At first I scoffed. It was just another shopping mall phenomenon, I told myself, a new product of our twisted consumer psyche. First there were food courts, then came new-age shops, and now this: Glamour Shots. High fashion photography for the masses. Could this possibly be another sign of the looming Apocalypse?

As I watched the swarm of middle-aged housewives and tired-yet-game girlfriends clog the store's entrance waiting to be photographed, I couldn't help but admire the operation's cold marketing genius. Glamour Shots feeds on the media-inspired fantasy of every modern American citizen: we're all secretly meant to be stars. No matter if you're a secretary, plumber, or proctologist; no matter if you're overdrawn or overweight…you are truly a super model deep inside. And at Glamour Shots, where you're pimped, preened, and cooed at, you are. Or at least as much as modern cosmetic science can make you so.

"In the past, glamor portraits have only been practical for high fashion models, actors, and actresses…Glamour Shots brings beauty and excitement to a normal lifestyle at a price anyone can afford," reads their brochure. And I'm sure it's true. The customers looked flush with excitement, like school-kids rushing to perform the Christmas pageant, curtain rising.

I took a good look at my crooked reflection in the store's window and thought: "Hey, I need beauty. I need excitement. And my lifestyle is normal, too." Heart pounding, nostrils quivering, I shakily pulled out my last good credit card and strode to the front desk.

"I'll do it!" I told the receptionist. "Go ahead, make me glamorous! Give me beauty! Give me excitement!"

Clearly impressed by my enthusiasm, the receptionist quickly took my credit card, ran off $25, and made me a reservation–for a week later. That was okay. I was sure I wouldn't become glamorous on my own by then.

The following Saturday, I was back, already feeling the excitement that had infused my normal lifestyle. I was ushered to my makeup artist, Emily, who immediately recognized my innate glamorousness with a loud chuckle. This impressed me greatly; for not only had I avoided getting a haircut for seven months, but I hadn't shaved in three days, my mustache was lopsided, and I had never gotten braces in junior high. Yet, somehow, she was able to look beyond this tattered shell to see the real me inside.

After recommending that I put on one of their handy tuxedo shirts, Emily launched step one in enhancing my natural beauty: namely, smearing a quarter-inch layer of beige glop over my face. Amazingly, my beard disappeared as if by magic! This was much easier than shaving, I thought, and made you look as if you had a tan (has Gillette heard of this?). Next, she made a careful scrutiny of my hairstyle, wringing her hands in admiration. Biting her lip, she took about three handfuls of a clear gel and applied it to my hair, fitfully trying to smooth it back and tie it off into a pony tail.

Exhaling in appreciation, Emily then carefully applied eyeliner along my lashes, red paint over my lips, and mascara into my mustache. I felt like a new man.

"There you go, sweetness!" she chirped. "How do you feel?"

As I gazed into my brightly lit, newly "individualized" reflection, only one word came to mind: "Glamorous! I feel absolutely glamorous!"

My makeover completed, the next step was to have my new me captured on film by one of their "professionally trained photographers." I couldn't wait to be guided "from one pose to the next" in a photo session that was to be "both relaxing and fun." I waited for my turn among my fellow glamorites, hearing not a few snickers of envy. I could feel my confidence rising, a new sense of self-awareness filling me. It was as if I actually had a chin.

Finally, I was called into the camera studio. My back assumed a measure of posture as I strode purposefully toward my photo-shoot, giggles of awe following me in. The youthful, earnest photographer greeted me with a whirlwind of yet more excitement.

"Hey, how ya doin'? I'm Cris, your photographer. Ready for some fun? All right, LET'S ROCK 'N ROLL! Take a seat there, that's right, now twist your back–GOOD! Tilt your head, uh-huh, uh-huh, BINGO-ROONIE!"

My eyes reacted to the sudden flash by instantly locking into half-lid position.

"Whoops! Let's try that again, dude…okay, okay, tilt, tilt, STOP! GOT IT, HOMEBOY! Rockin'! Alll-right!"

After several contortionist positions normally practiced by Hindu holy men, I was getting a bit tired. But this was only the beginning. Next came the denim jacket, my hands masculinely gripping the lapels, a debonair smile cocked across my face. Then there was the leather jacket, with a red scarf nonchalantly dangling around my neck, my lips pursed with invitation. Finally, we were almost done.

"One more thing I wanna try, homes," Cris said, eyes sparkling. "Take off your shirt."

"Excuse me?"

"Trust me! Let's try it!"

Well, did I have a choice? The man was a professionally trained photographer–and my Svengali. I reluctantly took off the shirt, entrusting my public image with Glamour Shot's own Mapplethorpe. Unfortunately, I didn't know they were piping the entire sordid scene outside to shoppers in the mall via video monitors. As my gut unleashed itself over the waistband of my jeans, screams of horror erupted from outside the store. I later learned that two elderly shoppers required CPR.

Cris took one look through the lens at my upper body development and declared, "Okay, I'm wrong, this just isn't working. We're done!"

Later, I was allowed to see my video proofs to select the one I wanted to print. The portfolios ranged from $32.95 for two copies of one shot, to a cool $379.95 for the largest photo set. Unfortunately, Master Card refused to honor the transaction, and ordered the cashier to notify the FBI.

Nevertheless, I now feel as if I captured my true, innate glamorousness, if only for an hour or so. In daily life, I may look no different than your typical shoe clerk. In looking at my photos, however, I realized my secret identity: a chubby Steven Seagal.

My life will never be the same.


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