c, part one: pictures don’t lie.

this is the first in a series.  so…if it seems to end abruptly, it’s because…well…it does.  but only because there’s more to come.

for a long time, the mirror lied to me.

or, perhaps i should say, my eyes deceived me. or maybe better, my eyes saw what i could be and didn’t tell me what i really looked like.

i avoided cameras, because they didn’t lie. nothing about a photographic image lies, unless it’s been photoshopped, because even if it’s taken at your perfect angle and it makes you look spectacular–that is you. but those candid shots, the ones that you don’t know are being taken or that you’re not prepared for? those don’t lie.

i’m beginning to believe that it’s the closest thing we come to seeing ourselves physically as other people see us.

i remember just before i moved to north carolina in 1996, seeing pictures taken at my mom’s office going away party. i had basically grown up there, working the odd saturday to help out and earn some money, meeting and knowing all of the employees that she supervised, being the source of interested questions from her uber-kind boss.

i had thought that i was adorable, or at the very least passable (i don’t think i was happy with my hair that day, if i remember correctly), wearing that stripey black and white and red shirt, my hair chopped short in a style i hoped would look like jennie garth’s short hairstyle from the later years of 90210 but that really just accentuated my round face. when i looked in the mirror, i didn’t see that. i saw me.

but the picture didn’t lie.

but i ignored the picture. for a long time.

another picture that didn’t lie was my class picture from my first year of teaching. i found it christmas of 2006, as i was going through all of our family pictures to try to fill up some frames for my mom’s gift. i remember what i wore that day, i remember thinking that i looked pulled together and professional. my hair was longer and curled, so pretty cute. i remember thinking that i was working it a little bit when i got out of my car. i remember getting the picture back and being rather happy with it. i looked like me.

when i found it again, five years later in the back of my scrapbook at one a.m. on some random weekday in the flurried secrecy that only accompanies our december machinations, that wasn’t what i saw. the outfit was cuteish, i’ll give you that. but that wasn’t the person i remember being.

who was i, after all? better yet, how did i not see it?

i think this idea came home to me with some kind of cosmic physical force when i found a picture taken on the day i moved into my first apartment in florida. it was so hot. it was august, a tropical storm had stalked our trek down i-95, and we’d unloaded the truck ourselves. well, really, i’d unloaded most of the truck and mom helped with the big stuff. least i could do for her driving the u-haul from heck 500 miles for me. i worked like a demon those first few days to unpack most everything, and mom was intent on taking pictures so that my grandparents and family could see what it all looked like.

one of those pictures was of me, sitting on my bed, smiling at the camera in that beleaguered “you’re really taking my picture when i’m this hot?” way. my hair was back, my bangs doing that ANNOYING cowlick flippy thing they do sometimes if they’re not cut right, and i was wearing drawstring khakis and a coral shirt.

i hadn’t seen this picture in at least four years. i didn’t remember that this picture even existed.

when i found it again, buried underneath a pile of pictures from my childhood, i literally gasped.

i looked like that.

that was who i was. that picture didn’t lie.

it wasn’t so much that my cheeks were all red or that my hair was a disaster. it was my size. how big i was and didn’t know it. or maybe had convinced myself that i didn’t know it?

no, because really, and i’m being completely honest here, i didn’t know it. i mean, i KNEW it. the numbers on the tag inside your jeans or on the scale don’t lie eiher, but i think there was some kind of disconnect between my brain and my eyes and my size.

i just didn’t see it.

i suppose that could be a wonderful thing, the idea that i embraced and carried myself with awesomeness regardless of how large i was. but to say that would be a lie. because, while i didn’t see it in the mirror when i looked, i saw it in myself. in the way i acted, in how i measured up against things in the world. or, perhaps, how things measured up against me.

if you haven’t read this, please do. i’m not sure i could put it any better. there are horrifying stories that i could tell, that i won’t, but suffice it to say that there were times when size mattered. a lot.

so, when i saw this picture, several years later and after a journey that is a topic for another time, i was surprised:

yeah, that’s me.  and when i saw this picture, i didn’t recognize that it was me.

seriously.

i was…small.  now, you may look at this picture and think “uhm…that’s not small.” but comparatively, based on the other pictures?  i was unrecognizable.

it was the first time, i think, that i was pleasantly assaulted by a picture.

and it was the first time that all of the hard work that i had done cemented itself in my mind.

pictures don’t lie, you see.

i don’t run from them now. i’m not always happy with what i see, but i recognize myself now.  that’s me.  for better or worse, for larger or smaller, that’s me.  and i think it’s a version of myself that i’ve always seen.

i see me now.  and it’s awfully nice.

next wednesday: c, part two: english majors don’t do math.

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3 Responses to “c, part one: pictures don’t lie.”

  1. I wish I was there. I wish I didn’t hide from the camera. I wish I just saw me.

    I can’t wait for the next installment because, me? I’m a Math Major and my blog is the perfect example why Math Majors don’t do English 🙂

  2. beautifully said.

  3. ive been there. looked back at old pictures and thought… “what was i thinking?” (in re: to weight). it’s a stuggle sometimes. im at a better place now. sounds like you are too:)

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