I needed a publicity face shot. My husband took it outside in the bright sunlight.
When I first saw the photo, I cringed. Instead of seeing my pretty smile or nice eyes, I saw the frown lines and crow’s feet. And strands of gray hair and a bit of a sagging neck. And those weird little puffy bumps beneath my left eyebrow that appeared in the last few years.
Immediately my mind scrambled: Maybe you should go to a professional…have your makeup and hair done…use studio lighting…
Then I thought: Should I get Botox? (My husband thinks injecting poison into my face is a stupid idea. I have some friends who love it; one friend had a bad experience with it.)
Then I thought: If people saw a doctored up picture of me and I arrived at an event looking, well, like this picture—would they be shocked?
Who am I fooling? What message would I be conveying?
I’m 52. It’s normal to have wrinkles and sags in your fifties.
But you’d never know it. The faces we see splashed all over the internet and magazines have had “work done” or were Photoshopped or, at minimum, have been prettified with the best makeup and lighting money can buy.
One of the worst shames to befall a celebrity is a paparazzi shot that makes them look old and fat.
We live in a world of shiny surfaces. And we live in a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram world, where pictures of us can appear all over the internet—pictures we’d rather stay hidden in a drawer.
In the past few months, I’ve had several friends (all women) ask me to remove pictures I posted of them—pictures I thought were pretty. Or badass.
Pictures that marked memorable moments.
I’ve done that too: scavenging all the photos my husband takes for the most flattering shots. Private messaging friends to ask them to take down pictures of me I don’t like. Hating my unsmiling “b*tch face” (make that old b*tch face), anxious that my arm flab, or perimenopausal poochy tummy, or wrinkles will be announced to the world, as though looking like myself is an offense.
I do yoga several times a week. I eat healthily. I hike and bike and swim. Things my grandmother never did—yet I have her body.
When I get a little freaked out about looking old, I have to re-remember this: I’m just happy to be alive. And when I remember that, I’m able to derail years of programming that tell me that my appearance equals my value.
It’s been over two years since I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent brain surgery. During that time, I realized I could not heal what I did not love. I spent a lot of time thinking about all my body does for me: breathes, digests, moves through the world. I can feel the breeze on my skin, have an orgasm, think a thought.
I meditate on loving and thanking my body.
Sometimes when I meditate, it feels like loving hands are cupping my face, like a grandmother cherishing her grandchild. Sometimes I think: If I’m hating on my arm flab, I’m hating on my grandmother. I loved her.
And I remember: I love my face. I love my body. I thank it for everything.
I’ve started allowing pictures of me I’m not comfortable with to appear online. I don’t untag them or hide them. I’m finding it good to release control of what I (think I) look like. Because then I love and accept myself, exactly as I am.
I don’t want to waste my living time worrying about looking old.
I sent in the publicity shot of me. It now graces posters advertising an event I’m leading. I am 52. I survived brain surgery.
I’m going through perimenopause. I love the life I live. My face says it all.
Author: Kate Evans
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Author’s own