Facing up to an updated appearance - April Avison

Those who read this column in the print version will notice a change in today's paper. After much friendly prodding, I have replaced my photo – "mug shot" in journalese – with an updated version.

I haven't updated the photo because it seemed to me to be a rather vain thing to do, and many journalists, myself included, have a tendency to shy away from photo opportunities that place us on the other side of the camera.

The photo that used to appear in this space was taken in December 2001. I didn't think I'd changed that much in just a couple of years, but I wore glasses then, and I believe I was in the experimental "red phase" with my hair. We won't talk any more about the red phase. It wasn't one of my better style choices.

In the past year or so, three different people approached me to say I don't look in person at all like I look in that hideous mug shot. My friend Ali cast the deciding vote, though, when last week at a lunch meeting she told me no less than three times to please replace the photo. When I got back to my office after the meeting I had an e-mail message from Ali that stated, "Reminder: Please update your photo in your column."

I had to laugh, but I also realized maybe the photo was worse than I thought. Ali had told me it wasn't such a bad picture, but it made me look like I was about 14 years old. So I finally bit the bullet and took another photo. Maybe I'll do it again in three years.

It's funny how we don't pay attention to the little visible changes we make in our appearances. I got to hang out with my friend Randal over the weekend, a guy who grew up in my hometown and was a couple of grades ahead of me in high school. We talked about how funny it will be for me to go to my 10-year high school reunion next summer.

"They won't recognize you," Randal told me.

I thought about it later and was still confused. Although we nerdy girls have visions of busting down the doors of the high school reunion and saying things like, "How do ya like me now?" I'd never actually entertained the idea that I've changed all that much since 1995. Sure, I no longer wear the ridiculously large glasses or braces on my teeth. I don't have a bad perm and I dye my hair and pluck my eyebrows now. I'd also like to think my fashion sense has improved since the days when I had to have Guess? jeans in every color of the rainbow. But the truth is I'm still pretty much the same old nerdy girl I was back then.

Maybe as we grow up we begin to realize how insignificant our appearance truly is. We spend so many years trying to find ways to look prettier or older or skinnier but the joke's on us because the moment we step into beauty is the moment we realize it doesn't matter.

April Avison is the city editor of the Daily Herald. Her column appears on Mondays. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at aavison@henryherald.com.