I saw a portrait of myself the other day: it showed me sitting on a half high brick wall with my head turned, my great mouth lolling open in a goofy smile as I appeared to be talking to someone to the viewer’s left. I winced – it was not a good picture of me.
This particular portrait of me had added interest because of where it was placed. It had been blown up to great proportions and been painted on the side of a large brick building downtown, next to a parking lot, for anyone to look at who walked by. Many people were walking by. Hence the wince.
I stopped to look at myself in mild horror and mild fascination, and Edwin Nathaniel Dowdley, who was walking with me, stopped too, and came back for me. “Coming?” he asked. “How long has that been there?” I asked him. “Oh, that? A couple of weeks now. What’s the matter?” “What’s the matter, it’s awful, that’s all.” “Why awful? That’s what you look like,” he joked, but of course he was right, that was the problem.
“You’re right,” I said, “no good taking it down – I’ll still be walking around acting like that.”
“I wouldn’t bother about it. Everyone’s used to you. And they still like you – pretty well, anyways, eh?”
I took a copy of it and framed it, and hung it in my living room. Everyone else could look at it whenever they saw me, but I knew I probably needed to see it more often. It was me saying, “This man with the funny mouth and all that extra real estate on the side of his head, that is me, I guess. And I can be happy with that.” It’s just a little jarring the first time you see it. It has made me a kinder person.