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Picture imperfect – seeing ourselves as others see us

By Tracy Curtis
Tracy Lee Curtis
Tracy Lee Curtis is a humorist, writer and speaker. She writes family humor for the Charlotte Observer. Her column appears each Sunday.

OK – tah-dah! I finally updated my mug shot. I really had no intention of changing it after all these years. Until this happened. …

A gal in yoga comes up to me and asks, “Are you that writer? I never would have known it was you, you look nothing like your picture.”

So I hear. And from what I’ve heard, this is a good thing.

“In your photo, your face is fuller. Were you pregnant?”

What? Are you kidding me? You never assume someone is pregnant, even if their belly is sticking out a foot, you don’t say anything until you’re positive they’re expecting.

And you’re gonna assume I was pregnant based on a teeny tiny, black and white thumbnail picture, photocopied on newspaper? Have you completely lost your mind?

OK, so I was five months pregnant. NOT the point. And the picture’s 8 years old. The baby I was carrying then is now in first grade. But I’ve always liked the fact that people were pleasantly surprised when they met me. “You look nothing like your picture” has always been a compliment.

So why risk taking a better photo, and have someone in the grocery store say, “You look nothing like your picture. Hmm, that’s too bad. Oh well.” Keep expectations low, I say.

And who in their right mind takes a new picture to replace a picture taken almost a decade ago? Talk about aging yourself. Like I really want to climb into a time machine and show what happens to a person between their 30s and 40s. It’s like Extreme Makeover – in reverse. Instead of a photo op, how ’bout a photo SHOP?

But that new Dove campaign everybody’s talking about got me thinking. The Dove folks had women come in and describe their face to a forensic sketch artist. Then they had a friend of each woman give their description of her. The comparison of how women see themselves versus how others see them was startling. The descriptions by their friend resulted in considerably prettier sketches.

If I described myself I’d say, round face, wide smile, high eyebrows, with a ball at the tip of my nose. My sketch would look like something you might hire for a children’s party.

So I figure maybe I don’t see myself as others see me. Clearly. Others see me as pregnant. And no woman, whether she’s 30, 40 or 50, ever wants to look pregnant when she’s not. Whether it’s in your belly, or in your face, or in your nose, it’s never a good thing. So I got a new photo.

Funny thing is – I think it looks exactly the same.

tcurtis@charlotteobserver.com
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