Don't look now (OK, go right ahead), but there's a stranger where I used to be

September 19, 1995|By Susan Reimer

Hey! It's me. Over here!

I couldn't find me either at first. I thought I'd been misplaced by a too-busy friend, along with her car keys and grocery list.

Or by somebody who was saving me for when her children have children of their own, but who can't remember which box I'm in.

Or, I thought, the kids have been fooling around again, and they've left me where I don't belong. Like hammers in the yard and drink cups all over the house.

I know. I don't like change, either. When you feel like you race through life without taking complete breaths, you want to be able to count on some things. Like you, I want things to stay where I put them. (My husband says I feel that way about the children, too, but I think he's being unfair.)

It will take us all a while to get used to The Sun's new look. But I may never come to terms with my new look.

I know you won't be surprised to hear I hate the picture.

Nobody I know is exactly thrilled with it, either. Some think I looked too casual. Others think I look too aggressive.

I just think I look fat.

I spent three months preparing for the photo shoot that produced this picture. Can you tell?

I let my hair grow long so they'd have more to work with. I smeared my face with sunscreen all summer. I lived on a baked potato-and-salsa diet for three weeks.

And I shopped endlessly for the perfect look.

Somewhere between businesslike and nurturing, authoritative and welcoming, between feminist and maternal. Nothing in beige, stripes, patterns or dark colors.

There is nobody better suited to this task than me. The only thing I like better than going to the mall is going to sleep.

But I also have this indecisive streak in me that my husband thinks is more like a multiple personality disorder, and I couldn't decide what to wear for this new picture.

So when they told us to report to a Georgetown hair salon for the photography session, I took ... well, I guess you would have to describe it as my entire closet. I don't think a man would have bought a new shirt for the occasion, but I took with me everything I have ever worn to work.

"You don't understand," I said to my husband as he loaded the car with garment bags. "I am going to be seen in this outfit for the rest of my professional life. It has to be perfect."

We took the kids with us to Georgetown. My husband would do tourist things with them while I was made beautiful. (I will use any opportunity to disabuse my children of their conviction that their mother has a stupid job.)

"Now, kids," he said as we approached the salon, "lots of people know about this photo shoot, so if we see television cameras, Mummy might start crying. But we will keep on driving and after we get far enough away, she will be OK."

Inside the salon, the owner sat me down and flicked his fingers through my hair distastefully. He was too polite to throw up his hands, but he sighed.

I stepped out of the dressing room in one of those kimonos that look like garb from a women's prison and I asked, for perhaps the 10th time, "None of the guy columnists will be here, will they? They will be coming later, right?"

I was patted on the shoulder like a frightened child and assured that the men columnists would not be coming until much, much later. You can imagine my dismay when the men whose acceptance I yearn for arrived to find me half-naked, with no makeup and my hair wrapped in hundreds of bits of foil like a stainless steel fright wig.

I tried to say something clever.

The gentleman who combed out my hair said, in a sensual accent that might have been French or Italian, "What place do you go for your hair? Don't go to this place again."

The lovely young woman who did my makeup asked why I didn't tint my eyelashes. The design people wouldn't let me wear what I finally decided I should wear.

And when I stepped in front of the camera - painted, poufed and looking both nurturing and authoritative - there was nobody there to see me. The men columnists were long gone.

And my friends think I have a glamorous job.

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