Dancing With My Self(ie)
For as much as Maybelline has brain-washed me into trying to make sure I project a constant “easy, breezy” image into the world, I’ll admit that occasionally I’m not quite so carefree. Though I’m hesitant to say it, I must confess I have never calmly, casually tossed out a selfie to the internet with a quirky laugh and a hair flip.
I HAVE taken selfies that way. “Aww my hair looks cute” *click* or, “aww this outfit makes me look like a short-lived Law & Order replacement DA” *click* but the posting them online never follows the same airy joy that taking them does.
That’s why my “selfies you see” to “selfies I take” ratio is roughly the same as the ratio of hope Diamonds to girls named Hope. I am a secret selfie taker. Like a newborn baby, I am mesmerized by images of myself. Someday I will publish (self-publish of course) a limited run (1) book of my own personal Cindy Sherman-esque adventures in stylized solipsism. I will then hide this book in a locked box under my bed and wear the key around my neck Scarlet Letter style so it can serve to remind me of my shame.
Last night I posted a selfie. Slow down the stampede to my page, it’s not there.
This morning, I awoke 45 minutes before my alarm in the classic bolting upright, panicked manner of the lead character in the final show of a long run sitcom. I don’t want to overstate my terror but my actual first thought was “dear god what have I done.” I ran to my computer like I had forgotten to put the lid back on the portal to hell, opened twitter and punched that tiny trashcan hard.
Now, any selfie posting is a scary ordeal, where my (yes, usually slightly impaired) brain has to run through a barrage of questions before it is allowed to proceed with its intended action. DO YOU LOOK BAD? no. DO YOU LOOK TOO GOOD? no. DO YOU LOOK, NOT JUST WHATEVER IT MEANS TO BE SLUTTY, BUT LIKE A PERSON WHO HAS EVER THOUGHT OF, LET ALONE HAD, SEX? no. WHEN DID YOU POST YOUR LAST SELFIE, HAS THERE BEEN AT MINIMUM 3 WEEKS IN BETWEEN? yes. MINIMUM??? BECAUSE 3 MONTHS IS BETTER. well, I mean, ok, it hasn’t been that long but… NO, PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU’RE OBSESSED WITH YOURSELF, DESPERATE FOR ATTENTION. yeah, but I have a bruise on my arm! It looks cool! It will fade soon! I just, I mean, I just thought it would be kind of cool. NO, NOTHING ABOUT YOU IS COOL, YOU ARE DESPERATE FOR ATTENTION. ok but look, here, I just washed my face, so, no makeup, so I’m definitely not trying to look super pretty, ok? NOT GOOD ENOUGH. ok, ok, look, I bobby-pinned my bangs, look how dorky that looks! hair is sexy, and I’m pushing mine away! see??? NOPE. hey, um, I got you this… it’s a vodka. THANKS.
FINE. UGH. DO IT…I HATE YOU.
Immediately after posting this selfie, I IM’d two close friends. My messages said simply: Delete??!
“Why” was both their response. Now, knowing me and my harem of enticing insecurities, they may have just been waiting to see which glaring problem with the photo I had noticed, or, as they both have insisted, they simply saw nothing wrong with it. As one friend said “you look good, but not like you’re trying to look good.” In other words, I had hit the ball in what I believe they call in baseball “the motherfucking sweet spot.”
So why did I wake up in the sort of panic reserved for military veterans at the sound of a car-backfiring? There was something wrong with the photo. I could hear the sounds of catty bitches snickering from 100 miles away. In the photo, in order to get my face and the bruise on my arm both in, I am leaning forward slightly. Because I am leaning forward, my modest scoop neck shirt gaps a bit. Because it gaps, you can see the very top outline of my breasts. This picture acknowledged the existence of my breasts.
Now, this was a shirt I had worn to work (fundraising for a non-profit). It was what would be considered a professional blouse. What’s more, I would have had no problem showing that much cleavage (or maybe slightly more) at a baptism, an elementary school play or to lunch with my grandmother. And I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to take my word that I’d dress quite modestly to those functions and am not using a bit of sleight of hand to say I just always dress in a very revealing manner. There really was no reason to think this photo was in any way provocative.
The idea, however, that people on the internet were sitting at their computers tsk-tsk’ing how sad it was that I felt the need to sell myself for sex was crushing to me. Sure, you’d get more titilating images from your average Saturday morning cartoons but still, MAURA, we really thought you valued yourself more than that.
And I even knew it when I posted it, that was the worst part. I couldn’t claim total ignorance. I took the photo, saw the hint of cleavage and immediately took another. But in the 2nd one my face looked weird. I took a 3rd, flattening my shirt down, the shadows made my arm bruise look odd. I took a 4th and everything was wrong. At this point I thought about getting up to readjust the light behind me and maybe change my shirt and that is when some part of my head, the last sane voice left, bold from booze, screamed WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, IT’S A QUICK NOTHING PHOTO OF A BRUISE ON YOUR ARM, IT SHOULD NOT BE WORK, FUUUCK!
I want to think I’m a lone crazy person, over-wrought at the idea of how to visually show myself to the internet, but unfortunately, I don’t think I am. I think that in some way, most women go through this, this insane self-doubt and terror at what we are projecting and what that implies about who we are as people.
My fears come from my own internal judgments. I have done it. I’ve seen a girl posting a photo in a tight dress and thought, wow, sad that she needed to do that. I’ve seen a girl posting a photo where she’s making a face and thought, it’s too bad she feels she has to hide. I’ve seen the girls wearing a ton of makeup and thought, I guess they have low self-esteem. I’ve seen the girls posting tons of photos and thought, those girls are self-obsessed.
Or maybe, maybe the girl in the tight dress was proud of how she looked. Maybe the girl making the face wanted to make someone laugh. Maybe the girl with the makeup worked really hard to get that look and loves that as an adult she gets to capture the fun she had at playing dress up at 6. Maybe the girl posting all the photos wants to document her experience for herself. Maybe she doesn’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks. Because she shouldn’t. And neither should I.
I’m not going to judge you anymore for the pictures of yourself that you choose to share with the world. Your face, your body, your being is yours to do with however you want. Just like mine is. Post yourself looking pretty, ugly, sexy, ridiculous, post whatever makes you feel the most you. It’s not up to me to tell you what’s the right image to project. I hope it’s not up to you to make judgments about me. Our bodies exist in the world, they can exist online. I’m sorry I ever judged you. I won’t do it anymore. Judge me if you have to but I’ll hope we can support each other instead.
Here’s the bruise on my arm. Doesn’t it look cool?