My Facebook account holds the biggest library of my pictures. So when I was punked into changing my profile picture on Bellaisms, I headed there. Most people have their photo library on their computer, but after mine died back in January 2010, I decided to never lose so much of my life again. “So much of my life” being my music, pictures, writing pieces, and saved AIM chats before Google was genius enough to automatically do that in Gmail. I have over 100 profile pictures on my page, with over 350 photos tagged to my page and almost 20 albums I’ve created that cover a span of ten years. Granted, some of these pictures overlap each other, but there’s still plenty of material to choose from considering that I’m a cameraphobe.
Actually, it’s a wonder I have more than two pictures of myself on FB. Like most women people, I’m my biggest critic. But more than that, because I don’t even have to heart to criticize myself anymore, I more or less placed a moratorium on taking pictures. Occasionally, I decide to be normal, take the picture, smile for the camera while I’m berating myself for creating long-lasting evidence that I’m this, that and the other. You know…not pretty enough. Not thin enough. Not tall enough. (Actually, I’m good with my height now. Short’s back in style.) Or I’m wearing my glasses. Or I forgot to put on earrings. Or I’m not wearing any make up. Or I have a four huge zits that make up isn’t covering up. Or I didn’t get my eyebrows done and my uni is growing in.
My hair looks a Hot Ass Mess. My clothes look a Hot Ass Mess. I am a HAM.
I know I’m not the only one who does this, but we all need to stop. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen ridiculously gorgeous women refuse to take a picture because they’re having an ugly day. I’m so done with ugly days. I really am. I’m all about validating someone’s experience, especially my own. If I’m feeling fat or ugly, neither of which are feelings, it certainly doesn’t mean I can’t smile for the camera and immortalize the moment with the people I love. It certainly doesn’t mean that I can’t fake it ‘til I make it, look back on the picture five years later and remember that life gets lived every day. The proof is in the proof. (I’m laughing right now. I hope you are, too, because that is funny!)
Bet you’ll never guess what I saw on FB as I looked over hundreds of pictures. Or rather, you’ll never guess what I didn’t see. I didn’t see too fat. I didn’t see not pretty enough. I didn’t see any of the shit I thought at the time. I didn’t feel any of the angst the riddled my body when everyone brought out their digital cameras or iPhones. I remembered what self-deprecating thoughts I’d had when the cameras were out because the last photo op was on New Year’s Eve. I also remember cringing when the photos were uploaded to FB, so it’s not like I’ve evolved into this all accepting and radical being within the past thirty days. Except, maybe I have.
I couldn’t find an unpretty picture. They were all pretty. I was always really pretty. I had always been really pretty. I say that and now you think I’m vain but trust me when I say there were about three dozen pictures where my hair looks a mess. Another two dozen when my clothes are the most ratchet. (Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?) I’m not wearing a speck of makeup in more than half of these pictures and the State of My Skin is closer to the flawed end of the spectrum than the flawless.
The difference between looking at a scrapbook from my semester abroad and looking at the story of my life in pictures over a ten year period is that I was able to pull myself out of the individual moments and see how much I’d changed over a decade without being completely fixated on the undesirable aspects of my appearance. If I look at my semester abroad photo album now, I’d see very few pictures of myself. Funny, too, because I was at my lowest weight ever that year and still just as much a complete psycho about being in front of the camera. I have such wonderful memories of traipsing around France with two of my lifelong friends, but no record of the daily laughter that got us through all the hard times. As I right arrowed my way through tagged photos and albums, I was so glad I’d had momentary lapses of insanity and decided to join the moments in front of the camera. Now, the only expression on my face was that of a smile as I saw myself studying for finals or party rocking in house parties. Whether I was arm in arm with a band of cohorts or all dolled up for a Homecoming dance or slick faded at some pizza spot after the club let out, I looked just fine.
In watching myself grow up; I did just that. I grew up and finally saw what I could never see during those snapped moments, what everyone else has always known. I’m fucking perfect. All those years, all that time, all that energy behind the camera because I didn’t want to see what I looked like in front of it. All those shots with forced smiles because I was so worried about looking perfect that I didn’t realize that it’s something that comes quite naturally to me. And to you, too.