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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Photo Booth



With hindsight, it was never going to work out well.  Making a woman on the eve of her 40th birthday, directly compare the appearance of her current self with that of 10 years ago  was always going to be a dangerous undertaking.  Damn the passport office.

I kept putting it off.  Vanity prevailed. “I’m just going to get my roots done,” “I need my hair cut,” “My brows need threading”,  “EB had me up half the night, I don’t want the bags under my eyes to be the prominent feature of an image of me for the next ten years." There was always a reason why it wasn’t the right time.  In the end Husband got quite cross. “Do you want to go to Venice or not?”  In fairness, the situation was getting very lastminute.com.

After a morning spent in the hairdressers covering the grey and removing 4 inches of length  (impulse decision), I presented myself at Snappy Snaps.   Snappy being the key word. ‘Move your hair away from your face and don’t smile’, were the rapid instructions.  I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be my best look. The bulb on the camera flashed before I’d barely had a chance to sit down.

The assistant proffered the camera to show me the shot. My mouth drooped down slightly at one side. Does it do that when in repose?  

“Oh no. I look dreadful.  Can you do it again?” I asked.

Take two.  Even worse. Droopy mouth again. Why can’t one smile? Surely we’d all look so much nicer on our passports.  I looked so unfriendly; even I wouldn’t want to be friends with me. 

“I’m so sorry. I don’t like that one either. Is it possible for you to try one more time?”   He sighed. I wondered if this was a common experience for him, particularly with women of a certain age.  Or perhaps not all women are as vain as me.

“Try to relax a bit” he said. This comment resulted in a severe case of de ja vu, mentally transporting me to the doctor's surgery and my recent smear test. (Not a good thought to have in one's head when having a photo taken.)

Take three. It was every bit as bad as the first.  By this time the photographer clearly had me down as a woman in denial. He gave me his ‘It’s the best of three look”. It didn’t matter, I felt I couldn’t degrade myself any further by asking him to take it a fourth time. “OK. I guess that will have to do” I sighed, selecting the third 'grimacing at the memory' shot.

£8.99 to feel rock bottom about yourself.  Not money well spent.

I banished the photos to the bottom of my handbag and feeling morose, treated myself to a coffee in a nearby coffee shop. Digging my current passport out, I mentally compared the then and now. It was impossible to deny that time, and two small children who are early risers, have taken their toll.  I shall admit here, in my secret space, that my vanity was such, I was not prepared to give up yet.  I marched my way to the post office. The rarely used booth languishing at the back of the store, it's grey privacy curtain hanging limp and lifeless.  £5. A bargain. Surely I would feel better after this. 

Not.

I attempted numerous shots until even the robot inside the booth got annoyed with me. Goodness knows what the other customers queueing with parcels thought.  Finally came the dictat; ‘You have one chance left’. Clearly the selfie obsessed precedent of taking a million shots until you get it right hasn’t reached the guys who make these machines.  The result was laughable. If the Snappy Snaps shot had looked bad before, it looked a million times better now.

I’ve never considered myself particularly vain but I am finding the first signs of ageing more difficult to deal with than I anticipated.  I don’t want crepe papery skin or fine lines, I was more than happy with plump, elastic skin.  I don’t want grey hair, or to worry about it thinning, or to have spend time every few weeks getting my roots touched up.  I don’t want  to feel that I can’t leave the house unless I’ve pasted Touche Eclat over the blue veins under my eyes each day, to make myself look less like a vampire. I don’t like the fact my knees ache when I wake up in the morning.  I wish I could stay up past midnight and not feel dreadful the next day if I do.  But the looming spectre of my 40th birthday brings the inevitable truth of all these things to the fore. Happy soul that I  usually am, sometimes in alone time, these things bother me. The passport photo experience, like a cruel jack in the box, jumping out at me, exacerbating my fears when I least want or expect it.

Later that day I found myself in Urban Outfitters - a shop that I never go in, that I suspect has a demographic target of twenty something. Oh, the irony. On the ground floor, I found myself standing in front of a trendy black and white photo booth.  Taped to it’s side, a collage of snaps of young, naturally collagen rich, folk in mad poses, hash tagged underneath. This is how the youth of today use photo booths.  I stood staring at them for a while, reflecting on the joys of being youthful and the fact that clearly, smiling in a photo booth makes for a far better end result.

A hunky young shop assistant was randomly displaying nail varnish in a life size greenhouse nearby. He approached, probably wondering if I’d wandered into the store by mistake. 

“Can I help you find anything?” 

Myself. I wanted to wail. 

‘Browsing’ is such a useful word to be able to mutter. I felt thankful he’d smiled so nicely at someone clearly so old and out of place as me.  Then I left. 

Later I gave myself a good talking to. Forced myself to overcome my  feelings of defeatedness.  Decided on a new project; feeling good about myself.  

I’m sticking with the Snappy Snaps passport photo. And I’m working on the acceptance.  

I might not be able to turn back the clock but I can still curate an interesting and visually pleasing self to look at and feel good about.  I've set myself a challenge. It's time for a style overhaul. 


