Easy on the Eyes(6)

By: Jane Porter


“Who? What?”

“The studio heads. They want to promote Shelby to co-anchor.” Just saying the words aloud makes me sick.

She hesitates. “Isn’t Shelby the host for the weekend show?”

“Yes, and she apparently has phenomenal ratings.”

Another hesitation, and this coming from Little Miss Ray of Sunshine. “How are yours?”

“Not so good.” I take a deep breath. “And Glenn didn’t come out and give me any specifics other than Shelby’s young and fresh and high energy.”

Shey is quiet a moment. “Maybe they just want to shake the format up, try something new after six years.”

“Maybe.”

“Or maybe they don’t want to replace you but they want a younger, fresher you.” She seems to be choosing her words with care. “Have you considered that this might be their way of telling you it’s time to get some work done?”

I never thought of it quite like that. But it’s possible. I’m not wrinkly, but my face is softer than it used to be. I’ve noticed at certain angles there’s definitely a bit of a droop near my mouth. If I’m smiling it’s not a problem, it’s just when I’m caught without expression. “I don’t suppose they could come out and say get a face-lift, or else.”

“It’d be illegal, and discriminatory, but it might be what’s behind the drop in ratings.”

“No way. People aren’t that shallow. My viewers tune in for me. They’re women like me. They can’t expect me to never age— ”

“Oh, sugar,” she interrupts softly, “you of all people can’t play ostrich.”

“What does that mean?”

“You know what it means. It means you’re in an image business and image is king. It always has been, always will be.”

“So you think I need work done?” I demand belligerently.

“As a woman? No. As a friend? Never. As one of America’s most watched faces? Maybe.”

“No!”

“TV, media, magazines, it’s all a numbers game. Ratings equal advertisers. Advertisers equal profitability. Profitability equals livelihood. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my models— you do what you’ve got to do to stay alive.”

I exhale, hard. So it’s not my imagination. Those droops do show. People are noticing. How infuriating because I don’t feel old. I don’t feel droopy or flabby. I feel amazing. At least I felt amazing. “A face-lift?”

“Not a full lift, sugar. Maybe just the eyes, and some filler to soften the lines around your mouth and plump the hollows beneath your eyes.”

Idling at yet another red light, I snap down my visor and open the mirror to inspect my reflection. I frown. Hard. A few lines appear around my eyes, but nothing significant. “But it’s not absolutely necessary, is it? I don’t look bad— ”

“Of course you don’t look bad. You’re Tiana Tomlinson, and you’ve been in People magazine’s ‘Most Beautiful People’ issue how many times? Three?”

“Four,” I correct in a small voice. “And the last time was just two years ago— ”

“But you and I both know that two years is a long time in this business. And face it, Tits,” Shey says, using my high school nickname, Tits, short for Tiana Irene Tomlinson, “highdefinition TV has changed the game. Until recently, great makeup and lighting camouflaged a multitude of sins, but not anymore. Every wrinkle, every pimple, shows. I’m going through this with my models. It’s not just you.”

I’d love to argue, but I can’t. I am where I am because of my face. My curiosity, tenacity, and smarts made me a good journalist. But it was my photogenic properties that propelled me to bigger and more successful networks, eventually resulting in my current position. Sad as it sounds, Max wouldn’t have found me appealing on Keith’s casket if I weren’t attractive.

“Tiana, if that’s what the studio is saying, I’d listen.” She hesitates. “Unless you want out?…”

Out? Out to where? Out to what? I’m thirty-eight and single. All I have is my career. Since Keith died I’ve poured myself into my work, and I love my work. I live for my job. It’s who I am.

My phone beeps. I’ve got an incoming call. I check the name and number. Max. “Shey, it’s my agent to give me more doom and gloom.”

“Talk to him and call me later if you want to chat some more.”

I hang up on Shey to take Max’s call as I pull up in front of my house. “It’s got to be upsetting, doll,” Max says.

I sit outside my house, engine still running. There’s not much curb appeal to my house, other than the trailing hot pink bougainvillea, but the facade isn’t the appeal. It’s what lies on the other side of the exterior wall that I love: 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 1932 Mediterranean-style home with high-pitched beamed ceilings, wood-burning fireplace, terraces and balconies on a secluded woodland lot with views of the city and canyon. I fell in love with the house the moment the agent opened the front door. Unfortunately it’s always so empty once I step inside.