Selfies, Not So Silly?

Selfies are a bit of a running joke with anyone who is familiar with social media.  Even grandmas are doing selfies and posting them to their news feed.  They have even created a “selfie stick” to aid in taking photos of ones self especially those of us with tyrannosaurus rex length arms like myself but I have yet to succumb to purchasing a selfie stick.

When I first ventured into selfie territory, I felt quite silly taking pictures of myself.  More on the humorous side, I went for more of the ‘sarcastic selfie’, overdone facial expressions to make it all seem a little less awkward though I looked way more awkward.  I found it easier to take selfies with my girls in them, they seemed more ‘legit’ rather than some overly engrossed middle-age woman trying to be cool.  Being 40’ish, you seem like you are always straddling the line of what seems to be trying to hard and looking ridiculous.

Every day I peruse my Facebook feed reading up on what my friends and family are up to, admiring their pictures, laughing at their humor and feeling sad with their difficult moments.  Selfies fill up a lot of the feed but I never think, wow, they are so vain or stuck on themselves.  I love seeing pictures of people I’ve known most of my life as they smile and look happy.  I always feel like smiling back, noting beauty in each person even though they, like me, are all getting older.  But age doesn’t necessarily mean you become ugly, it just means that beauty changes, evolves.

I have found that taking photos of myself has done a great deal toward making me less photo shy.  Now if someone wants to take my picture, I don’t run away, literally, I would run away, I hated my picture so much.  I can remember once one of my girls, I think my youngest, said, “Momma, you’re never in any of our pictures.”  And then she would stare at me accusingly as if it was a conspiracy.  I never could get much by any of my daughters.  She wanted to know what did I feel was so wrong with me that I didn’t want to be captured in a photograph.  She patted me on the leg and said “But Momma you are pretty.”  As if that solved all my years of body and self-esteem issues.

Maybe some of it is age, the older I get the less I give a rat’s ass about what anyone thinks about me.  At this point you are just grateful you have most of your organs and things work even if they hurt.  I have lost people I love younger than myself to tragedies, accidents and cruel illnesses.  You are a bit more thankful to wake up each morning.  But some of it is just I have forced myself to be less camera shy.  Over the years, it became easier.  Most of my selfies just go into my hard drive and online photo service where I store them as a backup.  Though I own a nice Nikon DSLR camera, I have gotten lazy and take so many of my photos with my iPhone because it’s always available and slowly these phone cameras are becoming almost as advanced as my Nikon.

I have a folder for each year for simply cell phone uploads.  Odds and ends of memories that I capture in my day to day.  Looking at this album, it is almost like a journal, I capture whatever sparks my fancy that day.  Including odd ball items like price tags of floor laminate (so I remember the cost per square or linear foot for when we estimate a job cost), food at restaurants, a flower in a garden somewhere, a random sunset, a strange bug I saw out hiking and many of my girls.  My iPhone photo app now has developed to the point it can detect most though not all of my selfies and puts them into their own folder designation. Literally I have a “Selfies” folder in my iPhone photo app.  I didn’t create it, Apple did but I thought well as times have changed, everyone is taking pictures of themselves.

Am I more self-absorbed because I take these photos as the experts claim we are all becoming?  Not really, I am sure if I was, my husband would probably point out my annoying behavior at some point.  I haven’t crawled into my own world and started ignoring everything and everyone around me.  No, I have simply become much more comfortable in my own skin.  More accepting and less critical of my photos.  Granted I take some selfies and cringe but I can simply delete them.  Take it again.  It is all about camera angle and lighting.

I don’t use filter apps to take away every wrinkle and flaw before I post my pictures or share them.  I’ve run into friends I haven’t seen for years only to not really recognize them because all their social media photos are run through this glam filter that takes away the lines and imperfections making them look twenty years younger.  I wonder if they realize that people are surprised when they see them in person because obviously you can’t walk around with a filter over your face as if it were magic makeup.  Just a random thought.   Now, being more wise to these filter users, when I see someone on my news feed who looks impossibly young for her age, I know, the photo has been probably doctored.

I like real untouched photos, the one that shows how someone truly is.  It is one of the reasons I am not a big makeup wearer.  I’ve seen those makeup tutorials and before/after shots of celebrities and models where you look at the “before” and think well you’re just a regular person like me.  I often thought if I have to put that much makeup on to attract a date, well I just give up.  To each their own of course but I don’t want someone waking up beside me sans my makeup and they freak out because I do not look the same.  Not that it isn’t fun to do dramatic makeup to go out for the night, sometimes I do but mostly my husband looks at me and says something like “You’re wearing a lot of makeup.”  As if I’m trying out for the Bozo convention at the clown college.  He simply is not a fan of me in heavy makeup.  I did grow up in the 80’s though.  We loved all the dramatic look back then.

