Picture (im)Perfect - une femme d'un certain âge

Picture (im)Perfect

I wanted to thank everyone for their kind and supportive comments on yesterday’s post.  You all are generous, gracious and gorgeous yourselves!

I’ll beg your indulgence once more, as I wanted to expand and clarify a bit.

First, in my family “fat” was shorthand for a whole raft of feelings and situations that had nothing to do with adipose tissue.  When my mother said “you look fat in that” it could mean anything from “the sleeves are too short” to “the color is unflattering” to “the fabric looks cheap” to “the hem is uneven” to “I just don’t like it.”  So even though my knee-jerk reaction was to fire up those old “look fat” tapes, what I really saw when I looked at the picture the first time was that my legs looked disproportionately short, probably due to the camera angle.  But once the body-negative stuff gets activated, all of the rational analysis goes right out the window.  (And despite my family’s prejudices, there’s nothing inherently wrong with looking fat. Being above a certain size doesn’t preclude having great style. Selecting clothing that fits, works with our proportions, enhances our best features and flatters our coloring will do wonders for all of us.)

Another reason I’ve been reluctant to post modeling shots is that I don’t want to give the impression of fishing for compliments. Some of the old “good girl” conditioning, I guess. Don’t “toot your own horn.” But I need to remember that I don’t react that way when other people post these what-I-wore pics and I really enjoy seeing how people put themselves together, (usually I find it downright inspiring!) so I’m doing my best to let go of that bit of conditioning as well.

So many of us, it seems, place a thin film of expectation of how we “should” look over our own images that clouds and distorts reality.  It’s not our image that’s the problem, but our own expectations of it.  When I can lift that film and look underneath, often what I see is just fine.  Many years ago, after a vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, my mother-in-law was sharing some pictures she’d taken.  “Oh, you’re not going to like this one,” she said.  In the shot, I was in a bathing suit, sitting in a very unflattering position.  But I remembered that day, what a great time we’d had at the beach, and saw the look on my face captured in the picture: happy, relaxed.  “Actually I think I look pretty good,” I told her.
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21 Comments

  1. April 22, 2010 / 2:54 pm

    Pseu, I thought that you looked fine in your photo.
    I don’t like to post my own photo unless there is a specific reason to do so. Although I LOVE it when other bloggers post photos of their outfits…Wendy B, Sher, etc.
    It is not a myth that photography adds what looks like 20 pounds to anyone’s figure, so I try to be more forgiving to my image and accept the fact that I will always photograph looking larger than I am.
    Finally, chic style isn’t only for the ultra thin. I know a lot of women who don’t wear a small size who dress beautifully. They may not photograph well, but in real life they look amazing.

  2. April 22, 2010 / 3:40 pm

    Oh God, look out for bad camera angles…they can really make a mess of things!

  3. aaonce
    April 22, 2010 / 5:39 pm

    Sorry I missed yesterday’s post–but you sure do look awfully darn cute in today’s post!!!

  4. cybill
    April 22, 2010 / 1:28 pm

    Aahh photos, so laden with angst and bother. I only ever look at photos of myself to judge myself (harshly) I forget they are also documents of happy times. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Frugal Scholar
    April 22, 2010 / 1:32 pm

    RE your stripy outfit/mirror picture. I remember seeing my 2 y.o. son sitting on the sink, looking in the mirror, talking to his image, and giving it an occasional kiss. We should do that more often.

  6. ~Tessa~Scoffs
    April 22, 2010 / 1:58 pm

    Oh, well said, well written. Good point, too. I shy from posting “WIW” pics but mainly because I don’t have the time to come up with anything more creative than slacks, a polo, a cardi and pearls. I enjoy your pictures, and gain inspiration from them. The POTFs are fun too!

  7. La Belette Rouge
    April 22, 2010 / 2:19 pm

    The self-love displayed in today’s picture is a wonderful thing. It would be so nice if we could all hold onto that unconditional self-acceptance for our selves that we have before we learn that “f”(fat) word.

  8. metscan
    April 22, 2010 / 2:31 pm

    A good post today, Deja. I could not do those so called WIW posts. Why are they so popular? I´m happy to show a gathering of clothes, however. Why? When I only show the clothes, anyone can picture herself wearing a piece or two of them, maybe even get a totally different new idea. As I have said, this blog has an important part in my well-being. Finally I am allowed to share things and thoughts I like, just like everyone else!

