An article about my research appears in the new issue of the college magazine and ever since it came out colleagues have been congratulating me. "Great photo," they say. "It looks just like you." If this is true, then I must look an awful lot like the Pillsbury Doughboy wearing glasses. But then the only photo of myself I've ever liked is the one above, and it's a bit outdated. Most other photos of me look like Jabba the Hutt in drag.
Lately I've been obsessing a little more than usual about my appearance. In fact, every spring when the weather turns warm I wrestle daily with the same question: short sleeves or long? I often opt for a short-sleeved shirt topped with a jacket or sweater, but then when I get into a warm classroom, I face another question: jacket on or off? My students would prefer that I leave the jacket on. I know this because they say so on my teaching evaluations. "She should be required to wear long sleeves in the classroom," they say. "She has a big ugly hairy mole on her arm that distracts me from learning."
It's helpful to be reminded that I have a big ugly hairy mole on my arm because I've lived with it so long that I sometimes forget. Take yesterday, for instance: we went to see The Miracle Worker performed by a local theater troupe, and after the show we stopped to do some shopping and saw some of the performers in the store--two young boys still in their costumes. I was planning to congratulate them on their performance, but then they started pointing and whispering and giggling about the big ugly hairy mole on my arm. Oh yeah, that. I had forgotten. Thanks for pointing it out! Thanks so much!
The mole doesn't show in my new photo, but I doubt that's the reason colleagues are congratulating me. I asked a friend what's so good about this new photo and she said, "It reveals something about you that people like." Okay, I'll admit that I don't look scary in the new photo. I've been told that some folks find me a tad frightening, but nobody's scared of the Pillsbury Doughboy.
"No, that's not it," she said.
"You look warm and witty and intelligent, like you're about to say something really smart," she said.
I couldn't think of anything smart to say in response except "thanks." A warm, witty, intelligent, non-scary Pillsbury Doughboy with no visible mole--that's a self-image I can live with.