As I've gotten older, I've gotten increasingly less interested in the opinions of all but those who matter most to me. I don't worry as much about my hair, I spent less time fretting about my funny walk and ghostly skin, and I have even found a small measure of resigned acceptance of my post-baby figure.
That said, when I was approached with an offer to include me in a project featuring local artists doing what they do, I thought, “Oh yes, of course you can photograph me in the daily nitty-gritty of my work, as long as I can have an hour to do my hair and makeup, and I need to find that one good red lipstick, and I think maybe those REALLY flattering jeans and my good black boots, and can you not shoot me from the side because I don’t like my double chin?”
What I actually said was, “Yeah, sure!” You know, all casual-like. And then arranged for the photo shoot to take place at rehearsal (in the performance hall at the local university) instead of at my house as originally planned. I mean, sure, it’s a great idea in theory. But for a photographic feature that focuses on process (the hidden, solitary hours of solo practice) instead of the final product (the black-satin-clad, high-heeled, sparkly-jeweled performances), I was a little worried about just HOW nitty-gritty this might be.
My actual practice sessions involve stepping over an abandoned wooden train-track construction to get to the piano, clearing elaborate Lego creations off of the bench before I sit down, and making sure there are no marbles under the pedals. There's usually a cup of tea or a can of diet Coke on a coaster proclaiming "I had a mind once - now I have small children." A small pile of M&M candies (for energy, you know) is a distinct possibility. I generally have my hair in a ponytail to keep it out of my face, I rarely have makeup on when I'm at home, and I almost always practice barefoot. Pajamas and a bathrobe are not unheard of. I’m all for honesty, but this was a little more honesty than I wanted posted on the internet.
I thought this would be a good compromise – I’d be more casual than on a performance day, certainly, which is highly dependent on good makeup, hot rollers, hairspray, and a quite literally breath-taking amount of Lycra under that smooth sweep of black chiffon. On the other hand, this “casual” snapshot of my work would still include a lovely nine-foot Steinway, polished hardwood floors, and beautiful lighting. I decided on jeans, a black turtleneck sweater, my good black boots, and of course I would allow ample time for carefully understated makeup and a complete blow-dry of my waist-length hair. I’d leave my librarian-esque glasses at home for once in favor of contact lenses, put on a little eyeliner so you could see my eyes, maybe a touch of lipstick. As my imagination picked up pace, I envisioned (remember that thing about pride and falls?) my hands tenderly drawing music from the keys as my hair cascaded around me in a shining, smooth waterfall of blonde, eyes closed in a moment of transcendent oneness with the music.
So, at 8:45 I’m on the phone with Hannah, the soprano I’ll be working with, getting everything settled regarding the hall and the photographer. I’ve spent the last 45 minutes getting my son fed and ready for school, and I’m not as far along as I thought I’d be in my preparations. I realize I’m cutting it close, so I say my goodbyes to Hannah with a cheery “See you at ten!” Hannah says, “No, no, you mean 9:30!” I say, “Um, yeah! Sorry, you’re right, 9:30.”
At which point I hang up and explode into full-fledged Panic Mode. I am wearing a green nightshirt with a cartoon of a giant black bear on the front. I am barefoot, unfed, unshowered, and my sleep-tousled hair is rampaging in a highly unflattering multitude of directions. It takes twenty minutes to get to the university, and it is now 8:48.
I fly into the bathroom, barely taking the time to take my glasses off before I get into the shower. I take the fastest shower I’ve taken in years, forgoing conditioner (I know I’ll regret this shortly) in favor of speed. I hop back out of the shower, scrubbing my hair with a towel as I charge back to the bedroom to get dressed. Jeans! Black sweater! Earrings! Socks, I can’t find my socks, dang it! Here, laundry basket, socks, run, run, run, back to the bathroom … auuggghhh! My HAIR!
I am faced with the inevitable result of a fast shower, no conditioner, and a mad towel-drying rampage. Helena Bonham-Carter’s rats’-nest of hair in any one of her freakier movie roles is a good point of comparison. There is no way, NO way this is going to metamorphose into a smoothly shimmering waterfall, or even a moderately ripply stream. There is no help for it. I get it just dry enough and just detangled enough that it doesn’t appear to be harboring small birds and woodland creatures, and twist it into a bun, stabbing blindly with hairpins until it feels like it will withstand the mad rush to the university.
Contacts … no time, I guess I’m Marian the Librarian today. Makeup … quick, a little powder and mascara, and let’s at least cover up that spot in case he decides that pimples add to the artist-at-work ambience. Lipstick? No time. DANG IT.
Run downstairs, gather music, grab a granola bar, no time for tea, do I have a pencil?, purse, boots! No time to go back and get them, I’m late, sneakers will have to do, but oh NO these are bootcut jeans, and I guess they’ll just have to drag on the ground, nothing to do for it now. Run to the car, run back for my cell phone, run to the car again, come on light turn GREEN, park, mad dash across campus, and I’m here.
Beautiful piano. Perfect light. Shining wood floor. Lovely Hannah. And my scuffed-up Converse sneakers, cheeks flushed from hurry, hair already trying to escape the hasty updo, and clothes disheveled from the careless dash from the car. Everything was rushed, mussed, breathless, and not at all what I had in mind. The photographer said it was perfect.
I can live with rushed, mussed, breathless and perfect.