If you’re anything like me, you enjoy movie or TV outtakes as much, if not more, than the finished product. Here’s my Stitch Fix gag reel.
I had visions of looking my best when I asked my sister to snap some photos of me in my new outfits. I washed, dried and used a curling iron on my hair. I put on moisturizer and BB cream, powdered the eyelids with three shades of Tarte, brushed on some blush and put on lipstick. I was camera-ready, or at least as good as it gets these days.
I drove to Woodbridge about 45 minutes away for the shoot. After loading the Stitch Fix box and some other wardrobe essentials, I set out on my maiden (and only) modeling gig. Like many little girls, I loved dress up. Like many women, I love makeovers.
As little girls, we watch Cinderella swapping her ragged clothes for a beautiful gown. We play dress up, burrowing in our mother’s closet and tugging at hangers with sparkly dresses. We march around our room (or mom’s) in our dress up outfits, dreaming of one day being a big girl with a rocking closet.
I know all girls don’t do this. I know some girls like to play football, cowboys and indians or Capture the Flag, a game I’ve never really understood. And I don’t mean to offend feminists, girls who identify as boys or anyone else who didn’t play dress up. But I was one of those girls who really admired beautiful women. I once saw a blonde with curly tresses, heavy makeup and a tight outfit and asked my mother if she thought she was pretty. “Well, she’s a little hard.” When you’re little, you associate big hair, eyeliner and lipstick with beauty. At least I did.
The prettiest woman I knew growing up was my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Irene Letize. She had thick black hair, sparkling green eyes framed by thick dark eyelashes, a perfect turned up nose, high cheekbones sprinkled with freckles. and beautiful white teeth that she brushed in the lavatory at lunch.
She wore lacy bras and Emeraude by Coty. She was the kind of teacher who took you to Friendly’s for a vanilla Fribble after school. I had her over to our house for tea one day, and was crestfallen to learn she went to another kid’s house in the neighborhood a few days later. I wanted her all to myself.
It wasn’t just me who thought she was gorgeous. I hired an education consultant a few years ago who worked with her in the ’60s. I asked her if she was as pretty as I remember. “Oh yes,” she said. “Irene was a knockout. All of the male teachers used to call her Gina Lollobrigida.” OK, I could spot a knockout at 8. A good eye even back then.
I’ve always maintained that the recovery process – that is, getting ready to go out by fixing your hair and face – gets longer every year. If you don’t put on makeup regularly, it takes even longer because you forget about eyeliner or where you put the eyelash curler. I haven’t really put on a lot of makeup in about a month, so I was pretty much winging it. But I did what I could and I left the house optimistic.
The camera has a way of bringing you back to reality very quickly. Instead of glamour shots, my sister and I were plodding around her yard looking for better lighting. No, I didn’t know my “good” side. No, I can’t possibly pretend I’m smiling at my daughter when I’m freezing in this halter top. I know I look tense, but I am. Just take about 100 shots and we’ll hope for a few decent ones. Damn, I knew I should have gotten a professional blowout. This hair is killing me. Bring in the dogs. They always look cute in JCrew catalogs.
To her credit, my sister took many photos, trying to capture me at my best. She finally admitted defeat, acknowledging that I looked pretty bad despite our best efforts. A friend complained that my sister cut off my head in one of the photos. I had to admit it was I who cropped off my head. My neck looked particularly wrinkled, my eyes were slits and I looked jowly. I didn’t want to scare anyone, especially me.
As you get older, you tend to compare yourself to other women your age. I recently saw Mimi Rogers on an episode of “BlueBloods” and wondered if I’m aging better or worse than she is. You think, “How am I stacking up? Do I look better or worse than other women my age?” A little like any rating system, only so much more pathetic.
My photo shoot was pretty much what my sisters used to refer as not getting slapped with the ugly stick, but the whole tree. Or coyote ugly – so bad that a man would sooner gnaw off his own arm than awaken a woman he had sex with while drunk. Or to be enormously crude, a double-bagger kind of day.
I’ve had these experiences before and it’s usually when I want to look my best. It’s a fact that everyone looks at themselves first in a group photo. Everyone wants to look decent. Maybe not stellar or the way you looked when you were 35, but not frumpy, tired or washed up. It’s not being vain. It’s being human.
It’s sort of a rule of nature that when you want to look good, you don’t. And when you don’t give a damn, you look like some semblance of what you imagine you do. This experience has taught me that models and photographers work a lot harder than we think. It’s also taught me not to try to be something I’m not. I love to take photos – I pride myself on capturing flattering candids and portraits of family and friends.
But I don’t like to be in front of the camera. I’m self-conscious, stiff and just want it over with quickly. It’s given me new insight into photographing people, and I’ll keep it in mind the next time I’m on the other side of the lens.