Growing up in Las Vegas as I did, surrounded by exaggerated showgirl images of womanly perfection, a girl gets a harsh sense of her own physical imperfections.
Growing up anywhere in America, bombarded by plastic surgery-altered images of celebrities, a woman sees a clear path to physical perfection or at least improvement.
In my youth, I scoffed at the idea of plastic surgery, but now I’m older and not so sure. Like many a middle-aged woman, I stare in the mirror and catalog a growing litany of facial flaws – jowls, bags under the eyes, thinning lips. And so, I wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should rethink that long-held anti-plastic surgery stance.
Well, amazingly … and just in the nick of time … I just found a solution for my sagging features and equally sagging self-image – one that restores my former youthful glow and good-(ish) enough looks. And best of all, it didn’t involve a trip to the plastic surgeon’s office!
My Path to Rejuvenation
I had long needed a new professional photo, a black-and-white head shot, and yet, with the great dread and vanity known to a once comely, now slightly homely older woman, I delayed scheduling an appointment.
I tried taking a selfie or five. Ego-sucking mistakes all. No matter the light – sunlight, indoor, candlelight, under a cloud, under a shroud. No matter the make-up – liquid, pan-cake, powder, oil-based. I simply could not stretch my arm far enough to soften the ravages of time so clearly etched, make that chiseled, upon my face.
I despaired and realized it was time for professional help. I consulted Yelp and quickly found a highly recommended (highly yelped?) photographer
His website portfolio offered not only the predictable array of attractive young people, but a large number of decent looking middle-aged folks, too.
I made an appointment.
Then I read a baker’s dozen or so articles on “How to Pose for Pictures,” all the while eating a baker’s dozen (or so) cookies. As the cookies crumbled on my matronly bosom, I practiced tilting my head this way and that, angling one shoulder forward and relaxing my (non-cookie clutching) hand.
Meeting my Re-maker
On the appointed day, I walked into the photographer’s studio, head thrown high, and chin stretched forward (to counter the shadows of a sagging neckline). I was armed with an array of wardrobe options and enough make-up to pancake my enemy, Old Age, into submission.
Standing before me, sipping from a trendy recyclable water bottle, was a young man who I soon learned possessed astonishing skills of prestidigitation. Slight of build with a slight accent of unknown origin, he introduced himself as “The Photographer.”
He led me to a stool placed in front of a light gray backdrop. Lights flashed. The camera whirred. The backdrop changed from gray to blue to pink. I smiled. I sat solemnly. I smiled again. Broad smile. Hint of a smile a la Mona Lisa. I was ordered to turn right, then left, to drop my shoulder, to cross and then uncross my arms.
Then, all was silent.
Working His Magic
The photographer motioned for me to follow him to a looming, wall-mounted computer screen. He downloaded the photos. We picked the best two photos out of the batch of 100 or so.
Then, without a word, he began to work his magic.
First, he applied a digital “wash” to rid my face of ruddiness. The wizard, I mean photographer, next waved some sort of digital magic wand that slimmed my cheeks and lifted my jowls, transforming my face into an almost Barbie-doll-like standardized image of contemporary beauty. He then calibrated the photo, dialing it back a notch or two. At that point, I looked a bit more like me, but a whole lot better me.
His digital doctoring was nothing short of witchcraft. The photographer uttered no incantations, nor even one “Abracadabra.” There were no signs of the occult or sacrifices to the Devil. Yet, within minutes, I looked positively cute and years younger. Presto change-o, I was photo-shopped!
His feats of magic were not over. With another tap of his finger on the keyboard, the photographer started fine-tuning my features, I mean the photo. He erased a stray hair here and there, removed the lipstick (and lunch) from my front teeth, and airbrushed away the not-so-fine lines around my mouth.
My adrenaline was flowing. My blood pressure elevated. I was hooked. And like any junkie, I begged for more. How about a little more lightening here? A little more shading there? A lot less wrinkle there? And there? And there? He obliged for a while, then stopped.
Gently placing his hand on my shoulder, my image-altering magician solemnly asked, “You do want people to recognize you, don’t you? You don’t want old friends to laugh and new acquaintances to wonder how many years ago the photo was taken.”
Inside I was screaming, “No, no. I don’t care. Photo-shop me some more.” But reluctantly, I realized he was right. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” I mumbled.
And so, the session ended. I was re-born or at least digitally renewed. I paid the photographer and left the studio.
Outside a clock chimed the hour. It was time to go home, cook dinner for the family and do laundry. I slowly walked to the bus stop surrounded by a sea of young, carefree, wrinkle-free, university students in downtown Berkeley, Ca.
As I sat on a bench waiting for the bus, I forwarded copies of my photo-shopped fantastic face to family and friends.
As an afterthought, I sent a copy to my electronic file of “Important Family Papers,” which includes such cheery documents as my will and organ donor directive. Beside the photo I typed in red, bold-faced, underlined, capital letters: USE THIS PHOTO FOR MY OBITUARY.
Yes, thanks to the Internet, I — or at least my face — will live on in jowl-less eternal glory.