Picture of Janet


Janet’s the E on the S

Reading Time: 5 minutes

“I need for you to give me a full length photo of yourself,” Carolyn said. 

“I need it for your party.”

A sometime bridge partner, frequent short trip traveling companion, Carolyn gives a great party. Her food is always delicious, her house is creative and festive in decoration, and she knows how to make you feel special. She knows how to make everyone feel special, not just the guest of honor. I admire Carolyn with good reason. I admire her even when she is willing to celebrate my dubious distinction, which in my opinion was the case in this particular instance. She is indefatigable in her warm heartedness and generosity. 

She is also relentless. 

“I NEED you to give me a full length photo now.” The email was the gentlest scolding and classic Carolyn. Not being one to enjoy selfies or self-centered photographs in general, I had tried to out wait her request. She clearly would be brooking no stalling this time. The next day rummaging around in my closet, looking through a closet full of crap clothes, I devised a plan. 

“You have to take a full length picture of me,” I yelled to SB. 

“Red. Red is always good,” I hummed to myself, sorta believing my logic. “It’s hard to notice much else if you are wearing red,” I continued self-convincing. Thinking about the full length image need, I amended red to something red and long.

“Zip this up, please.” I told SB running outside with my iPhone in hand. 

“How do models get that whispy haired blown by the wind look where tendrils softly frame one’s face either quite romantically or very sexily. You know the ones that don’t look like you were in a hurricane and forgot to wash your hair before it hit,” I mumbled, thinking about the past. 

(I once was interviewed and I believe the author in writing the interview was told by her editor she could not describe me as having ‘limp, mousey brown hair”. And then there was another time, oldest son eating at a Taqueria Arandas in southwest Houston was startled to see his mother on Mexican TV. I believe his words were, “your hair was so.. limp. That’s how I knew it was you.”)

Screw it,” i thought, while I wrapped my rapidly clammy hair from the Houston sweltering heat and humidity into a bunch, literally, at the back of my head. Clip on. 

Sweat was beading everywhere on my person. 

“You could use the full length picture of you  I have on my desk,” SB said, not even attempting to squelch the crap eating grin pasted on his face.

I was practicing twirling, thinking that maybe an action shot might be my best bet, to which his comment rudely interrupted as a “Really? you went there?!” glare which only fed the crap eating grin. 

“I hate your phone,” he said, swiping up like a man possessed, cursing the lack of a home button on the X. “I think I got a picture.”

“You got a picture?!?” “That’s not how real photographers do it. You have to take a bunch of them. That way I can find at least one that won’t make me look like I am a crazy old woman in a long, red dress.”

SB mumbled “Photos don’t lie.”

Middle son walked out on to the patio where the photography session had moved in hopes of a better backdrop.

“You could take a still off of the documentary that showing up on Netflix again.”, he added. I feel quite certain he was deliberately attempting to piss me off so as not to feel beholden to party attendance. 

“I already told her I’d let her scan the one on my desk.” SB smirked.

So they both went there.

(These pictures are of me at least ten years ago, before gravity seemed to take a bigger toll than I ever imagined. Except that I have now seen my 87 year old mother naked.)

And then it hit me…

My heart beat satisfyingly in my chest, knowing that the last word would be mine.

The day of the party came and went and it was great fun and as I said, Carolyn knows how to cook. Her house was decorated and beautiful and there at the door, stood Janet. And another Janet was on the mantle. There was also one by Alex’s cage, the African Gray parrot, who seemed to be very particularly drawn to the red that did indeed stand out in the image. Janets were everywhere. And most of them life-size.

As I loaded the Janets into my truck, I anticipated how wonderful this Christmas season was going to be. 

For if there ever was a thing as elfs and the marketing ploy that one would sit on a shelf, my Janets were the perfect natural evolution to the game. My mind reeled with the possibilities. I had enough to even install one as a permanent resident in youngest son’s home… 

My options were endless, the whole idea priceless.

I knew I had hit gold when the the smartest poodle, tail up, brown eyes beaded on the Janet I had left at the back door while retrieving the others, stared in abject confusion. 

Like the grinch planning the Whoville disaster, I sat next to the still Janet, while the dog who can learn anything the first time without you even teaching him, looked at me. And then he looked at still Janet. And then me. And then a really long time at still Janet. No tell-tale tail wagged. Unable to process, he gave up, came over and laid his head in my lap, turning his eyes into his paws, like he’d just failed the SAT.

Yeah. This was going to be good. 

Thanksgiving was the initial day of assault. I placed Janet 1 in the hall way next to the staircase landing and then Janet 2 went into the bar in the living room. 

In my glee and anticipation, a niggling creepiness threatened the hairs on the back of my neck. It was becoming clear to me that grown sons and a life-size image of their mother appearing out of nowhere, was, let’s just call it what it had the potential to be. Creepy. Passing the Janets during the day, even I was startled. 

But…it takes a lot for me to give up on what appeared at first glance to be genius payback. 

The reveal began quietly, as sons and hubs meandered about that evening, not having ventured upstairs, found their way into the bar. There was a murmur of discontent. A stronger word might describe their reaction more accurately.  And then one of them bounded up the stairs that creaked bit and then stopped with an “uh, no.”

It’s middle son who I think expressed the consensus view. 

Safe to say it will not be repeated here but summarized due to explicit content.  The Janets were unanimously retired. Despite me laughing at their ‘discomfort’ in the whole game as if I had no reservations at all, the word “creepy” was used enough times that even I agreed.

The youngest son, always the diplomat, made the single concession. 

“Why don’t you put one in your truck,” he said. “That way you can take the HOV, and drive like the aggressive driver that you are without fear of getting a ticket for driving illegally or like a crazy woman.”

“It is true that men tease women they love. It is a form of compliment. The woman can rest assured that it is true affection. Make the most of it.” ~Anonymous

Oh hell, why not… go here.

Addendum: Carolyn will be featured next week in the “Women I Admire” series and my dubious distinction was achieving the rank of Bridge Life Master. It is customary in the duplicate bridge world to celebrate that milestone. I say dubious not because it’s not a wonderful achievement, it very much is, but because in my case, it in no way indicates my mastery of the game. I have had great partners. Dating back to when little sagged.

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