For most of my life, I was a natural girl. In my youth, my rarely trimmed hair grew long and straight down my back. I wore white eye liner and pink lip gloss for a while, but by the time I went to college I gave up wearing makeup altogether.
After my divorce in the 1990’s, one friend suggested I wear “just a little lipstick.” Another showed me how to blow dry the roots of my hair to give it more body. I said no, however, to styling products.
So I find myself here, at the age of 68, when the image in the mirror contradicts the image I maintain inside, needing a headshot for my writing endeavors. I talk to the photographer on Thursday, and we agree to meet downtown on Saturday. He suggests colors I should wear for best results, but nothing about how best to enhance my older features. This sends me into a tailspin. Do I need new clothes? Do I have time to get a haircut? I rush to the drugstore to buy eyeliner, mascara and lipstick.
The morning of the shoot I fuss with my hair, using some sample styling products I found in a drawer. The eyeliner I bought is long-lasting, so the mistakes I make in applying it I can’t fix. The mascara smudges against my brow and makes my eyelashes stiff spikes. The neutral lipstick barely makes a difference in my lip color. I stuff a canvas bag with more than necessary top changes and set out for the meeting place with butterflies wrestling in my stomach.
Downtown is crowded with people enjoying the day, without concern for their appearance. The March wind blows my tamed hair; my barely stained lips stick to my teeth. Once in our spot and he is set up, he instructs me how to stand and angle my head, and what to do with my arms. He says he shoots in bursts, and I should start with a serious face and gradually smile through each burst. We wait for the breeze to still. I try to fix my hair. He starts shooting and I relax into it, feeling my smile form naturally by the end of each burst. He shows me a shot. There I am, an older woman, maybe wiser, with tousled hair and faint makeup. Happy to be alive, with many stories still to tell.
Lee Stevens is enjoying life and telling stories about it in the mountains of Western North Carolina