My picture, which is displayed with this essay, was taken in 2002 at the Walgreens photo center. I took the picture because I needed a passport to take on a cruise that year. Because I liked the passport picture very much, and I received two of them, I sent one to the Austin Weekly News to publish with my essays.
Most people didn’t associate me with the picture in the newspaper. For the last three years, Super Jim’s a grocery store in my neighborhood has displayed an enlarged laminated cutout of my essay and picture on the outside wall of its office. In August of last year, I stood in the checkout line behind people as they read the essay, but none recognized the picture as me. About that same time, I asked a fellow member of the North Austin Book Club if she had read my latest essay. “I read the essay,” she said, “but I didn’t know you had written it.” I felt I was overdue on replacing a new picture for the old.
In September 2007, I had my picture taken. I wanted to update the picture in the Austin Weekly News. But the picture didn’t come out well. I thought the new picture was uncomplimentary. I saw dark circles under my eyes, which bothered me. My son said I didn’t smile, and that I had a frightened look on my face. He told me maybe I should wait until after my hair grew longer (I wondered if that was possible) and also that I should smile. For me, taking a picture was frustrating. I didn’t get a chance to smile because the flash startled me.
Last November, I decided to have my picture taken again at Walgreens. For years, I stopped using makeup-except lipstick on special occasions. So I knew I needed some help if I wanted the second picture to be better than the first. Weeks before I had the second picture taken, I collected all my old makeup, such as eyebrow pencils, rouge, face powder, and lipstick, lash liner and curler, and foundation that I had used. My daughter told me to use a brighter red lipstick and to cover my neck with a scarf. She said an older woman’s neck shows her age. On the day of the picture, I spent an hour applying makeup.
When I saw the picture, I realized that I had made a change that altered my appearance. I made the mistake of wearing different eyeglasses. Underneath the rim of the eyeglasses were dark lines. The foundation and face powder didn’t cover-up the dark lines and circles under my eyes, and I forgot to wear my earrings. I was discouraged. It seemed as if I wasn’t going to achieve this good-looking picture I wanted so badly. I wasn’t brave enough to send the uncomplimentary picture to the newspaper. So I didn’t send it.
My husband told me I was vain. He said the first picture was all right, and I didn’t need to take a second one. He made me feel silly for making a fuss over a picture. But then, I thought, “I’m not dead.” I didn’t know what my husband was thinking, but I wasn’t sending a haggard looking picture of myself to the newspaper.
Now, it is January 2008, but I haven’t given up on the “beautiful picture.” I don’t intend to join the Botox revolution or to have cosmetic surgery, but I do care that readers of the Austin Weekly see a pleasant and recognizable picture of me. I rub cold cream under my eyes and I brush my hair as often as I can think to do these things. I’m not doing a good job at this aging business. But I’m glad I’m still aging.