Say ‘cheese!’

April 30, 2015

By Pat Detmer

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It’s time for a new picture.

I’ve had newspaper columns for nearly 15 years, and I’ve always promised myself that I would try to keep the picture accompanying it fairly current. This the result of having won a charity auction get-together with a columnist and being surprised by the lined face of the person I saw at lunch versus the smooth face that I saw in the paper at breakfast.


I’m not a fan of getting photographed, but years of corporate promotions, company websites and columns have inured me to the pains of the process. Looking at old photos for inspiration, I came across one of me and The Sainted One taken at a studio soon after we’d fallen in love. It is horrible: back to back with arms crossed, heads cocked just so, big fakey smiles. We found each other late in life, and were desperate to create a solid, tangible history and do it quickly. But getting past the theatrics of the pose and looking at my face, I noticed something odd.

I had a lower lip. I have one now, of course, but this was a seriously plump, full, seductive lower lip, so overwhelming that it appeared to be something I might be able to put on and take off like a hat or a wig. Looking in the mirror now, I wonder where it has gone. In the past decade, most things have gone to my hips, but that’s quite a long trip from my face, so I’ve probably just absorbed it somehow.

I wish I had it back.

There are reasons beyond vanity. When my lips are at rest, my mouth naturally curls down at the corners. The arc of my mouth is, in fact, a perfect bow. Unfortunately it’s bowed in the wrong direction. I can be relaxed, happy, at peace, thinking cheerful thoughts, and people will say, “What a grumpy face!” or they will pretend to pull up the corners of their own mouths to signal that I need to make a better effort to smile. I’m always surprised by this, because the position of my lips doesn’t reflect the posture of my mind. If I had a fulsome lower lip again, maybe I wouldn’t look so much like Scrooge.

Genetics may play a part in my dour visage. I have a picture of my great-grandmother in my office that was taken in the late 1800s. She cuts quite a figure in her feathered finery, but even though she’s a young woman, her lips are a thin line. My sisters and I have laughingly referred to it as “The Face That Lips Forgot.” But who’s laughing now?

Rest assured that I will do my best to take a happy, smiling picture, one that will not frighten your small children or make your dogs whine. Even if it kills me.

You can reach Pat Detmer — who you may see at the Y doing lip push-ups — at

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