The Three (Hundred) Faces of Deb Molly

I have a confession. This girl?

2012 Debutante Molly Backes

That’s not me.

Sure, those are my earrings, and that’s my hair (on a pretty decent day), and I suppose those are my features, but still. That’s not me.

This girl is polished and sure of herself, staring at the camera with a hint of a smile — or is that a challenge? This girl knows what she’s talking about. This girl don’t take no shit from no one.

But me? The real me? I’m distracted and often frazzled, underslept and overscheduled. More Marla Hooch than Dottie Hinson, if you know what I mean.

[Sidenote: a few weeks ago, my friend Nat and I were playing “What celebrity do you hope you look like, and what celebrity do you fear you look like?” I said that on a good day, I hoped I look like Drew Barrymore, but most days I fear I look more like Marla Hooch. He had to look Marla up on his iphone, and then he didn’t stop laughing for like ten minutes. IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.]

Author photos (and author bios, for that matter) are weird and often uncomfortable because they ask us to choose one face to show to the world, when we know that no one picture — and no one paragraph — will ever sum us up. As my friend Marisol told me, back when I was struggling to write the bio for the book jacket:

“I think, among other reasons, that writing a bio is stupidly hard for the same reason that writing a resume or a college application is stupidly hard – they all seem to build on the premise that there is a single truth of self that we can capture on paper if we only find the right words. And worse, the right 50 or 100 or 200 words. But, that’s bullshit. And, perhaps ironic, because anyone who could be captured in that way – would you really want to hire them, bring them to your college, or read their book?”

(I love her.)

I think most of us grapple with this, in our world of social media and profile pictures and 140 word twitter bios and “About Me” sections — how do we choose to present ourselves in this or that context? (I like to joke about “managing my brand,” but lately it feels like less of a joke than it used to.) At least with Facebook you can post a number of pictures to hint at your multifaceted glory. But with an author photo, you only get one shot.

So which do you choose? Do you go with the casual snapshot, the Oh Hey, I Didn’t See You There, I’m Just Hanging Out On This Dock?

 (In my defense, I was actually just hanging out on this dock.)

Or the Sure I Write Books But I Spend Far More Time Hugging Dogs/Don’t Look at Me, Look at This Adorable Greyhound:

(To be fair, she is adorable.)

There’s always the I Can’t See You, I’m Too Busy Being a SERIOUS WRITER And Wearing This Awesome Leather Jacket:

(What was I writing? Probably “Ali is taking a picture of me. Blah blah, I am writing!” or something similarly poetic.)

Or do you try to channel Robert Frost and go rustic with the Here I Am, At Home In The Woods, Just Casually Laughing On A Stump:

(This one was taken in Iowa, so it has a special place in my heart.)

Or do you try to show your readers how fun you are with the Wacky Hatching From An Egg pic (total cliche, am I right?):

(What author didn’t hatch from an egg?)

Or do you give up on the idea of trying to put your best face forward, and go with the But Seriously, This Is What I Actually Look Like shot? (Which might be what old Uncle Shelby was doing in the picture that so terrifies Deb Joanne.)

(That’s just my face, you guys.)

It’s overwhelming and crazy-making, and in the end you often have to just go with something and try to stop obsessing. And that’s why I went with what’s probably the most boring option, the professional headshot:

2012 Debutante Molly Backes

It’s not me. Not entirely. It doesn’t show how casual, dog-loving, thoughtful, rustic, fun, cranky, or contradictory I can be. It’s only one face of many, and I contain multitudes.

But I guess that’s what my book is for.

**You know you want to play along: What celebrity do you hope you look like, and what celebrity do you fear you look like?**

19 thoughts on “The Three (Hundred) Faces of Deb Molly

  1. You are utterly adorable–AND your leather jacket totally trumps my jean one and I am NOT happy about it.

    It really is a dilemma because you WANT to seem casual and easy-going but we all hear how a photo that is too comfy reads as unprofessional and unpolished (yeah, but what if I AM unpolished, people? is always my response to that.)

