Two of my top fears: (1.) Flying and (2.) seeing pictures of myself. And I get to do both in the same month!
Anyone who knows me knows I do not like the way I look in photographs. I try to trace this back to some insensitive comment or some rude remark or some especially awful 80s permed-hair, Silver City pink, turquoise eyeliner picture, but I got nothing. I just don’t like the way my face looks huge, with eyes, nose and mouth clustered haphazardly in the middle of it, almost like an afterthought. My face is a wide, round entity that spreads like pale yellow pancake batter on a grease-slicked griddle. I am not fishing for compliments; it’s just reality. And yes, I am prone to hyperbole.
The rest of me, I’m okay with, I think. I say “think” because the constant inundation of images, advertisements, studies, comparisons, reports, special reports and very special reports makes me feel like I must constantly adjust what idea of what is “good” and “not good.” But in general, I think I’m realistic and accepting.
There are things about my body that will never be the same, thanks to that ten-month miracle called pregnancy. I am no anatomy expert (I found out in my 20s where my kidneys were located, around the same time I discovered that Bermuda was located off the shores of the Carolinas and not nestled down next to the Bahamas) but I am pretty sure that my c-section has created a stomach bubble that will never go away. I chalk this up to the fact that the doctors said they were having a hard time getting my uterus back in place — which seems an unusual thing to admit to a patient — and that conjured up an image of one doctor stuffing my uterus in while the other frantically sewed me up. Kinda like sitting on a suitcase and zipping it up. At my last sonogram (cysts, no, I’m not TTC) the technician said, and I quote: “Wow, they really botched you up, huh?” So I say this has caused a fancy little roll, and now I have this not-so-tiny reminder that flat stomachs are for people in their 20s. And yes, I am happy to trade bikini-ready for Mom jeans.
We did the family portrait this past Saturday. And on Monday, a woman from the studio showed up at our apartment, set up a projector, and beamed 25 of the best pictures from the hour-long session on the wall above out couch. It was surreal!
Surreal, and finite. We can only select one picture for the oil painting, and 8x10 photograph prints cost $300 a piece. This isn’t snapfish! So while we scrolled through the images, I realized I was watching something that I will never be able to view again, like a space shuttle launch, or Barbra Streisand singing Somewhere at Madison Square Garden. I felt possessive of the images and thought a few times how these images are juuuust over there, on the woman’s laptop. What would happen if, for example, I were walking with a disk and, hypothetically, I fell on her computer, and disk completely accidentally was inserted in her drive and I surreptitiously copied (Apple C Apple V!) the images? Believe me, I thought about doing that when she went into the girls’ bedroom to meet Avery’s goldfish, Fishy Friend. Alas, I could not move fast enough and Nicole didn’t read the look in my eyes that said “Just keep her in that room for abut four minutes.”
The sitting itself was a unique experience. The studio was in the St. Regis Hotel in New York, and our dressing room was a giant wood-paneled, mirrored enclave. It seemed more like a space were deals were closed, not bra straps adjusted. It was the largest room I ever stripped down in, I am pretty sure.
We went against the strong recommendation of back tie and instead wore something that was more us: So the girls wore their Easter outfits, Nicole dressed up like Ricardo Montalban on Fantasy Island (white linen suit!) and I wore a simple linen dress. And Madeline, much to my glee, decided to wear her socks pulled up, like Velma on Scooby-Doo. I love that she put her own stamp on this family project.
Despite the fact that Nicole and I were both sipping coffee in china cups on saucers, the girls, immune to the genteel atmosphere of the room and the spirit of white linen, were off the hook, running around, screaming, sitting on each other’s heads and generally acting as if the forthcoming session would be The Madeline & Avery Acrobatic show. “Look at us! We will not be corralled!” If I had a tranquiller gun, I would use it.
But once we went across the hall into the darkened studio, the girls were appropriately reverent and quiet and calm. Magic! I was totally entranced by the photography geekery of it all. The lights and tripods and lenses and light meters. It was like a B&H showroom. In my next life, I want to come back as a photographer. Or as my children.
We were posed in three configurations: The four of us; the two of them and the two of us. And the girls were angels. Stunningly poised and appropriate, even if they did at times look like the creepy Shining twins. They pointed their feet when they were asked to point their feet. They held hands. They smiled real smiles and not the crazy cheeeeeese smiles that they have been partial to lately.
The result was stunning. They looked awesome! But I guess I am partial.
Keep in mind that these pictures that I took are of the projected images above our couch. So they are not the best quality. But you get the idea.
Nicole was almost exactly the same in every picture. She smiled and froze and came out beautiful in each shot. She photographs really well, which made me nervous to stand next to her, with her dark and properly proportioned features.
The best picture was the last one. He decided to pose Nicole and I together on the ground, lounging, shoulder-to-shoulder. I laughed when he told Nicole to get on the ground because Nicole doesn’t get on the ground easily. It takes her about 40 seconds to arrange her bones and limbs and the look on her face when she squats down is priceless. He then settled me next to her, telling me to square my shoulders, lean in a little, point my chin, lift my head, and various other subtle directives that eventually lead me to face his groin square on. At that point, I just started laughing and couldn’t really stop. Once behind the camera, he kept admonishing me to have a “soft mouth” but the more he said that the more I laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed. All I could think was, this pose is such waste of time. There is no way we would select this over a picture of the four of us or the girls. And I can’t stop laughing.
A friend emailed me a pose I wish we did: Back-to-back with hands folded on our chests. That would have been awesome! Especially if one of us had a pencil tucked behind our ear!
And then it was over. We changed back into our clothes and headed home, stopping at a street fair, where Nicole won the girls their first pet— two goldfish! One, of course, has already died.
The saddest part of the day was going to bed, because I knew my magical blow-out, which turned out really good, would not last till morning. And that was the best hair day I have had in a decade! It looked particularly good from behind.
But the final result, the picture we chose to be converted into an oil painting was this one. Of course, Photoshop will be employed to even out socks and fix stray hairs and smooth skirts. And I did ask if they could trim about three inches out of my cheeks, so we'll see. But seeing the four of us like this, all together in one place and not scattered, was totally worth the stress and worry.