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Put Me Back

It was the last day of a three day writing conference. I had time for one last, quick question. A shy boy in the back raised his hand: "Mrs. Bauer, looking back over your entire life, do you have any regrets?" Whoa! How do I answer that out of the hundreds, thousands of regrets I'd piled up over the years? I'd even managed to goof up a couple of times that very morning. He waited. "Well, I guess one of the biggest," I told him, "is that I always wanted to be a entirely different person. I was a sensitive, creative kid and I couldn't take satisfaction in that. I was always looking in other people's mirrors to see how I was doing. I kept using the wrong markers, kept comparing myself with people I wasn't like at all."  

I suppose this is one of the reasons I write the kinds of characters I do — not perfect kids, but ones, for the most part, who have figured out there's something they can do that has meaning for them and for others. I'm wired to fall into the old hole, but a few years ago I had a new headshot taken and the photographer said he could touch it up just a bit. Just a bit sounded okay, until I saw the finally retouch. He had given me perfect skin, taken out my laugh lines, adjusted my teeth, I looked fifteen years younger. I looked like an actress on a soap — any actress, actually. I'd lost my personality, my character. "Put me back," I told him. He was shocked. "Put me back. That's not who I am." I cling to that memory as I walk through this world bombarded by retouched images.  It's so easy to turn something real into something it was never meant to be.