When I was in my early 20’s, the actress Jenny McCarthy was up and coming.  One day she was on Oprah and I can remember her taking a poster of herself and using a black Sharpie marker, she circled all the areas that had been retouched.  I remember sitting there with my mouth open as this had never occurred to me that these people weren’t perfect after all, they were just manipulated to look perfect.  All those years of sighing over Seventeen magazine or entertainment magazines feeling ugly and imperfect was for nothing.  Certainly there are people with much better genes than I possess but they aren’t these goddesses that they are made out to be.  Throw in my family’s obsession with being thin and yes, I had eating disorders and self-image problems.

Now when I look back of photos of myself in my teens or early 20’s, I want to go back and slap myself.  I want to tell my younger self, “Hey girl, you look good, wear that leather miniskirt and heels.  Own it. ”  Which in turn makes me wonder what my 60-something self would want to tell me now.  I think my older self might just want to tell me to relax and enjoy life.  You don’t always have to be achieving something even though it feels like you wasted your life sometimes, you haven’t.  I need a time capsule.  Or a note I open in 20 years.   Well, I have this blog, maybe that would work as a reminder.

And I will have a whole bunch of selfies to remember how good I looked in my forties…  My daughters won’t have to scramble for photos of me when they are older, I’ve created my own gallery.   Even ones with absolutely no makeup as the one I am attaching to this post with my cat.  It’s one of my favorite pictures of myself and I have no makeup on, my hair is barely combed but I think it truly captures me at this time in my life.   I have been through a lot but I still find simple joys in life like my cat cuddling with me.

Oh and I’m asking for a selfie stick for Christmas….

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Surprise! I’m Naked… Well Kinda….

The other week, I had been getting over a randy case of stomach flu.  I was worn out and tired to say the least from my many hours spent in our lovely downstairs master bathroom.  I really like my bathroom, with it’s cheery yellow walls, bright windows and nickel-toned accents. There is an even a piece of art from one of my favorite artists that one can ponder upon from the throne.  However, I really don’t think it warrants a whole day in there but my body thought otherwise.  Strangely enough, on Monday, as I recouped, I felt better than I have in months.  Odd, I thought.  More on that later.

So being drained and tired, the next day I basically went through the motions.  I went to work, did some shopping and all the things I normally seem to do.  Since I was feeling better, I was a little more chipper, chatted a bit more with my co-workers/friends as I went through the hall.  I was in and out of the bathroom, washing my hands without really paying attention to my reflection other than to make sure my pants were zipped as I knew I was struggling to get through the day.  The last thing I want is to be is wandering the halls with my barn door wide open.

Later that night, I was going through my nightly routine where I brush my teeth, remove my makeup and slather on the face cream that’s supposed to keep me from looking like an old bat too soon when I realized there was no makeup to remove.  I had completely forgotten to put it on that morning.  No matter what, even the gym usually and even riding my bike for hours on end, I prescribe to what I call my Basic 3.  Foundation powder, eyeliner (only the top lid when exercising) and waterproof black mascara (making sure I curl the top lashes for the ultimate ‘pop’).  My eyes are my favorite attribute as I’ve gotten more compliments and comments on them, well other than my boobs when they sprouted in sixth grade, than any other part of my body.  But here I was staring at my naked face.  Not even a stitch of foundation to cover the broken blood vessels in my cheeks compliments of my German heritage which I had burned out seven years ago and they just reappear.

I had been reading a book by Jennifer Farr Davis title Becoming Odyssa which is an autobiography chronically her first thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) when she was twenty-one.  While I enjoyed the details of her mostly solo-hike, it was her musings about being out in a place with no mirrors for weeks at a time.  That when she met people, she was stinky and dirty, with no makeup or even a shower most times.  People had to like her based on her personality rather than her appearance.  I thought about that for a few moments as I studied my face.  I decided that I would do the same thing the next day, go naked.  No makeup at all.

Well, not knowing I didn’t have makeup on was a lot different than being aware that I had none on.  When I didn’t know that I had forgotten the war paint, I was oblivious so I behaved in the same way and people behaved their same way back.  No one stopped and screamed in horror, “Oh my god, you have no eyeliner on today!” just before they turned and fled the building in disgust.  However, on the day I knew I didn’t have makeup on, I walked around feeling like I left my pants at home.  Self-conscious, uncomfortable and even though I know that no one else cared but me, I had to admit that makeup was a bit of a security blanket that makes me feel pretty.

Reflecting on the day in bed that night, I decided my idea to go an entire week without makeup was going to drive me batty so I decided to resume my normal makeup routine.  I don’t NEED makeup and I don’t wear much makeup but I like makeup.  To me, it is like accessorizing (which I do little of anyway) but my eyes do not have the same impact when I don’t wear makeup.  It’s like art for my face.  And it makes me feel a bit more confident.  Pretty.  It’s an enhancement not a way to hide from the world.

In closing, I believe I have a healthy relationship with makeup and so what if I wear pink sparkly lip gloss to the gym?  It keeps my lips moisturized and soft so I’m not thinking about god damn it my lips are chapped while I’m trying to workout.  Priorities right?