But the comment made me think because it was a rather personal criticism and it raised an issue that hasn't come up before the past few weeks in this and a few less strongly voiced comments. I wondered if others might have the same thoughts, still unvoiced.
This is the comment:
This is totally off topic. I used to be a reader of your blog a long time ago. I was used to your 2011 photo. I have to admit that when I came back to read your blog today I was completely shocked by your new 2015 photograph. At first I thought you had plastic surgery until I read the caption under your new 2015 and how you had a photographer to the stars do your photo. As a photographer myself I am shocked at the massive use of photo touch up software he did to your photo, especially your neck and the false whitening of your teeth. For a medical person who advises people to own up to their age and who they truly are, I found the whole matter hypocritical. You may think you look good but to my eye you're just another phony like those celebrities you imagine yourself to be. Shame on you! So disappointed. You're fooling nobody except your vane self. on Envisioning the Future with Your Adult Child
I was surprised by the vehemence about the photo, which is visible postage stamp size on the side of this blog, in a time when there are so many truly important issues to spark our outrage. And I was puzzled: I hadn't discussed the new photo or the photographer on this blog and only very briefly on Facebook and Google+.
My dear blogging friend Dee Ready suggested that perhaps the reader fears change in her own life and is bothered when she sees change in others, even situations that seem inconsequential, like a changed appearance in a photo. What's real to this person may be the past, not a changed present.
This reader's comment did make me think: what IS real? Especially when we're looking at the life of another, so much that seems to be real and true may not be.
In my case, the appearance changes between these two professional pictures that the reader referenced -- both of which were enhanced by a makeup artist and by photographic retouching -- actually reflect some changing realities in my life: I'm happier, healthier and lighter now than I was in 2008.
But the comment also misses a point about professional pictures.
For most of us who are still working in our later years, there is the challenge to radiate vitality as well as demonstrating a certain level of expertise in technology and the social media. In my efforts to revitalize my professional writing career, under the guidance of a new literary agent and an expert media consultant, I have been challenged to update the "platform" so necessary for non-fiction writers today.
For many of us, there is a certain disconnect physically between our personal and professional lives. Personally, I live in shorts, capris and T-shirts, rarely wear make-up, have let my real white hair emerge, am frank about my age and happy to be seventy, a privilege denied many I have loved. That is the real me.
Professionally, it's not so simple. When seeing patients, I dress in business attire and put on a little makeup. When having a professional picture taken -- as opposed to an informal snapshot with family or friends, many of which I have posted on this blog -- heavier makeup and some retouching is part of the package. It is not so much vanity as professional necessity. That is also the real me.
We are all blends of our personal and professional identities.
We look one way while hanging around the house with family (and few of us, I imagine, do the Donna Reed thing in heels and pearls) and quite another at work or at a special social event. There are fun snapshots and then there are business and professional head shots. They are all real, all us, just in different parts of our lives.
My most recent professional picture -- taken for my new website -- is actually more authentic than the one it replaced.
In the 2008 picture, I was still coloring my hair. A makeup artist applied even heavier makeup -- to cover the dark circles and facial splotches that were due to my working three jobs, not getting enough sleep and eating on the run. The photographer then -- also one specializing in actor headshots -- chose to shoot the photos at 9:30 at night, feeling that darkness combined with a touch of artificial lighting would be kinder to my aging face. And there was even more retouching to that photo than there was to the current one.
In contrast, the new photo was taken at high noon in late July at an outside mall in Scottsdale, AZ with the temperature 108 degrees and the humidity high. I was wearing a T-shirt and my hair was its natural color and the cut my typical wash and wear style. My lifestyle is less frantic these days. I'm in a much happier phase of my life and that shows in my face. So does continuing weight loss. A professional makeup artist gave me a more polished look for the camera this time around as well. There was a bit of -- but not massive -- retouching around the neck. Personally, I'm not ashamed of my neck. Professionally, an aging neck is not an asset. This was a professional picture, taken as part of a campaign, not as a wanna-be celebrity, but to revitalize my professional "platform/image" so that I can continue to earn a living as a writer.
Professional pictures -- like professional clothes -- are necessary at times. The photo is on my blog because, even though I started the blog as a personal pleasure and adventure -- and it still is -- it is now also part of my professional platform. It's a matter of my personal and professional pursuits crossing paths.
The new picture isn't an attempt to fool readers. I couldn't, even if I wanted to, Most of you who read my blog regularly have seen photos of me in all the aspects of my life -- from making a speech to lounging shoeless on a patio with my brother and sister to hugging a beloved cat and now to posing for a professional picture.
And, as you experience in all aspects of your own lives as well, all of it is real.