Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Can't Handle the Truthiness

All the cool kids are doing it: posting unedited, unretouched photographs of their pre-coffee, pre-make-up, pre-shower selves.

The conventions of the genre appear to extend to facial expressions as well: like the "Before" shots on A Make-Over Story, the expressions are neutral - no flirty smiles, no attempt to conceal the hideous truth.

It's not entirely clear exactly how true these photos of truthiness have to be. Are we allowed to remove any visible boogery bits in our eye sockets and nostrils? Scrub away the dried spittle from our chins? Take multiple shots until we find one with the right double-chin-concealing angle?

I mulled over these questions in the shower this morning. Technically, I had already missed my window for real truthiness: coffee had been drunk several hours before, and it was too late - obviously - for any pre-shower self-portraiture. The make-up, though - I had not yet prepared that part of my face to meet the faces I would meet.

It's a funny thing, make-up. When you're thirteen years old and slathering on the blue eyeliner in an attempt to look older, it invariably backfires - nothing says "elementary school" quite like sky-blue make-up too-enthusiastically applied. And then at some indefinable point, make-up stops making us look younger and starts making us look older. It's the same principle as "The Purloined Letter": the best place to hide those signs of aging is out in plain sight - nothing calls attention to them so much as our strategies of concealment.

The truthy photos are a case in point: undeniably, these women are lovely. They're like Amanda on Survivor or Kate on Lost, all glowing and natural, so much prettier in that state than in the flash-forward/reunion show, all dolled up and looking somehow older and smaller than their luminous island selves.

Such, at least, were my thoughts as I emerged from the shower and took a few experimental photos of my luminous, tropical-island, all-natural face. I didn't panic right away: surely the problem with those first few shots was that I wasn't looking in the mirror and thus my attempts at a studiedly neutral expression instead came out steely and hostile. Looking in the mirror helped a bit, but not much: I hit Trash/Delete, Trash/Delete before finally deciding that this shot was tolerable, mostly because only part of my face was in it:


After hurriedly applying what I believed to be my usual, almost-invisible, natural-looking make-up, I took this shot:


Conclusion: my theories about make-up are approximately twelve years out of date. Perhaps when I was twenty-five I looked better without make-up, but not anymore. Now I look my best not only with lipstick but also with a flash-induced halo of flaw-concealing light.

50 comments:

Kathryn said...

I will NOT be participating in this one. I am not that brave. I do not look as good as you do without makeup. I do NOT want to scary away my bloggy friends.

Anonymous said...

1) You look fabulous, a natural beauty in need of no makeup;
2) I am 54 and since 35 have worn a ton of makeup, more every year to put back what nature erodes;
3) Gives new meaning to what my mother used to say, "I have to put on my face."

(Your) anonymous

Occidental Girl said...

All hail flash-induced halos of flaw-concealing light!
For me.

For you, you look fantastic, I say with a touch of jealousy.

Ali said...

you look great!

Mimi said...

You've got the full Scully going on in that second picture, Bea, you really do. Gosh you're good looking. Really.

Jaelithe said...

Wait-- didn't you just say you were sick? It's not fair to post a truthiness pic when you're sick. Of course you looked hostile. I always look hostile when I can't talk because my throat feels like I've been drinking sharp gravel.

Anyway I think you look nice in both pictures.

Beck said...

You look great. I look 500 years old when I wake up in the morning, and covered in some sort of odd sleep crud. I shan't be posting a picture.

planetnomad said...

I'm glad I'm not cool, so I don't have to do this.
You, however, had nothing to fear!
But yes, make-up is our friend after children.

Stimey said...

If only we could all live in a world with halos of flaw-concealing light that follow us around.

Honestly though, your pictures are lovely!

Alpha DogMa said...

Oh-la-la. Mimi is right: you do look like Scully! You look fabulous!

Thanks to Beck I now know how to take a self-portait without double chins -- does someone have some advice about hiding my under eye dark circles without make-up?

flutter said...

aaaaaand you're beautiful. No wonder you used to stare at yourself in the mirror as a kid!

Hairline Fracture said...

I think you look pretty in both pictures, too.

Mad Hatter said...

You look fabulous in both shots, oh Scully.

I can't do this one b/c I don't wear make-up and I never shower in the morning. Most days I forget to comb my hair before leaving the house and I never think to remove the eye -scunge. All of which is to say, if you've seen my picture, then you've seen truthiness, caffeine aside.

Don Mills Diva said...

You are definitely a natural beauty and VERY brave - I don't think I'll be participating in this one...

Amy said...

You look great in both pictures! No fear!

Can't they invent collars that emit that halo?

Angela said...

I rarely wear any make up.
I just don't bother
I think I like my sleep a bit too much.

Cant see the picture, but like people said I am sure you look great!

Swistle said...

This is so fun. You really do have the Scully look. She's so pretty, she makes me want to dye my hair red.

Your first picture is insufficiently comparable: bad angle, bad lighting, bad background--everything's weird. Not a fair trial.

Mouse said...

I like both pictures!

I'm hiding behind the fact that I just don't post pictures of myself on my blog. And like Mad, if I did post pictures, any picture could stand in.

Janet said...

Why does everyone who is doing this look so fresh in the morning! I'm completely pissed at my face right now.

PunditMom said...

I think it's fabulous that there are so many women who look so gorgeous in their truthiness!

Sandra said...

I love both pictures if I am being truthful about this truthiness ... but apparently you and scully have been separated at birth!!

beth said...

How about a sequel taken around midnight after hours spent staring at the computer when you really should be sleeping? I think that would be my true truthie best.

nomotherearth said...

I actually thought you were wearing lipstick in that first picture. You don't need makeup!

jen said...

you are really adorable, B.

