For the last few years, there has been some uproar about the way magazines and advertisers digitally alter photographs. The argument is that it presents a false sense of beauty that both girls and women can’t achieve. Jezebel, a pop-culture website, every so often posts a photoshop-of-horrors, the picture depicting a missing arm or a knee so small it couldn’t technically balance the weight of a pea. And sometimes they show a photo before and after it has been doctored.
I’m always amazed at the flaws you can see in the before picture. There are blemishes and scars along with crows feet and uneven skin tone. And it isn’t that I expect otherwise. It’s reasonable that Angelina Jolie has darkness under her eyes and Kim Kardashian’s thighs are dimpled with cellulite. You just never see it. This would explain why I’ve come to accept the portrayed perfection as real.
December marks the boom of another illusory presentation to the public: romance. From now through February, films like Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually will play on a loop. He is aloof and she is flawed. But in the end he always gets the girl. Shit, even Buddy the goddam elf gets the girl. This time of year, that happy ending usually makes me cry.
For the most part, I don’t go through life feeling lonely. I have a group of close friends who can entertain me for hours on end. And I admittedly relish my alone time when I can disappear with a good book or go up and down every aisle at DSW without apology. But as the days shorten, as the temperatures dip, a hint of loneliness can sometimes bubble to the surface.
“Do you ever feel alone?” I asked my coworker as we picked at our Chick-fil-A sandwiches.
“Of course.” She answered without pause.
“Last night I cried myself to sleep,” I said as I reached for my diet lemonade. “And admitting that makes me feel so utterly pathetic.”
“You wouldn’t be human if you never felt lonely.”
I’m not sure she knew how much I needed to hear those words. It helped me swallow down the lump that was forming in my throat. It helped me stop beating myself up for once foolishly dubbing Alaska ‘Big’. And it helped me see that this perfect world where Mark Darcy returns to Bridget is nothing more than a digitally enhanced presentation of two made-up characters on a sound stage in Hollywood.
When I got back to my desk, I realized there are probably many people who, like me, fall into that trap of believing the falsehoods more than the truths. If I didn’t have cellulite, of course Alaska would have flown me to Paris and, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, admitted his mistakes and pleaded with me to marry him. And yes, in this scenario I am back-lit and a fan beyond the frame gently blows my tresses. But just because everything I see isn’t real doesn’t mean I’ll give up on a romantic ending. Reach for the stars and you just might touch them. But wear good concealer. Because it helps to feel pretty. And that minor tweak results in a far more beautiful image than anything created with Photoshop.