really need to watch our faces as they morph into our grandparents’ faces and wonder how that happened?
On the other hand, we live in a visual society. We take photos of our manicures, our plate of pasta and our pets. We document every life moment from the mundane to the poignant.
So I suppose we simply have to resign ourselves to the fact that there are going to be a lot of bad pictures of us out there. Sure, we can untag ourselves. But it doesn’t make them disappear forever.
But the truth is that we don’t really need to be so self-critical. Nobody is really paying attention to us anyway. Instead, they’re looking at their own image in the photo and critiquing their smile, their pose and their wrinkle progression.
So I guess a lesson to be learned in all this is to just smile and enjoy the moment. If someone points a camera or cell phone at you, strike a pose. You may cringe right now – but give it a few years and take another look. I’ve a suspicion you will think you were lookin’ mighty fine.
And, besides, even though I had smoother skin when I was younger, I still cringe a little when I look back at pictures of myself. That heavy eye makeup and big hair in the 80s? Yeah. ‘Nuff said.
But there is an even bigger lesson here. Sometimes it’s not about the actual image we see, but about the memories the photo evokes that is the most important thing. One of my favorite photos is of my mother from my wedding. It was not a professional photograph. It’s a little blurry. And my mom hates it because she thinks it’s undignified.
But I love it. In it, she’s sitting next to my dad with her head thrown back and she’s laughing with abandon. I have no idea what she found so funny. But I love that she was enjoying herself so much.
Looking at it makes me happy. And makes me smile.
And in my mother’s 80-something face, I do not see a single imperfection.