A few days ago, a colleague sent me the most bizarre e-mail I may ever get.
“My boyfriend,” she wrote, “is a professional photographer. He’s looking for cute gals to model for an ad for dog food. I thought you’d be a great fit!”
I read the e-mail three times, and then once out loud to Tony, to make sure I was getting it right. First of all, she was asking for me, not my dog, who is much cuter and also happens to come from a line of dog food models (his father was the poster dog for Purina, something I very much enjoy bragging about to other owners at the dog park.) Then, I became convinced it was a practical joke. Cute? Dog food? Me?
“Do you think it’s for real?” I asked Tony. “And not spam or something?”
“Well she’s given you her phone number, hasn’t she?” Tony pointed out.
It was true. And her boyfriend’s phone number, and her address. And besides, this particular colleague is not the kind of person who would joke about such a thing. Also, there was cash involved. So I called her, confirmed I was not being punked, and said I’d be at their place tomorrow afternoon for an audition shoot.
The next day, wearing a light-coloured top and jeans as directed, I showed up. I have to say, audition or not, it was extremely nerve-wracking. Smiling at a television camera is nothing compared to smiling while standing stock still. There is no way of doing it without feeling completely self-conscious, and like you are the type of person who secretly feels they are better than mostly everyone else.
The photographer-boyfriend asked me to stand in front of a brick wall, and smile. Then, he asked me to lie down on the hardwood floor, put one arm over my head, pose as one might while ruffling the ears of a dachshund, and smile. And that was it. We had some tea, and I asked if I could see the photos of my “competition” – the other girls who were contenders for the job. I pointed out one whom I thought was especially cute.
“Aw,” the photographer said. “She looks too young.”
This reassured me for a couple of seconds before I understood what it meant.
We said our goodbyes, and they promised to call me by Thursday if I got the job. And this is the crazy part. On the way home in the car, and that night, and the next morning, when I looked in the mirror, I actually looked better. I swear to god. It was like being acknowledged as a potential campaigner for kibble somehow got me seeing myself in a whole new light.
“You may not be Kate Hudson,” I told my reflection, “but you’re not bad.”
As the week wore on, I found myself getting more and more excited. I wondered: Could this be a whole new career? The end to all my problems? A miraculous way to fund my writing habit? I imagined some scout spotting me and the dachshund, blown up to life size on the wall of a metro station or something, and deciding on the spot that I would be the next Gisele, but less thin and without the sideline career designing flip flops. What a conversation starter at parties! I could get an agent! And the money would come rolling in, and I’d never have to do any real work again, except lying around on hardwood floors, poking my head around trees and skipping through meadows to sell peanut butter or shampoo or fabric softener. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?
In the end, Thursday came and went, and with it, no phone call. I tried to pretend like I didn’t care, but I did. I had so been looking forward to claiming on my Facebook page that I wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day.
But as I walked by the mirror Friday morning, Bride of Frankenstein hair and all, something caught me by surprise. I was still looking beyond the new wrinkles and ever-darkening under-eye circles to what I’d been seeing all week. The glow hadn’t faded. It was an honour just to be nominated.
“You may not be a part-time dog food model,” I told myself. “But you’re still not bad.”