I had an email from a kind friend who sent two photos of Mark and me. We were guests at her wedding last spring (more about that in a minute), and in snapping candid photos of the guests, her photographer captured me and my hunk in a couple of shots.
The photos are obviously taken by a pro. The composition is lovely. The resolution is far better than I could ever get with my little pocket camera. There was only one thing...
The woman in the photos wasn't me!
Hahaha...or at least she wasn't the "me" that I imagine myself to look like...
Mind you, there is nothing at all wrong with this woman's appearance. She just looks kind of, I don't know, angular and bony.
That chin! The neck! The mouth! Does she ever relax?
Sigh...of course it's me. For those of you who are close to my age, you will know exactly what I am talking about. And for you younger readers...all I can say is, well, just wait. Gravity will have its way.
Candid snapshots are such an odd, modern thing. It's only been in the last 100+ years that we've been able to see ourselves captured on film in this way. It happens in the tiniest slice of time: the intersection of a facial muscle's twitch and the click of a camera button, and an expression is frozen for inspection.
I don't see myself this way when I look in the mirror (yet another relatively modern invention, when you think of the whole span of human history). I can compose my expression, smooth my facial muscles, relax my jaw. I see what I choose to see.
But others, apparently, see me this way all the time. As a high school teacher, I am perhaps more self-aware than I might be if I worked in an office. Every morning I put myself in front of classrooms filled with young humans. Seventy eyes watch me move, laugh, talk, burp, frown, gesture, scratch my head, smile. Seventy eyes that belong to the most self-conscious demographic on the planet. They groom themselves so carefully before coming to school. Appearances are everything. On the one hand, I'm just another peripheral adult in their lives. They deal with me for one hour a day, and then they're on their way to far more important interactions with the people who really matter to them--their peers. But on the other hand, what else do they have to look at for the hour? Without fail, whenever I get a haircut, my students always notice. And they mention it. I know they're watching
Ah, well. It's not that I really mind that I look different to others than I imagine myself to look. There's not much I can do about it. Even for people who have had plastic surgery, there is a gap, I'm sure, between their perceived appearance and the reality of how others actually experience them. And of course what matters most is who we are as a person, how we live our lives inside the skin and bones that we call home, the choices we make and the ways we can be human with others.
But still. It kind of makes you think, you know?
And by the way, here's the lovely bride and her family:
Becky, Ben, Lucy and Will had such a beautiful, joyful day. What a delight it was to share their wedding celebration with them!
After spending some time with these photos, I have to point out my absolutely favorite thing. It's this:
(PS - More reflections about my face here.)