Thursday, December 23, 2010

the one about aging beautiful

(I seem to have let go of keeping up with Reverb 10 prompts. I'll get to them when I get to them if I get to them. I'm busy. I'm distracted with (creative) work and Christmas (I have inconvenient amounts of cooking and baking to do tomorrow). This post has nothing to do with Reverb 10.)

My daughter documents her life through photographs. Digital photography makes it so easy for her to take dozens of pictures every time she goes out with her friends or works on a new drawing or sees an orange sunset. She takes pictures of herself getting ready to go out to the movies, of herself doing homework or drawing. She takes pictures of meals in progress, her mother squishing tomatoes for pasta sauce or kneading dough for bread.

She takes pictures of one of her eyes made up, the other bare, pictures of the cat sleeping on the sofa or crawling into a reusable grocery sack.

She takes pictures of her mother.

I have always disliked having my picture taken. I’m always uglier in photos than I expect myself to be. When I was a child, I thought I was hideous, though I wasn’t. I was a pretty, little thing. Never photogenic. My mother, too, thought she was ugly. I must have inherited that gene from her.

Since my daughter started taking photographs, whether it was with my little Fuji camera, my newer but not new Canon Powershot or her spiffy Nikon SLR that was a gift from her father, I’ve always been one of her subjects.

She takes pictures of me playing with the cat, cooking, just standing there looking at her begging her not to take that shot. She takes pictures of us together, me with her father as if we are still a couple, me working (writing).

She posts everything on Facebook, pictures of herself looking tired, of the cat looking pissed, of me looking … well, old.

When she colored that strand of my hair pink, she took a picture and posted it on Facebook, of course.

I found it today, not that it was a secret. I just haven’t been on Facebook much. I have to get used to this new self, this self who, from the side, has her father’s jowls. I want to hate this self for betraying me, for sagging. But I can’t. Aging me still has beautiful hair and a thin neck. But that jaw line is undeniably my father’s.

And my father is dead.

How do we reconcile how young we feel with visible proof of our age?

I rarely look at pictures of myself unless someone else is in them. I don’t even look in the mirror all that often unless I’m plucking my eyebrows or trying to wash off a rarely applied masque.

This picture that my daughter took… I don’t know. Maybe it's this fuchsia strand lying there again my black sweater mixed in with all that gray. It’s startling. The pink strand is the first thing I see when I look at this picture, this picture of a stranger. Then I see the white curl in front of my ear, the enormous ear, the not-so-great skin, the loose cheek and jaw.

There’s nothing wrong with growing old. Nothing.

It just startles me when I have proof.


  1. omg...this is so lovely. your words plus her photo equals art. -sara

  2. I think you're coming close to what would have been a good prompt, actually: How to we reconcile how we feel with the actual numbers in our age? Too many young prompt authors, perhaps, although I remember feeling older than my birth certificate, and cursing the ceiling I was bumping up against. Now I'm on the other end of that equation - and I surprise myself daily. It's not something I have huge angst about, but it itches. I haven't made peace with it, the whole body betraying me, not really feeling like I'm hovering around 50 thing. This I have to look forward to.

    And I like the scream of pink in your hair, for a dozen reasons.