Am I alone in feeling like this?  Is there a period of transition which then results in acceptance?  How do you feel about the ageing process?

17 comments:

  1. I honestly don't think this is an age thing, I think it is a bit of a transition of being a new mum to being a mum of 2 young ones and trying to claim a bit of identity and style back (at least that's what I feel anyway!), even at 25 I go into urban outfitters and walk straight out due to feeling out of place! x

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    1. I'm glad to know that even younger folks are not at home in U.O! Thank you for your kind words. x

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  2. Well if it makes you feel any better about yourself 1. I have a really attractive fungal or bacterial infection around my mouth area which won't go away and makes me look like a zombie 2. I will always be four years older than you with heavier eye bags than yours. Honestly, passport photos make everyone look rank even those with more collagen than they actually need (yes you, twenty-one year old). They make everyone look mean and moody. My latest passport photo was taken when I hadn't washed my hair for several days - my locks are slicked back and tucked behind my ears - it's really alluring I'm telling you, LOL. I feel your pain. XXX

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    1. So sorry to hear about the infection. Yes, you will always be four years older than me but as far as I can remember...you don't have any eye bags! Your current passport photo sounds as good as mine. LOL. Thank you for making me feel better :0). x

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  3. No you are not alone in feeling the pain of the ageing process. I've just turned 51 yesterday and, believe me, you'll learn to look like you do now next time you have to have your passport photo done! I bet you look ten times better than you imagine - but that not smiling thing is awfully ageing. Good for you for being honest enough to admit it all. :))

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    1. It does seem rather vain I do realise that. Writing this was cathartic. Good to get it all out - and then move on
      (after ordering some expensive eye cream :0)) x. Happy belated birthday. x

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  4. Goodness, you are definitely not alone! I feel in exactly the same kind of mindset - I'm hurtling rapidly towards 40 and really feeling it at the moment. I worry that I'm disappearing somehow. And I've decided to try and embrace my age, invest in some colour and take better care of myself. But passport photos are designed to make everyone look dreadful, I'm sure of it.

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    1. I think we're going through something very similar. I so get what you say with the 'disappearing' comment. I've decided to fight it. I refuse to disappear. Colour is one of my strategies too. x

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  5. Absolutely not alone! I struggle with this all the time and hate having my photograph taken for this reason. Have you tried taking a selfie? Mortifying! I know we are supposed to grow old gracefully and accept it, but I really cannot at the moment. I remember going into the very shop you mention with my daughter and she rather quickly told me 'you can't wear that mummy, it looks like something (insert friend's name who is 10 years younger than me) would wear, not you.' Well that made me feel great! x

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    1. I avoid selfies! I cannot understand why anyone over a certain age would do this to themselves - although I believe there is a good filter that can make you look much longer than you are! x

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  6. You are most definitely not alone in this. I'm a year behind you in age but am having the same relationship with the mirror and the camera. I feel like I've aged years over the past four. I think it's having energetic boys that really don't like to sleep all that much. Sleep has been hard to come by and I have the bags under my eyes to prove it. I also have a passport renewal looming at the end of the year. Not really looking forward to that. Oh, MP, what are we going to do? A week in a spa?

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    1. Yes, to energetic boys that don't like to sleep much - I think that is ageing - it is me anyway! I'd settle for a day in a spa let alone a week. I even have a spa voucher that I was gifted when EB was born to use - that's two and a half years ago!!

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  7. Incidentally, does this mean you've now tipped over the 40 mark? Yay, you can join the Post 40 Bloggers network! If you sign up to be a member, your posts will definitely get shared, particularly this one. Let me know if you do :) x

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  8. You are SO not alone, just more honest than others i reckon. We ALL go through this, probably twice if not more (post hideous hard early yrs of kids, turning 30, then 40 then 50 eek!). I recently had my passport photo done (in a booth) and accepted it'd be fairly hideous but relaxed knowing that passport photos aren't the things they used to be now that people are snapping pics of each other all the time (hopefully there'll be a half decent one of me at this age for my kids to find). And i'm sure they say not to smile, else we'll charm all those po-faced bureaucrats at check ins....but on a positive not, Suzanne is right - you MUST join Post40bloggers, as you'll find a fast growing group (300 now) of people coming to terms with all this and many more who are very at ease with being over 40, dare i say it, actually embracing it. Plus we'd love to have you registered so we can feature your posts in Parenting or Life After 40 or whatever category fits (I'm Parenting editor). S

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words - I would love to join post40bloggers so will look you up. xx

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  9. You're not alone... it's tough to accept that we're all getting older and having to cope with a multitude of things we'd rather not have to. The issue surrounding photos is a terrible one in my house and my husband has more photos of the cat than he does of me. It's disconcerting that mentally I'm convinced I'm about 20, sadly, the mirror reveals that I seem to age every single day!

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    1. Good to know that I'm not alone…It is harder to enjoy being in front of the camera as one gets older but I try and force myself if only so my boys have a record of how I was when they were young.

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