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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Michelle Teheux: Bravery is facing a camera past 40

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  • I did it.
    I voluntarily had my picture taken.
    Most women my age — and I’m writing this on my 48th birthday — do not like to have their pictures taken. We don’t really care to have the evidence that we are no longer young made as painfully obvious to ourselves as it is to everyone else.
    The image I have of myself in my head doesn’t match the pictures I see of myself. I’m considerably younger, thinner and better looking than every single picture taken of me in the last 20 years. Trust me on this. I really look fantastic — just not in person and not in pictures. But the rest of the time, yeah.
    I cringe enough when it’s a camera-wielding friend who I know is going to tag a dozen pictures of me on Facebook. But the real trauma comes every few years when it’s time to re-shoot my column mug.
    It was time. It was past time. I had always hated that picture, except for one thing: It did not look like me at all. It looked even less like me than most pictures (which, as noted above, invariably do not look like me, because I am certain I do not look like THAT).
    Having your picture run in the paper every day and twice on Wednesdays means you lose a certain level of anonymity. But when you haven’t redone your mugshot for many years and many hairstyles, you have more anonymity than if your mug actually looks like you.
    I can tell many stories about readers not recognizing me in person. One in particular visited the newsroom and talked to me at length about how much he disliked a certain columnist, never realizing that he was speaking to that very columnist. When I let him know who I was, he quickly grew flustered and left, much to the amusement of the entire newsroom.
    But at my most recent haircut, my hairdresser point-blank ordered me to take a new picture, and if there’s anybody you don’t want to disobey, it’s your hairdresser. Flaunt your doctor’s orders, sure. Ignore your accountant’s advice, no biggie. Defy your hairdresser? No way. They can do real damage to you.
    So I figured that my birthday would be a good day to shoot the pic that I will likely keep for many, many years.
    In spite of the photographer’s best efforts, the new mug, for some reason, shows a middle-aged grandma rather than an attractive younger woman. But like I said, that has been happening consistently for 20 years or so, just proving that photographers aren’t nearly as skilled as they used to be. I recently found a copy of my senior picture, and I looked great in it. It’s kind of sad to see how photography standards have dropped in only 30 years.
    Page 2 of 2 - All this angst, and yet other than me and possibly my husband, nobody gives a darn about my stupid picture.
    It’s a common thing for people we wish to photograph for a news story to try to find excuses why we cannot shoot their pics. My favorite was the lady who claimed she was “too fat” on a given day to have her picture taken. I’m not the only person who doesn’t like to stare into a camera lens, and I’m certainly not the only person who really doesn’t relish the idea of an imperfect pic being reproduced thousands of times and delivered to doorsteps all over town.
    The Internet makes it worse: If I Google my name, all my past column pictures come up, and that makes it very impossible for me to ignore the fact that I might have aged. Slightly.
    Maybe when I get my column picture taken again, perhaps on my 53rd birthday or so, the photographer will have increased his skill enough to make me look as young and vibrant as I know, deep inside, I really should look.
    I guess there’s always Photoshop.
    Michelle Teheux may be reached at mteheux@pekintimes.com.
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