A friend called to say, “I had a marketing person check out your website. Is that okay?”
“Sure. I guess,” I said.
“She’ll just poke around and send some recommendations.”
“But the website’s already up.”
“Maybe it could be better. It’s free,” she said.
A day passed then came the email. It said, “Well, I guess it is functional. You need to rearrange some things and your photos — we need to talk about your photos.”
Immediately I called her. Mild, so mild you could miss them, pleasantries were exchanged.
“Who took the photos?” asked the marketing person.
“Lots of people,” I said.
“You need professional headshots.”
“Of course. What were you thinking putting up those amateurish photographs?”
“I’m a writer, not a model,” I said.
“You’re neither with those shots. You squint,” she said.
“The sun was in my eyes.”
“Not in every shot. And you look morose.”
(Uncommon word, now I knew she had literary pretensions.)
“I spend lots of time in front of the computer. Anyway, writers have angst, anxiety, addictions,” I said.
“Do you have any of those? It might make you more interesting,” she said.
“Now I need to be Didion or Hemingway. Couldn’t I just be Jennifer Weiner?”
“Think big. Get Botox. And your hair. Grow out your hair.”
“I like my hair short.”
“You look androgynous. And where are the breasts?”
“I have breasts.”
“Yes but you wrote a book about breasts. We need to see them.”
“Do you think I need implants?” I asked.
“Let me do some research.”
“Shouldn’t I be marketing a normal body image and body?”
The phone line went dead.
A day passed. Then she called.
“You can get by without implants but you need to show a modest cleavage. Not as much as that one picture where you look sad.”
“My breasts look sad?”
“No, but in that photo, you look like a tramp with a migraine.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, I’ll get a photo taken with a suggestion of cleavage and a smile,” I said.
“Smile but don’t squint, get some Botox, keep your mouth closed — too many teeth, maybe get them bleached.”
“Did you pimp out models before this?” I asked thinking of my first husband the art director.
“What are you talking about? I’m trying to help you. Publishing has changed. Marketing has changed. You need to do more, be more, put more out there — but not that much. You must present an image of competence,” she said.
“And competence is beauty and cleavage?”
“Sex still sells.”
“Good bloody grief. I’m a writer. I want to look profound, witty, not Bambi the ‘uber happy, trying too hard, D cup, overage model.’”
I sent an email to the friend who started this brouhaha. It said, “I’m a writer dammit. I don’t want to be a model. Most days I squint into the computer screen. Some days I even suffer for my art. On those days, I don’t smile. I smile with my mouth open — you can see my teeth. I like my short hair — my female identity is independent of the length of my hair. My breasts sometimes show and sometimes they don’t. I’ve earned my wrinkles. Fuck the Botox.
Tell your marketing person to back off or I’ll review her on Angie’s List.”
(My image — don’t use it without asking me.)