Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Self-Image At Large

Not to be redundant with myself, you'll all recognize this photo.  It adorns this blog every day.  It's my one and only Facebook profile picture.  I keep using it over and over despite the fact that it's over a decade old.  I really don't look that different today.  But, also, it was taken by a good friend who has since passed away and I use this as my little tribute to her.  

Of all the pictures ever taken of me, this quick, impromptu snapshot is probably the best.

Trust me when I tell you that there are a lot of bad ones floating around.  Most of them show up on Facebook.  There are folks who must commemorate every single moment of their lives digitally.   That's fine for them.  Knock your freakin' socks off.  But, I invariably wind up in the picture and that's not fine for me.

Making matters worse in this age of social media, you have things like "Throwback Thursday."  Folks get onto Facebook and delight in posting old pictures of themselves.  Bad hair.  Bell bottom pants.  Pimples.  I couldn't fathom that.  For me, those pictures don't get thrown back because I threw most of them out.

It's that time of year where everyone tries to tackle their New Year's resolutions.  Lose weight.  Try a new hair style.  Ramp up that wardrobe.  

Me?  I've been there for all of that.  Post-New Year's and otherwise.  And, trust me when I tell you, that any or all of the proposed improvements rarely make that future candid photograph any better.

Piling on the potential calamities, I was recently asked to provide a headshot for a future business connection.  

Oh, God, no.  

Just the thought of this sent me into an attack on my anxieties worthy of what the Japanese did to Pearl Harbor in 1941.  I considered all the problems.  My glasses would be crooked.  My hair would be out of place.  I'd have a weird smile.  I wondered if the photographer would have enough air brushes handy to turn this into something remotely presentable.

Is there such an organization for people like me?  Low Self Esteem Anonymous.  Hi, my name is Len.

"Hello, Len."

It probably all started when I was a fat kid.   The Spanky in everybody's band of rascals.  Always chubby.  Always uncoordinated.  Always the first one to trip over a curb.  

The last one to be picked for any team except a spelling bee.  Thank God I was smart.   But, when you're ten, you don't care that you've got a great vocabulary.  You just lament the fact that you've been stuck in the part of the outfield where nobody hits the ball.

And, of course, don't even consider what girls might think about you.

In senior year of high school, I hit a wall.  Or maybe I was one.  During the very first gym class, I wrecked my right knee for life in a...wait for it...warm-up exercise.   As a result, the little exercise I got was replaced by none.   I would come home after school and sit and snack and sit some more and snack some more.  By Christmas, I looked like Victor Buono which is not a good image when you're a high school senior.

I had an epiphany right around that church year's Epiphany.   And this resulted in my first ever New Year's Resolution.


Around this time, there was a popular diet which required you to drink eight big glasses of water a day.  I adopted this, which was no easy task if you needed to use the Mount Vernon High school bathrooms during the day.  I could lose pounds and my lunch money.  Hey, win win.  

Meanwhile, I needed to indoctrinate the parental units into better grocery shopping habits.   No more snacks by Hostess or Drake's Cakes.  Oh, that would be Tab or Fresca in my glass now.   And, are you aware that Wishbone makes a low calorie dressing?

Instead of coming home to watch "Another World," I'd head down to the basement and exercise.   One hundred sit-ups a day.  More stretching and flexing and jumping up and down.  Grandma would holler down the stairs.

"Cut it out.  The whole house is shaking."

I was manic, but it worked.   Within three months, I had lost sixty pounds.   But, this is a challenge that I have had to work at for the rest of my life.   Sometimes, it's a success.  Other times, I look at myself in the mirror and wants to put a paper bag over my head.

A paper bag which would mess up my hair, which is another Red Cross disaster waiting for donuts.  

I look back at the rare school photos that are still around.  Jeez, just how greasy was my hair?   And, oh, boy, did Louie the barber do a lousy job or what?  I never seemed to get my act together on the top of my head.  Or maybe I didn't care.  

The follicle epiphany happened when I saw my senior year portrait in the Fordham University yearbook.

Kill me now.   Who the hell is this guy and does he own a comb?

It was time to pay attention here and now.   Goodbye and that means you, Louie the barber.  I asked around for an honest-to-goodness hair stylist.  A friend pointed me to one down in Manhattan.   The salon was called "Greener Pastures."   It was on 37th Street.  My father, always a fan of some Italian guy with scissors, was perplexed.

"You want to go all the way down there???  To get your hair cut???"

Not cut.  Styled, Daddy-O.

The difference was immeasurable and I've been going to a hair stylist every six weeks ever since.   And it's culminated with the best in the business out here in Los Angeles when I entrust my hair and scalp to Lisa Oliver.  Essentially, keeping the hair off has been much easier than keeping the pounds off.  But, again, it's always a tussle for me to look just right.

And that goes with wardrobe as well.   I am a bit frenetic when it comes to clothes combinations.   Along with low blood pressure, my mother handed down to me a good eye for which tie goes with which shirt and which sweater goes best with which jeans.  But when the weight fluctuates and the waist of the slacks does not, I begin to worry about how badly I look in public.

Except for one day.  When the look and the hair and the weight came together for a friend's wedding.   On a tremendously hot and humid July day, I finally looked cool.   I was reminded of this photo recently and it's one that I would proudly display on a Throwback Thursday.   Or, in this case, a Throwback Sunday.  I have never been more comfortable with a photograph than I was on this day.  With my three piece Johnny Carson suit from Hart-Schaffner-Marx. 
But, as perfect as it is, I can't stop.  Why is the tie coming down and a little crooked?  Is that vest a little tight?  There's too much shirt showing past the sleeve of the jacket.

Decades later, I'm looking at my ideal photo and still finding fault.

Such is the life of a person with low self esteem.

Dinner last night:  Sausage pizza at Fabiolus Cafe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember that picture being taken!