my illustrative personae. Anything other than a photo. I hate photographs of myself; in my opinion, photos are really, really mean. Either they lie, or they lack tack. They are not friendly. Mirrors, on the other hand, are infinitely more gentle. When I face the glass I usually shrug and think, "Okay, not bad." But photos... oh, the agony. Not only do they point out any and all imperfections, I am convinced they go out of their way to magnify them. In my opinion, that's downright rude. Nobody likes a critic.
In recent years, especially since I started writing, my husband Fred gives me a hard time about my illustrated self portraits. "You're such a beauty, Catherine. You should let people see your real face. Let them get to know you." In submission, I cautiously begin using photos as avatars and gravatars on twitter, facebook, and blogs. In keeping with our usual relational shtick as artists with opposite taste, my husband despises each and every one of my carefully crafted photos—which I happen to think are as adorable as they can possibly be, considering the subject matter. If I didn't rate them as such, I would never use them in the first place.
On a recent trip to a local museum, Fred is inspired to fix the problem. He has me stand against a wall that's papered with a very hip print—way more hip than I'll ever be—and proceeds to capture image after image on his i-phone. Immediately after snapping them, as we sit at a table eating donuts in a cool coffee shop across the street, my sweet husband raves over his work, completely gaga. Meanwhile, I am genuinely disturbed. Several of the photos reveal to me for the first time that my left eye is a good bit higher than my right. While I'm wondering if I have always been so hideous (I am the elephant woman) and how I'll be able to continue walking around like this (perhaps a paper bag is the answer), he is thanking God, out loud, for blessing him with such a beautiful wife. Are we even looking at the same photos? The disconnect is remarkable. Either the Enemy is distorting my vision, or has God has provided love goggles for my adoring husband. I'll never know which is true, and it doesn't matter anyway, so I let it go and make a joke about something, trying to change the subject.
When the request from Minnesota Monthly comes in, I know I have to use one of Fred's photos. There's no way around it. I sneak into my studio and open up the least offensive shot. As I am busily clicking away in Photoshop wishing for a "moisturize" filter, or perhaps a "youthening wand," Fred sneaks up behind me, catching me red-handed. "Ah, retouching!" I blush and start to stammer. "I didn't know you were gonna take my picture that day, Honey. My hair was flat, and I wasn't wearing any makeup. I can't fix the hair, but look, see? I added eyeliner and lipstick." I show him my handiwork to distract him from the fact that, when he walked in, I was about to erase the crow's feet on my cheek. Yeah, you heard me. On my cheek, well below the spot where people usually have crow's feet. I mean, yes, I have those too, in their proper place, next to my eyes; those, I ignore. But who can blame a girl for wanting to erase crow's feet from her cheek? What a joke.
"Babe, you don't need makeup. You are beautiful. Look at you!" He is not just trying to be nice, nor is he blowing smoke to get something from me. He really means it.
I immediately thank God for wiring my handsome husband to be attracted to me, even after seventeen years together. It's true, I suppose, that love is blind.
Merry Christmas, Freddy dear. I love you more with every passing day. Thank you for loving me, and for going out of your way to build me up. What a godly man you are, to love your wife this way.
Bless your fresh-flowing fountain! Enjoy the wife you married as a young man! Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose—don't ever quit taking delight in her body. Never take her love for granted! ~ Proverbs 5:18-19 The Message
(Fred is miles out of my league, by the way. Va-va-voom. I never get tired of studying his handsome face. Despite his dreamy green eyes, classically chiseled brow and cheekbones, and amazingly perfect nose, he hates any and all photos of himself as well. Go figure.)