    And let’s not forget that FB has thrown all this to the wind. You can do your best to put out your serious-author picture into the universe but rest assured someone, somewhere from your deep, dark past is posting that picture of you from ninth grade when you thought the height of fashion was a cleric’s robe, high tops, and toothpaste in your bangs because it was so much more rock-n-roll than mousse.

    • HA! And you’re right that the flip-side of Facebook allowing you to show multiple selves is that it also will inevitably include a bunch of pictures you didn’t approve, posted by well-meaning folks who were just so excited to meet you that they don’t care if you have red eyes and six chins in their picture.

  2. Aw!!!! It’s great to see all of these photos. thanks for sharing. I agree with Erika, you are adorable.

    I want to look like Courtney Cox or Demi Moore (before she got to skinny). Sadly, I’ve been told that I look like Karen Allen but only when she starred in Raiders. Not nearly as glamorous as I imagined.

    • Thanks, Missy! And Karen Allen is adorable — you could do much worse! My students used to tell me I looked like Supernanny. SIGH.

  3. Awww. I love all your pics! And you couldn’t look like Marla Hooch if you tried. 🙂

    I’d like to think I still look like Shelley Long in her heyday (I used to be told “Hey, you look like that girl on Cheers” all the time). Sadly, I fear the “hey” has left the barn. *grin*

  4. You don’t have a shower/bathroom photo, but you do have one with a dog in it, so I think you’re golden. 😉

    That Marla Hooch picture made me laugh, but not because it’s true, because it’s a really funny picture, but I can see it’s what you don’t want to look like. I want to look like Amy Adams because I think she looks like me, only perfecter. I used to think Nicole Kidman, but she’s too old to be my fantasy me now. As you can see, I’ve given this a lot of thought.

    P.s. I love the hanging out on a dock photo – casual and warm and you have very good ankles.

    • I did notice a resemblance between you and Amy in the post from Monday! & thanks — I’ve never thought much about my ankles, but I’ll be sure to appreciate them today. 🙂

  5. I think that you should just dedicate the last five or so pages of any book you publish to a ‘Molly Backes Collage’. Just sayin’. And it’s true, you do have some nice ankles.

  6. Any blog post that works in Marla Hooch and the phrase Oh Hey, I Didn’t See You There, I’m Just Hanging Out On This Dock? is my favorite post ever. I knew we were destined to be friends anyway, but Matt and I legit talk about Marla Hooch once a week. Molly, get out of my head.

    • Haha, I actually love Marla Hooch so much, but I’ve been afraid that I look like her since I first saw that movie in like seventh grade (and believe me, I look a LOT more like Marla now than I did at 12!). What do you and Matt say about her? Why is she such a frequent topic of conversation in the Bertsche household?

  7. PS I want to play that game! I’m an old-lady Emma Stone on a VERY GOOD DAY. I fear, however, that I look like Weird Al Yankovic.

    • I can totally see the Emma Stone! And as for Weird Al… let’s just say I had the same reaction as Nat had to Marla Hooch. It’s just the hair, I swear.

  8. Did you ever consider a collage of a bunch of photos? That’s what I would have voted for. Second vote is the one with Zia. Can’t wait to buy your book and read it. Ali (and the BOY, as we call him) home tomorrow. Give her a hug and kiss from me!

    • I can’t believe you didn’t vote for the one your own darling child took (leather jacket, writing) — taken, if I recall correctly, in Younker Lounge. Of course, I didn’t post the very special portrait she drew of me — the one drawn in crayon, where I have horns? — even though that actually may be the most accurate. 🙂

  9. I was told at a young and fragile age that I looked like one of the Hanson brothers. “But the cute one!”

    I never really came across someone I hope I look like, just sort of bummed that I looked like one of the creators of MmmBop.

  10. I remember all those pics! I do love the dock pic, and the dog pic, oh, and the leather jacket pic…. 🙂
    People have told me I have a Holly Hunter thing goin on! I love her! Great mouth!

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