Beauty is in the eye of unrelated beholders

May 03, 1998|By Susan Reimer

SOME ADVICE," my husband said when I was assigned to write this column. "Don't keep changing your picture. Readers will think you aren't stable."

That was nearly five years ago and, as you can see, I am changing my picture again. He never listens to me, either.

This is my third try, and at this pace, I will exceed the photographic incarnations of Betty Crocker, who has had only eight makeovers since 1921, when she was created as nothing more than a signature at the bottom of letters to homemakers seeking advice.

Her 1936 picture, the first, depicts a matronly woman in a uniform, suggesting a home economist. In 1955, she appeared more womanly, suggesting a mother to the young homemakers who had moved to the suburbs and away from their own mothers, who might have been able to tell them what to do in the kitchen.

In her 1972 picture, Betty looked as if she were carrying a briefcase. Dubbed "Power Betty," she reflected the new professional women.

The latest Betty is a true '90s Betty. A Multicultural Betty. Her 1997 face is a computer amalgamation of 75 women of every race and ethnicity. But she is wearing a red blazer and a white T-shirt, which is what I wore in my first picture. It seems Betty and I are crossing paths in and out of time.

But she isn't real and I am, as are Mama Celeste, Paul Newman, Little Debbie, the Gerber baby and Elsie the Borden cow. I don't know about those other product icons -- as we are called -- but I can testify that this picture-taking business is an ordeal.

This most recent change was prompted by the publication of a collection of my columns in book form. It is called "Motherhood is a Contact Sport," and that is me on the cover.

When they told me that having my picture on the cover would sell more books, I laughed so hard I nearly swallowed my gum. Then I slipped into a six-week panic. Those of you who have tried to lose 30 pounds before Memorial Day know that weight-loss under a deadline never works. I actually ate more.

Plus, I bit my nails, something I haven't done since junior high, and I got a giant zit beside my nose - something else that hasn't happened on cue like that since I was an adolescent.

But under the patient brushes of professional make-up artist Janice Kinigopoulos, I looked presentable, and Sun photographer Jim Burger worked his magic.

I left the photo session singing "I Feel Pretty." When my children returned from school I fluffed my hair, smiled and posed and asked in a chirpy voice what they thought.

"Janice does the makeup for the television show 'Homicide,' " I said, trying to impress them.

"Does she just do the dead people?" my son asked. His friend Jack said I should sue for malpractice (both his parents are lawyers). "Cool," my daughter said absently, and walked away.

My husband was in Cleveland on business. I told him that I would never be more beautiful and he had missed it.

"That's OK, honey," he said. "I like you with wrinkles."

When he realized what he had said, he sputtered apologies. But I am going to have his picture taken next.

It will be on the back of milk cartons.

"Motherhood Is a Contact Sport" is available in area bookstores, or by calling The Sun at 410-332-6962, or via the Internet at http://www.sunspot .net.

Pub Date: 5/03/98

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