  9. Rubiatonta
    April 22, 2010 / 10:28 pm

    Sweet photo today! And a wonderful, thoughtful post.

    (WV: cycisti — isn’t that a UTI one gets on an Italian vacation?)

  10. April 22, 2010 / 11:25 pm

    This is, I believe, the great leap of adult growth, to not measure ourselves by others’ opinions, which are their own projections anyway.

    I love the Marna Rinaldi slogan, “Style is not a size.”

  11. vicki archer
    April 22, 2010 / 9:23 pm

    So many silly things that are said without thinking…Imagine if we could rewind all the useless and negative comments that we have heard in our lives! Your attitude is exactly the one we should all aspire to. xv

  12. April 23, 2010 / 11:07 am

    How terrible that you were tainted with the fat word, when it was often nothing to do with size.

    Great post.

  13. April 23, 2010 / 12:25 pm

    I never for one minute thought you would be fishing for compliments. Just trying to be helpful to your lovely readers. I do know what you mean. When I look in the mirror I expect perfection , and when I don’t see it reflected back, I get down. So silly.

  14. Anonymous
    April 23, 2010 / 2:14 pm

    I have an almost identical photo of my daughter (same outfit, talking to herself in the mirror) – 27 years ago! et

  15. April 24, 2010 / 2:16 pm

    cybill – yes, and I try to remind myself how much I enjoy looking at photos of my family and friends, and never even consider whether they’re “flattering” or not. It’s all about the memories.

    Frugal Scholar – yes, kids have the right idea!

    Tessa~Scoffs – thanks so much. I’d love to see your polo/pearls ensemble, sounds very classic!

  16. April 24, 2010 / 2:16 pm

    cybill – yes, and I try to remind myself how much I enjoy looking at photos of my family and friends, and never even consider whether they’re “flattering” or not. It’s all about the memories.

    Frugal Scholar – yes, kids have the right idea!

    Tessa~Scoffs – thanks so much. I’d love to see your polo/pearls ensemble, sounds very classic!

  17. April 24, 2010 / 2:21 pm

    LBR – I had a friend who at 60 decided to stop hating her body and used to sing and dance “I’m a Little Teapot” naked in front of her mirror. She said it worked.

    metscan – I like both the clothing grouping shots (because I can imagine myself in them) and seeing clothing modeled on other people (because it’s good to see how clothing looks on women who aren’t fashion models, and because I enjoy seeing how their clothing reflects their personalities). We’re all enjoying your blog very much!

    Belle – thank you. I think we all just need to be more forgiving of our captured images. As WendyB says, “the camera lies!” 😀

  18. April 24, 2010 / 2:24 pm

    WendyB – no kidding! The only thing worse is when I ask DH to take the picture…he always thinks the camera should be at knee level!

    aaonce – thanks so much!

    vicki archer – thank you. Our parents probably heard the same critical things from *their* parents…all we can do is try to break the cycle.

  19. April 24, 2010 / 2:31 pm

    Rubiatonta – thank you! (Your interpretation of the WV cracked me up!)

    Duchesse – yes, that’s a great slogan! I try to remember that my mother was a very critical person, and that her vision wasn’t the truth.

    Imogen – it bugs me in general that people are taught to associate certain physical characteristics with a whole host of moral and emotional characteristics that are unrelated to body shape. Also, it took me a long time to realize that when clothing doesn’t work for me, the problem isn’t my body, but rather the clothing. That was huge.

  20. April 24, 2010 / 2:33 pm

    Julianne – thank you. I don’t think any harm could possibly come from being kinder to ourselves!

    anonymous – I’ll bet it’s adorable. Kids are so unselfconscious, would that we could hold onto some of that!

  21. April 25, 2010 / 1:13 pm

    Unfortunately, being a woman in our culture means we are often hypersensitive about our looks because God forbid we don’t spend every minute trying to perfect them…such tyranny, really. Even when you try to break free of it the tendency can linger.

    I enjoy looking at pictures of you and your fabulous outfits because it’s so nice to see such artistry and grace applied to a beautiful real woman! Imagine what would happen if we all woke up tomorrow and all the magazines/catalogs featured women that looked like us! Luckily we already have you (and other lovely creative women online) as our top models.

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