I'm not a bad-looking woman. My face is fairly symmetrical; I have nice hair. But future Mayravian scholars won't know this because my husband hates me.
Most husbands - at least I need to believe this - grab their cameras when their wives are all gussied up and looking ravishing. Mine lies in wait, taking aim in the early morning hours when I've just stumbled out of bed, hair mussed, glasses slipping off my greasy nose.
He's like a sniper, shooting when I least expect it - and when I so, so, so don't want it. While brushing my teeth. When blowing my nose.
While pummeled into the couch by the world's nastiest flu.
Bowers could host an exhibit titled "My Ugly Wife"; that's how many unflattering photos he's taken over the years.
I've asked him what motivates him to shoot me when I'm down, and he swears it's a symptom of profound love. A blindness to my glaring flaws and bright red pimples. "You look cute!" he says, which I've taken to mean: "I hate you."
It started in college, when he made fun of photos that some ex-boyfriends had taken, "The Mayrav sitting on rocks by the sea collection" I think he called them. He vowed not to add to the portfolio, not to perch me atop a tide pool and ask me to say cheese.
His photos of me would be different. They'd be real.
They'd be ugly.
I used to have romantic notions of what it meant to be photographed by your lover. Soft lighting, intimate moments. We got the intimate moments, I guess. Nothing more intimate than a close-up of my tonsils as I yawn into the camera while breast-feeding at 3 a.m. But that's not what I meant: I wanted Annie Leibovitz. I got Robert Capa.
There isn't a married woman alive who hasn't sacrificed her girlish fantasies on the altar of "Oh well." After we'd been dating awhile, I dropped the glamour-shot expectations and all but ignored the flashbulb. (This is in direct contrast to Sis, who has this preternatural awareness of cameras. I don't care if she's being photographed on the toilet by an NSA-trained housefly, when the film is developed, she'll be looking right at the camera and smiling gorgeously.) Since I was pregnant with Zev, though, I feel as though every bad pic is an affront to my legacy.
One of my favorite photos in the world is a black-and-white, 8-by-10 glossy of my mom as a 22-year-old. In it, she's a lithe redhead sitting on the floor of her sparse apartment, a cigarette poised between her fingers. Her eyes are lit up like she's just heard something interesting and her lips are parted slightly, as if she's ready to respond. Her pantsuit and shoes are fabulous.
Many, years from now, some woman I may never meet will take this photo off her mantel and tell a friend, "This is my great-great grandmother."
"Wow," her friend will say. "She was beautiful."
"Yeah," she'll muse, pointing to one of my Hubby-taken head shots. "But somehow she had this pock-marked troll for a daughter."
I've tried to explain this to Hubby. I'm not sure he gets it, but I can tell he's trying.
While driving along the coast the other day, he told me I looked great. Then, despite my protests, he reached behind his driver's seat, into his bag for the digital camera. The photo he took could be titled, "Woman worried her crazy husband (who hates her) will get them killed by taking an (expletive) photo while driving."
But, I have to admit, the lighting is nice. And you can hardly see the dark circles under my eyes. Provided he doesn't get me into a disfiguring accident, Hubby might, one of these days, make me look good, after all.
This column appeared in the Orange County Register.