Why can’t I have a normal fan club, instead of a handful of rabid, if doubtless concerned, critics, some of whom can’t seem to get past my column picture without a comment?
“Please naman, change that picture,” pleads an old friend.
“It doesn’t at all look like you—pangit!” adds another.
“Find a better one,” commands yet another.
But a cousin known for active tough love—cariño brutal—does not stop at mere comment, the sharpest yet (“I hate it!”), but threatens to act on it—to dig up a suitable replacement picture from her own collection “before more people notice.”
No doubt, I’m gorgeous in her picture, as gorgeous as everybody else was in her 50s, but unrecognizable to my teenaged grandchildren.
There seems, indeed, some magic to that age. Our facial features tend to have settled in some winning combination, and our figures, though no longer in honeymoon form, tend to have acquired new, curious and not unpleasant dimensions.
At that point the babies have all been born (my own fourth and last, in fact, came before I was 30) and with the help of hormones, estrogen, and natural collagen we do manage to hold off the stretching and bulging that have gone with and resulted from childbearing.
Fifty is definitely the threshold, affirms my younger cousin Annie, who herself reached it last year.
“In fact,” she adds, “it’s also the deadline for single, separated or widowed women to find a lasting relationship.”
At any rate, my own supposed problem is much simpler: the answer lies in some picture collection in which I have been preserved at 50, the age at which one should wish to be remembered by, the perfect age that produces the perfect picture to stand beside the urn.
Other followers offer less fraudulent or morbid advice: “You could have at least removed your glasses.”
I don’t know about that. What I know is that myopic glasses actually blunt the camera lens and soften its effect on crinkled eyelids and floppy eye-bags. Anyway, since everyone I know knows my age, what’s the point? Where’s the fun in fooling strangers?
I’m reminded of my friend Nena. She found this obscure studio that took such unbelievable pictures, many of us were persuaded to pose. Thus, for five years—that was all the time I could in good conscience allow—I looked like a dream on my passport, my US visa, my driver’s license and other IDs.
But Nena held out for 10 years, during which she put on, besides years, considerable weight, and couldn’t help being revealed. Stopping at the gates of Corinthian Gardens on the way out, she got a suspicious look over from the security guard, who, before handing over her driver’s license, had to check her picture on it against the face in front of her, and ask, “Ma’am, sino po ito? “
It did cross my mind to send a column picture of me wearing sunglasses. Sunglasses—the bigger, the better—are an old trick of celebrities, not only to escape paparazzi, but also to conceal their unpreparedness for public viewing. I considered appropriating the trick under pressure from such criticisms as, “You could have at least have gone to the beauty parlor, it would have helped, you know,” or “’Ni wala ka yatang makeup.”
These critics sound like my mom, who happened to be the classic beauty, who was always dressed to the nines, if simply. She felt she owed it to her adoring public to look her best. It was not so hard for her, being photogenic at any age, and it must have been quite frustrating for her to have a daughter like me. I can still hear her: What is that you are wearing again? Do something about that hair, please.
Well, after some self-analysis, I guess I may not have wanted to even try as mom suggested so that I would have an excuse for not being as pretty as she; thus, under-grooming became a habit.
An equal of my mom’s in looks, tita Loleng, is as vain as they come. She belongs to another group of concerned readers of mine.
“Binabasa kita,” she began as she welcomed me at her husband’s recent wake. Tall and as ever trim and glamorous in her long leopard-print dress with matching shoes and cane, she seemed, even at 91, conscious not to disappoint her public and, again, like mom, she never did.
Pulling me aside, tita Loleng whispered her own concern. “Teka muna, aren’t you with your second husband, Santos, anymore?“ Assured I still was, and very much so, she sighed in relief, and proceeded to give her own advice, “Then, why don’t you use your married name? You should. Naguguluhan ako.”
I suppose you just can’t please everyone, particularly lovingly involved characters in your life.