It’s time for me to take a new author photo. Some of you may remember how spectacularly the last one was received. I was tired of talking about my long hair in the old shot. It had been in two books, three periodicals and an Aspen promo. It was two years old. Time for an update.

And to be honest, I’m a huge fan of Tom’s work.

One photo deadline was about three days ago. I tried to have stee snap a decent digital. His favorite photo makes me look like a Hooters girl, crazy hair and enormous boobs in my “America Is Scary” t-shirt.

“What?” he protested. “It’s hot.”

“It’s indecent. I’m supposed to be endearing. That makes me look like I’m gonna bang your boyfriend.”

“My boyfriend?”

“You know what I mean.”

I think his photographer feelings were hurt.

It was Tom who said, “Bring all the girly things that make you look pretty.” This was his only request. But I spent too much time in front of the computer this morning, which meant I was rushing to make it to Tom’s on time. I put on one outfit, and shoved in a bag: one black dress, one pink Glarkware shirt, my Radiohead shirt, and a black button down.

I showed up at his house. “Your hair is different,” he said.

“Yeah, is that okay?”

“I like it. It used to be mousy.”

Mousy?”

Jen, Tom’s roommate, shot me this, “Yeah, he’s good with a word, isn’t he?” eyebrow.

Tom didn’t even stammer. “Yep,” he said. “Just like a rat.”

I flung the clothes across Tom’s couch. “This is… happy Pam? Dressed-up Pam… uh, here’s Pam in a Radiohead shirt…”

(I’m really not good at a lot of this girl stuff.)

Jen was the first to say, “What you’re wearing now is good.” Tom agreed, and I was glad, as it was what I was hoping I could wear for the picture.

I was done with makeup in less than five minutes (again: not so girly), and we were off.

Tom keeps the camera snapping, always talking, making it easy to forget there are any photos being taken at all. You know when he’s happy with a shot he just took. He takes the slightest pause and then you hear this quiet, “Good.” A friend of Tom’s was keeping security for us while we punk-rocked a piece of Hollywood for our background.

“Could you two try having a conversation?” Tom asked.

“It’d be easier if you could talk to me,” I said to Tom’s friend. “So I’m not talking in the pictures.”

“Blah, blah, blah,” he said.

“No, say something real,” I said. “Tell me something. How do you start a conversation?”

He snaps right back, “What are you wearing?”

It resulted in a hilarious picture of me caught completely off-guard, halfway between confusion and laughter.

We upload the camera onto Tom’s computer and I learn the following:

1. When sitting down, if I’m at all self-conscious, I will slouch. Joey Potter slouching. When did I start doing that?

2. My smirk is out of control. There are so many shots where you can see me trying to figure out what Tom’s thinking. I look like I’m keeping a secret, or trying to do long division in my head.

3. I will never like my hair. Mousy or no.

4. Tom takes a pretty picture.

5. Digital cameras are magic.

“You do better looking straight into the camera,” Tom said to me as we were looking over the hundred or so pictures of my head.

“Oh. Okay.”

“This must be hard,” he said. “Staring at yourself.”

“Uh, yeah. That’s why I’m having you pick the best ones.”

Tom and Jen point at the monitor, discussing which ones they like the best. I try to look at it like it’s someone else’s head, someone else’s giant forehead, someone else’s weird eyebrow cowlick.

We pick two for the overdue deadline. That picture will be about one inch by one inch, so we find a good close-up. We have more time to pick the photo for the book.

Always self-conscious, I ask what he meant by how I take a better picture looking straight into the camera.

What I assume he means before he answers: Because then we can’t see that weird bump on your nose.

What he actually says to me: You have a very symmetrical face. There are all these studies about how we’re attracted to that. If someone doesn’t have a symmetrical face, then they look better turning their head to the side, because it offsets the lack of symmetry.

(And if I turn my head, you see the bump on my nose. I can’t help it, people! I can’t take a compliment without finding the backhand.)

All of which is to say, if you’re in Los Angeles and you need a fantastic photographer, I know a guy. He makes me feel pretty.

photo by: Thomas Hargis

(I realize I have now spent the entire weekend talking about other people calling me pretty. Sorry. I’ll try not to be such a princess. Humor me, people. I just turned thirty.)