dgk goldberg <>

I'm guilty. I have sneered in smug superiority at those pathetic women who spent money getting tarted up in the mall so they could plonk down a few hundred for photos of themselves. I have ridiculed pictures of people who look suspiciously like all of their friends who were seduced by the cunning ads.

I suspected most women of being genetically predisposed to go on alert when shown before and after displays. We believe that the right hairdresser can change our lives.

I pretend I'm different. I run past my local Glamour Shots fearing that someone might think I was interested.

I am especially funny when I do my imitation of the infamous "denim jacket" pose favored by middle aged broads who can't decide whether they are emulating a country music diva or relapsing into Woodstock.

I really did not understand what lemming like compulsion caused my gender to migrate to makeover photo parlors in droves.

Then, I was vicimtized by my own camera.

I looked like an anorexic hooker on heroin whose sell-by date has passed. The harmless little one-hour processing envelope enclosed a traumatic shock. The night that a friend snapped the picture I was feeling---you know---gorgeous. I'd had that electrifying feeling of gorgeousness that provokes hair tossing, joke telling, hand-on-hip posing, and hip swaying.

I did not look gorgeous. I looked anxious, exhausted, and raccoon eyed. I had streaks of clown rouge on my cheeks. Lipstick flecked my teeth. My self-perceived sylph-like beauty looked pathetically scrawny in the unforgiving picture.

I turned it into a joke---the picture had not done me justice, it had had no mercy. The photograph had assaulted me.

I wasn't laughing.

I especially wasn't laughing when the editor of a magazine wanted a picture to run with an article. I wanted to scream, "Look, I did not become a writer so people would look at me."

I work in sweatpants that I inherited from my deceased mom and filthy T-shirts left behind by people who pass through my life. T-shirts migrate. Check your closet. You have six T-shirts pertaining to bands you've never heard, restaurants you don't recall, or places you've never been. They were all left behind by people you don't remember.

I wonder what sort of vicious sadist the editor is? How can she want a picture? I only brush my hair on odd numbered days.

I sent her a red eyed snap of me looking queasy in the corner of my sofa. The sofa looked great. Really, the sofa is definitely photogenic.

I succumbed. I made an appointment at Glamour Shots.

Glamour Shots had never before tempted me. No, really, it hadn't. Well, maybe just a bit, one PMS-y day when I was mallwalking my frustration after trying to tart myself up at Victoria's Secret. Even the extra small teddies gapped over my nonexistent breasts. I am convinced I'll reach menopause without going through puberty. I envision myself packing for the Old Uppity Women's Home---little boys sneakers, my dead mom's sweatpants, and my "littlest angel training bras."

After making the appointment, I felt a rush of shame-as if I was an adulterer, a closet opium head, and an embezzler. I thought of reasons to cancel the appointment.

Then, another editor asked for a photo please, "We like to run pictures of our contributors." As surely as the onset of my period arrives halfway through a drive to the beach, I was trapped.

I showed up in a baggy sweatshirt with my lank hair stringing around my naked face.

The room was decorated with huge blowups of women pouting, vamping, and in general looking like they were caught in the throes of sexual ecstasy.

"I'm sorry," I said, "I am really going to be hard to work with." My stomach was knotting and I had developed a series of facial tics and twitches.

"You have to feel good," the relentlessly cheerful manager replied, "We're gonna make you beautiful."

"Look, I tried that and failed, I'll settle for normal."

I was straight jacketed into a smock and plastered with pancake make-up. The woman who troweled the make up onto my face complimented my eyebrows.

I considered suicide. If all the hired cheerleaders singled out my eyebrows for praise, it confirmed without a doubt that my face was beyond redemption. Two of them attempted my salvation. They sang a duet about the glories of a good hair cut.

"You don't understand. If I got a hair cut, I'd simply have to go get another one in a few months. I'm not really that organized."

They exchanged the sort of compassionate glances that bystanders share at a house fire, looking at each other's pity instead of staring at the horrifying sight of a charred home.

After careful consultation my hair was scooped atop my head and coaxed into swirls that resembled soft ice cream. I hated it. I looked like my mother. Not my aging mother---but my young Mommy when I was a little girl. Mommys were the only women I knew that wore their hair up with classy earrings.

Perceiving my discomfort, the stylist said, "Look, if you're going to freak, we can do something else." I don't suppose that most of her clients hyperventilated.

"No, it's perfect. It's what I asked for." I had requested a professional look in lieu of the sex goddesses lining the walls. "But, it makes me look old. Well, not old but grown up. Well, it makes me look like a woman whose bathroom towels match."

The beauty squad gasped. I had obviously offended some unspoken code. I immediately knew that I was in an environment where matching towels were considered desirable.

I did not recognize the face in the mirror. It wasn't mine. It belonged to someone whose towels matched her bath mat. That woman in the mirror weeded out the torn tights and cut the paint stained pants into rags for dusting whatever it is one dusts.

After catching the composed career woman that I wasn't on film, they transformed me into a mundane sex goddess clone. My lipstick was darkened; my eyes were rimmed with more shadow. I dutifully parted my lips and slung my sprayed hair over one shoulder and then another.

When I watched the poses flit across the computer screen I saw a woman with a distant resemblance to myself. Her smile was stiff. Her eyes were vacant. She wasn't really anyone I knew. I supposed I got what I had come for---decent photographs of the physical self I inhabit. Nothing of me flickered across the screen.

I was shocked at the cost. I'd rented apartments for less than the cost of a few sheets of wallet sized photos. I paid for several poses wondering if I wouldn't have been better off inventing a series of lies for editors. Gee I sent the picture. It must have got lost in the mail. Oh, I can't have my picture taken since the accident. Well, I enjoy writing for your publication but my religion doesn't allow photographs. Even a simple, I am terribly sorry but women like me don't show up on film and I can't make daytime meetings either, will that be a problem?

I waited for a moment of guilty pleasure to come. I stared at the photos of me looking unlike me --- looking as close to conventional beauty as I'll ever get.

I didn't feel a twinge of joy seeing myself done up like a glamour puss. How can you feel pride in something that seems to have nothing to do with you?

At home, I looked in the mirror. The make up was melting. My mascara bled onto my cheeks. My teeth were flecked with lipstick. I neither looked nor felt gorgeous, although the photos were gorgeous. I was as dead and perfect as a bug in amber.

I scrubbed my way back to me. Again in the mirror, freckles reborn, lips naked, eyes unlined, I saw myself. I was neither a hag nor a femme fatale; I was just I---I looked pretty good to myself. Or, at least I looked familiar.

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