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For some reason, which is now utterly beyond me, I decided this year that my son, Chuck and I would take a holiday picture to commemorate the season. Nothing professional, mind you, just a digital snapshot that we could share with friends and family. Believe me, if I knew then what I know now I never would have even suggested it. It turned into an event of indescribable horror.
I suppose, if you wanted to, which I do not, you could reasonably conclude that the abhorrent negativity of the experience of photo taking was due to entirely to an extreme reaction to my damaged vanity. Personally, I would describe the experience more as one of shock, horror, and dismay due to the fact that I was traumatized by seeing myself digitally rendered. In other words, I was terrorized by my own image.
The problem is, I am mentally stuck with an image of myself from the past. In my tiny little mind, I still look like I did a decade or two ago. This may be in part due to the fact that I usually look at myself in a mirror a maximum of once a day, in the morning when I wash my face and do my hair and/or makeup. Whatever happens to my face and hair during the rest of the day is anyone's guess since I don't bother to check myself out at all. I have to count on others to let me know if I have dirt on my cheek or spinach in my teeth. When one only takes a glimpse at oneself that sporadically, it is not difficult to get a single image stuck in one's head, even one from 15 years in the past. The other factor is that I don't feel at all mentally older so I don't draw a correlation between my mental self and physical self. This method of self-delusion works great until I glimpse myself in a mirror in a store or see myself on film when it inevitably comes home to me just how decrepit I really am.
The picture taking horror show began when I had my friend take some snapshots of Chuck and myself in front of the Christmas tree. Chuck looked great. The tree looked great. I did not.
“Good Lord,” I exclaimed, “How is it possible for the camera to pick up every tiny wrinkle and crinkle on my face?”
“It's a good camera,” said Chuck. Trust my son to stick to just the facts.
“And what is up with my eyelids?” I whined. “Why are they drooping? When did I start looking like Deputy Dog?”
Chuck patted me on the back. “Don't be silly, Mom. Deputy Dog has bags under his eyes too. You just have dark shadows.” I may have to spend a little more time coaching Chuck on how to deal with hysterical women.
The situation did not improve any when we traded places and Chuck took some pictures of myself and my friend. The result was demoralizing.
“Look at us!” I squealed. “We have double chins! What happened to our necks?”
“What necks?” my friend asked. “We don't have necks. Someone snuck in when we were asleep and stole our necks.”
“It looks like they took our jaw lines, too,” I added.
“Come on you guys!” said Chuck with disgust. “It isn't that bad. Things just aren't as firm as they used to be. It's to be expected at your ages, isn't it?”
Let it be stated that Chuck was spared from certain death only by our remarkable ability to restrain ourselves.
In our quest to minimize our wrinkles and our missing necks and our questionable jaw lines we had Chuck take at least a dozen photos. We tried tilting up our chins to fight the forces of gravity on our 'not so firm anymore' necks and jaw lines, and smiling pleasantly, but not enough to cause our various facial lines to stand out like a topographical map of the Great Divide. We tried head tilts and partial profiles and anything else we could think of to make ourselves look less like something old that washed up on a beach. We did the best we could, but there wasn't a single picture that didn't scream out for Photoshop. It was ridiculous and demoralizing in the extreme.
In the end we opted just to accept our inevitable decay with as much good humor as we were able and spent the rest of the evening happily making fun of ourselves. Chuck, bless him, learned his lesson and contained his input to nothing more than a frequent dramatic rolling of his eyes.
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