Two photographs of me taken 15 minutes apart illustrate the powerful allure of altered images. In one photograph, I look like a sagging, seasoned but sassy senior citizen. In the other one, I resemble the beautiful actress Katherine Zeta Jones. It’s amazing what a talented professional photographer can do with a new software program that rearranges facial features. I should wear a mask of the fabulous phony face, but then I couldn’t eat chocolate or drink wine, so I’ll stay with the contented crone.
Let’s face it: The dramatic but artificial improvement is shocking. The only similarities in the two photos are my jacket and jewelry. The rest is fake. Bogus. Counterfeit. But, damn, I would love to look like that.
With that face, doors would open, opportunities suddenly would appear, and strangers would buy me drinks in bars. With that face, I could walk into a fancy store and the salespeople would actually pay attention, a phenomenon I haven’t experienced in more than 20 years. I could probably get my own reality show on television, using no talent at all. That perfect pose would be published in magazine advertisements and on weight-loss product packaging. Imagine the unlimited scenarios.
Reality can be a bitch. If I used that photo on resumes or business cards, people would be overcome with disappointment when they met the real me. The manipulated image wouldn’t be accepted when I tried to use my driver’s license or passport. And, I’d lose the respect from friends and associates who know the authentic me. They would laugh in my normal face.
Full disclosure: I did use some of the photographs taken by the professional photographer. Some of the skin imperfections were erased and she caught my irreverent attitude, but the images still resemble me. The best one now is on the front page of my website. Don’t judge.
The ugly reality of fake beauty is that it removes authenticity. I never looked like the glamorous photo and I never will. And, that’s okay. Older women have earned their laugh lines, and their faces gain a certain grandeur as their jowls droop into their necks. Living long enough to sprout age spots and wrinkles is a privilege denied to many. Two good friends died recently, and they won’t have the opportunity to grow older and look more glorious with age. It may sound cliché, but for them, I’ll focus on inner beauty. I’ll also be grateful for another day to annoy or humor people. That’s real.