Sue said...

Yeah, I'm not so much for the truthiness. I don't mind no make-up, but the hair - the hair must be just so for a picture. Flash halos do nothing for massively chipmunky cheeks. NOTHING.

motherbumper said...

Out of the mouth of babes: Bumper declared you pretty (she's sitting on my lap) and that was without me asking, I was just reading while holding her. And I agree, you look very pretty without makeup. So there.

wheelsonthebus said...

Good heavens. I never wear makeup or do much else because I am so darned lazy. And I always feel like if I just put more effort in, I could look as good as the other women around. So, it may be your before picture, but it is my everyday reality.

And, you kinda look better without makeup than I do.

Anonymous said...

I know we always knew this, but you look exactly like your mother, but only in the first shot! That is not your expression, that's your mother's!!
Fun.
MLD

Antique Mommy said...

I won't be doing this because a)I have invisible eyebrows and b) my 30s are so far gone, they're not even in my rear view mirror anymore. But you on the other hand are lovely and should be in a Dove commercial.

Bea said...

Swistle - Believe me, the shots with strong lighting were MUCH worse.

MLD - I KNOW! I was going to try to work it into a post somehow, the way that photo is totally of my mother.

Grilled Pizza said...

You look great in both!
If i didnt know i would have said one was your daytime look and one your evening look!
GP x

Mrs. Who said...

Oh, HELL no. My husband once said I look just as good without make-up (this is why I am still married to him - he honestly believes this) and my best friend turned to me and said earnestly "You do not."

Suz said...

I like both shots, but haven't decided whether I'll participate in this one or not.

One of my indulgences is foundation... really, really, really good foundation.

DaniGirl said...

Oh, that electric blue eye shadow -- does it look good on ANYBODY?

I've never been huge on makeup, so my with or without makeup would prolly look the same regardless. I only use a little mascara and eyeshadow and a swish of blush on the best of days. Pre-coffee, though, even in a still photo you'd detect an obvious tremor, and maybe just a little too much white showing around the irises of my eyes!! (I think you look great in both photos!)

Hannah said...

My before-makeup and after-makeup pictures look exactly the same. Because I never have time to wear any. And I've been wearing my hair in a ponytail day in and day out for, um, seven months now, because I haven't been to a hairdresser in I-can't-remember-when and I can't ever seem to get up early enough to dress Isaac, prod husband out of bed, and get everyone out the door in addition to having the time to prettify myself.

You are lovely. And I'm glad I'm no the only one who found the truthiness thing a little strange.

Gwen said...

Scully! That is so it!

Okay, umm, here comes my inner bitch (only, yes, fine, I realize it's not that inner): I call bullshit on all that truthiness. And I don't mean to offend the truth-tellers by doing so. I just think the camera is itself an easily manipulated liar, and no amount of fudging or not fudging will change that.

Did I just ruin everything?

I think you're very purty, Bea, with or without the makeup. And damn, woman, you can rock the towel head! :)

kgirl said...

i think yer beeutyfull.

if i do this, it's only to make you gals feel so much better about yourselves.

Kyla said...

You're beautiful!

I don't know if I'm down for this one. I'm already so young, and I look younger still, even with make up on...without it, I'm like 12 tops. LOL.

Florinda said...

I think you look quite good. I think most of us are far too self-critical.

Having said that, I won't be doing this, because I am totally NOT one of the cool kids.

Aliki2006 said...

That flash-induced halo is spectacular!

Both pictures are great, IMO, and more power to you for posting them both.

Blog Antagonist said...

I really do commend you for your bravery. But...you are truly a natural beauty. I am not. I like my powder and paint, and ain't nobody gettin a picture without it. :?) Truth is relative, right?

sweetney said...

oh you look lovely! (and ps: i'm SO not cool!)

Jenifer said...

Teal Bonne Bell eyeliner was my vice and my Grade 8 picture proves it.

I think you look lovely in both shots.

Her Bad Mother said...

1) If you click to enlarge my truthiness pic, you will see that there is indeed a small piece of sleep crud of unidentifiable origin at the corner of my mouth. Which, to be truthful, I recoiled in horror at when I reviewed the pics I had taken - it was in every. single. one - but then had not choice but to post. Because the batteries in my camera died and I couldn't do a re-do. Which - truth - I was sorely tempted to do.

2) My name and Kate-from-the-Lost in the same sentence about physical loveliness? REELING.

3) I've seen your morning face in real life. And your sicky face. And they are, indeed, as lovely as the you-that-comes-through-in-words is.

kittenpie said...

I am so loving this truthiness business. It seems closer to what we claim for blogging somehow - that we put it out there, that we tell it like it is, even if in fact we can think about it or tweak it a touch ot try it again before we decide to hit publish.

Lisa b said...

You look great in both photos.

Amanda said...

I did not enlarge my photo, so review at your own risk.

You are gorgeous.

Susanne said...

You do indeed look good without make-up too, but - and I'm saying this from my own experience - pale people need make-up. When I taught a student without make-up the other day she asked me if I wasn't feeling well. That always happens to me.

But I might do this nonetheless. Since I'm without make-up, wearing my glasses and haven't taken a shower in two days maybe this is the perfect moment for the "before"-shot.

letter9 said...

I never started wearing makeup because, I swear to god, I never wanted someone to see me without my makeup and think, "GAH! She looks terrible without her makeup."

Which I guess means I think I look terrible all the time since I always sans makeup, but really I think I look fine. But if I looked all hot all the time and then looked just fine, what would people think?! They'd think, "GAH! She looks terrible without her makeup."

Sarcastic Mom (aka Lotus) said...

You're beautiful in the first shot. Plain and simple. :-)