Mirror in the Bathroom

A few months ago, my 10-year-old son suggested I take selfies everywhere I go. I reacted just as he expected me to and said, “Ew, no. I don’t take selfies.” He said, “I know. That’s why you should do it. You know, for your blog.” 

I don’t usually take requests for blog post subjects, but this one definitely fit the description of something I refuse to do. (I am okay taking “selvesies”, as my husband calls them. I don’t have a problem taking pictures with another person.) Like most third children, sometimes this boy doesn’t get heard as often as he should, so I didn’t want to dismiss his idea just because it wasn’t my own.

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I don’t have tons of pictures of myself. At family events, since I’m usually the one sitting back and watching, I take all the pictures. And apparently I was absent at the birth of my second son since I am nowhere to be seen in any of the photos. When there is a rare candid shot of me, I usually try to delete it if I can because I look terrible in every one. I’m just not photogenic. I know lots of people say that, but just look at these pictures (and trust me, these are not random, unusual shots I cherry-picked – they’re more the rule than the exception):

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Part of my aversion to selfies is summed up nicely by Jerry Saltz:

“They are never accidental: Whether carefully staged or completely casual, any selfie that you see had to be approved by the sender before being embedded into a network. This implies control as well as the presence of performing, self-criticality, and irony. The distributor of a selfie made it to be looked at by us, right now, and when we look at it, we know that. (And the maker knows we know that.) The critic Alicia Eler notes that they’re ‘where we become our own biggest fans and private paparazzi.’ ”

I’m not good at promoting myself (although I have no problem bragging about my husband or children). I am terrible at accepting compliments and the thought of fishing for one by posting a picture of myself taken by myself makes me squirmingly uncomfortable. I also find it difficult to relate to self-confident people. I know that’s my own issue to work on, but maybe it’s also just a sign that I come from an older generation than most habitual selfie posters. Rachel Simmons, writing in Slate Magazine, claims that the selfie is becoming a way to empower young girls and to help them break away from the overly-apologetic, humble  persona women of my generation (myself included) often assume. Her description of her discomfort in posting a selfie is totally something I can relate to:

“When I posted my first selfie a few months ago after getting a haircut I loved, my thumb hovered, ambivalent, over the post button. I felt a wave of discomfort. How obnoxious, I thought to (and of) myself—are people going to think that I think I look good? And that I want others to know it? That this kind of casual self-promotion comes so easily to girls points to a yawning—and promising—generational divide. Maybe we adult women, of the Lean In generation, have something to learn here.”

This week I decided to get past my misgivings and try to document my everyday activities with selfies (mostly because I promised my son I would). I set up a few ground rules: I had to take at least three each day (which meant I often hurried to take them at night after I realized I forgot), I had to take some of them in public (which is really, really hard to do – I ended up waiting until no one was around), and I had to post some of them on Facebook (this felt the weirdest to me – the two I posted were just pictures of me and the food I bought myself, so technically they were selvesies).

When I was doing anything interesting enough to document, I was so busy actually doing it that I forgot to take any pictures. Also, selfies are by nature extreme close-ups and I didn’t realize until this week how old I’m getting. That was an unwelcome revelation. Plus, none of the pictures I took were very interesting. It was just my same face in the same ponytail with the same almost smile or half scowl over and over again. Big whoop. Nothing exciting. Definitely nothing worth sharing. I got to spend three days all alone this week, so I thought it would be the perfect time to get some good shots without anyone around to witness, but nope, it all turned out to look pretty boring:

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My favorite selfies I took this week were the picture I took after a late night run with my running partner, the Super Moon and the one of me helping my husband clear some intruding birds out of our bathroom vent. He was inside the house shoving something through to clear them out and I was outside looking up at the vent to tell him if I saw anything come out, secretly hoping I wouldn’t have to see anything come out.

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Nothing glamorous or earth shattering, I know, but at least I can take pride in the fact that I was never guilty of being one of those moms taking selfies while their children are in the frame behind them in mortal danger (Baby in Bathtub Alert):

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So while my experiment has not made me more likely to take selfies in the future, it has helped me to understand those who do a little better and to admire their skill in getting a good shot because mine were all pretty amateurish.

I am grateful for one thing, though. I had almost forgotten about one of my favorite songs from college, but this week I found myself singing it in my head over and over, which led to a whole evening spent listening to all my favorite English Beat tunes. So something good did come out of it.  Please enjoy.


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