Thursday, February 12, 2015

SELFIE-STEEM

Our ‘90s selves would be appalled by our post-millennial selves.

Or at least mine would.

Seriously? You take pictures of yourself and post then on the Internet? Why the hell would you do that? And what do you mean everyone’s doing it? Don’t f*^k with me. What has gotten into you?

‘90s me is rightly shocked and horrified. I used to be so skilled at ducking out whenever anyone someone started to fiddle with a telephoto lens attachment or set up the tripod. (Back then, there was sufficient warning to make my getaway.) I’d lock myself in the bathroom and say something about an eggplant allergy to the person banging on the door. Yep, that kept them at bay. Click away! By the time I re-emerged, they’d have used up their roll of film and we could go back to casually debating whether Madonna was becoming irrelevant—Who invited the straight guy?—or discussing which “Friends” character was the funniest. (Please. It was always Phoebe.)

Never wanted any photographic evidence of my physical existence. Big nose. Hair always overdue for a cut. Bulging eyes. Stick figure arms. A gut that screamed for a massive diet to lose ten pounds. (It was always ten pounds and it was always an extreme diet.) Excessively wrinkly elbows that should always be concealed by long sleeves. Retro WHAM! t-shirt…What was I thinking?!

‘90s me would never have imagined that I’d post goofy selfies on Facebook. People “Like” this sort of thing? Mercy likings, no doubt. Surely they were forced to dim their screens. There’s no way those elbows improved.

And ‘90s me would have me committed—okay, re-committed—for having the gall to post a shirtless selfie. Not just once. What are you trying to do? Incite politicians to make selfies illegal? When did you become an activist about world issues? Shirtless?! An extreme activist. It’s mind boggling.

Truth is, I’m not so far evolved from ‘90s me. I can still pick apart my physical state. And yet, the selfies are not so horrid. My body seems to have finally bulked up a tad. The gut doesn’t look as large. (I’ve downsized to the eternal quest to lose five pounds. Dieting is a way of being.) Still, that dang phone camera is never far away. Every time I’m in a hotel room, I snap a shirtless selfie.

Why? It’s hard to chalk it up to vanity when I am only mildly less repulsed by my looks. It’s part of an evidentiary expedition. Frankly, I don’t believe all the other shirtless selfies. They don’t look half bad. Everyone can get one good photo, maybe two. Trick mirrors, no doubt. I have to keep testing things. I need to return to sanity and that solid sense of unworthiness. I snap. I’m not appalled. Sometimes I’m almost satisfied…but for the five pounds and those freaky elbows.

Posting shirtless selfies?! Not as an activist statement? Not as an act of terrorism? (Okay, to be accurate, ‘90s me wouldn’t have mentioned terrorism. It wasn’t such a buzzword then. We were too concerned about the fact that Backstreet Boys may have actually nailed a couple good tunes. Boy band credibility threatened to upset the entire social order.)

Sorry, ‘90s me, I can’t really explain it. At least, not in a satisfying way. I post selfies. And, yes, even, shirtless selfies. Surely, there are selfie self-help groups, but I live in too remote an area. (Yeah, ‘90s me would shake his head at that, too. You moved where?!)

I’m selfie-aware enough to sense that I am seeking superficial validation. I’m stuck there. Not because I want to dwell on that. Believe me, I’d love to get past obsessing over physical imperfections. (At 50, I know they are cropping up with greater speed! At my most recent appointment with my skin cancer doctor, I kept pointing out questionable blemishes. “Age spots” was her declaration for each and every one. I should be glad be glad she didn’t say “melanoma” and I was, albeit taken aback nonetheless. Age spots are the new acne.) Like everyone else, I post selfies to fictionalize my life. Look at all the fun I’m having. Look at how great I look. (Never mind that I had to delete another ninety-nine less appealing, more true-to-life shots.) I need people to throw some “Likes” and some “Favorites” my way. Self-esteem has evolved to selfie-steem.

I’d love someone to know me more intimately, to see the humor, the kindness and perhaps the intelligence…when it comes to subjects other than posting selfies. Still, for now, surface “Likes” are all I can garner.

This is chronic adolescence. Low-level validation means far more than it should. But that’s the window. That’s the first impression. Disappointment in that domain means there is no second look.

Note to selfie: I’ll be glad when you’re gone. And as for you, ‘90s me, I’d love for you to stay in the archives as well. (Can’t believe you put a Backstreet Boys earworm in my head.)

Maybe the next time I book on hotels.com, I’ll request a room with no mirrors. That will be the new trend. It’s only a matter of months before more of us enter selfie-recovery.

5 comments:

oskyldig said...

Interesting commentary. I agree mostly with what you say, but I suppose in the end my resolve to lack of conformity never even tempts me to partake.

I think it comes down to the last few years and me coming to terms with the fact that I ain't gonna change for nobody. I'm a good person, with a good head on my shoulders, and I'm average looking at best. That's good enough for me, and if it's not good enough for others then I'm better off without them. :)

My only suggestion, which has led me down a path of a semblance of harmony, just own it!

Rick Modien said...

"I’d love someone to know me more intimately, to see the humor, the kindness and perhaps the intelligence…when it comes to subjects other than posting selfies."

RG, anyone who's read your posts over the years knows your humor, kindness, and intelligence, without a doubt.

Of course, I'm sure you're referring to a life partner, which I believe strongly will happen. In fact, I know it will.

Rural Gay said...

Seems like the further removed I am from deeper validation, the more desperate I become for something on a superficial level. I guess it's a matter of taking whatever you can get. Anything at all!

Thomas Prentice said...

You are a handsome guy so why are you so hard on your looks for crying out loud? quit the self-loathing! You are a teacher, writer, thinker, and that is pretty good. And I really don't get leaving a rural idyll for the big city, although call me crazy I DID move from Austin to Dallas but it was to get away from THEM and try to figger out who the fuck I am at this late date. I have thought of Cascadia as an escape, but now only entertain it with this caveat: once I figger myself out. Poetry and AA are helping. I hope you are happy with your move and become content with your life. I am moving in that general direction. You also sound fun vis "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" ... But LOOK! You can't say ANYTHING worth saying on twitter in 144 characters WITHOUT writing errors and gibberish.

Ruaraidh Ferries said...

Anyone with a physique as sculpted as yours has no business being camera-shy.