Remember a couple of days back when I wrote that post about taking a daily photograph? I’m still thinking about it. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time lately organizing my photos in Dropbox – a massive task as I have not only all the photos that go with a regular life, but thousands upon thousands of product photographs as well. As I’m going through my regular life photos from my phone, however, I’ve noticed something. I haven’t posted many selfies lately.
I take selfies all the time. I’m in a long distance relationship, and part of staying close is that Phil and I send each other a lot of photos. I don’t tend to post those, or use them for avatars, though; even if it’s an especially nice photograph, those are for us. Where I’ve fallen off is in taking pictures of myself to show what I’m doing or how I’m feeling, and I realized those are few and far between over the past six months. So I started thinking about why that might be. After all, I have probably the best haircut I’ve had in three years right now.
And here is the uncomfortable answer to that question: I am editing myself out of what I post because I’m not comfortable in my own skin right now. It’s been a stressful six months, and I’ve put on about 20 pounds. It’s been a searingly dry, hot summer in Portland, I’ve been drinking too much wine, and my skin looks like it. And last but not least, my hair is going grey. (That one is on purpose, I’m letting it. But it’s very in-between at the moment, and I’ve been hiding that as well.)
So I realized this, and I read that last paragraph over, and my whole body rises up with a very noisy FUCK NO. It took me years to love myself. I was well into my thirties before I stopped hunching and hiding and cringing and wearing the entirely wrong clothes. When I finally woke up and felt the joy of my own body, it was like getting to start all over again. I felt amazing. There is no way I’m going back to being that hidden person.
We all get constant, aggressive messages about how we’re supposed to look and how we’re supposed to feel about ourselves if we don’t look the way we’re supposed to look. It’s so easy to believe those messages. I’m a grown, educated, self-aware woman with very few fucks to give about how I am perceived, and I still fell into the trap of editing myself to myself over the course of a few short months. The hell with that.
So, two things:
- On my birthday, in a few weeks, I will start that daily photo project. It will not be of a place. It will be a daily picture of me, posted on Instagram, unedited, regardless of how I feel about myself right then or where the day took me. I will do this for one year.
- Some things I believe. I need reminding of these beliefs, because sometimes I get sneakily done out of them.
- I believe all women are beautiful
- I believe that the term “age-appropriate” is demeaning and controlling bullshit
- I believe that when I choose what I wear according only to what I like – clothing, cosmetics, hair color, jewelry – I give myself a power that can’t be achieved any other way
- I believe in the way my belly shakes when I flip the onions browning in the pan
- I believe in the power of my chapped, arthritic hands and all the things they can do
- I believe in the creakingly ancient woman I met on the bus last week, wearing a black dress and black silk stockings and honest to God real pearls and a knitted monkey hat
To show you I mean it, here’s what I look like today.
I look at this picture and I see at least 5 things I’d like to change. My hair is about three different colors. I’ve got a false tooth right in the front of my mouth (this is why I am seldom smiling a proper toothy smile in selfies, but in keeping with this post THE HELL WITH THAT. I got that false front tooth playing a really fun game). I have allergies today, so one eye is puffy and red. And there’s a freckle that could probably do with checking out by a dermatologist.
None of that needs thinking. None of it needs writing. I nearly took it out, but I need to leave the part about the tooth in there, so it stays. But with a reminder: every time we apply these judgments to ourselves, every woman around us quietly takes that in, and applies the same judgments to herself. That is one toxic game of dominoes, and it needs to stop. I don’t take the pictures so I can catalog all the fabulous things about how I look. I take the pictures so I can remember all the amazing things I felt, both good and bad. I’m ditching the editor here by the side of the road, and reclaiming my ability to look at this picture and be reminded – hey, today was a good day. It started out frustrating and unproductive, and then it turned out to be such a relaxed and happy afternoon and night. Look at how happy I am. And seriously, that is a damn good haircut.
(This is my seventh – ! – post for Blaugust.)