You may get lost in the scenery of the face. Every day I marvel at the tip of her daughter’s chin like the V of a flying goose. I trace her slightly raised upper lip with a bulge like a soft rose petal. In conversation, I am fascinated by how her husband’s eyebrows are proportioned and flattened like the mesa of a range. Seeing these familiar landmarks makes me think: i know this place i love this place.
But what about my own face where the landscape always avoids me? Why can’t you stand it?
Only 4 photos left on my phone for the past year just myself. Most mothers understand the small tragedy of being an observer, but they are seldom observed. Her husband has gotten better at taking pictures of me, but I still frequently run away from the lens or crouch when I don’t pose. Remove photos that are not traditionally attractive. Sometimes I find myself scrolling through albums without my face left, wondering if a part of me has been lost over time. Ten years from now, twenty years from now, what will I remember about women in this moment?
Mirrors are deceptive. She can see herself, but she can’t keep the image in her head. It disappears as soon as you look away, making it difficult to remember what you looked like. how other people see me Do we all feel so alienated from our faces? Or is this a medieval phenomenon, like a fogged window, where certain details get blurred? When I say I want more pictures of myself, what I really want is proof of my presence in the world. I really just want to be seen.
When I was in high school, we didn’t have digital phones yet, so everyone carried around disposable film cameras. We whipped them in history class, in the chaotic back kitchen of after-school work. As if we were minor celebrities, we spent our spare change developing pictures of ourselves and handing them out to our friends and loved ones. It was a time of beautiful solipsism.
I remember a friend and I once had a photo shoot in a rose garden. We wore low acid-wash jeans and navel-baring tops. We posed among gazebos and banyan trees and looked into the distance. Back then, we were lithe, energetic, and ready for life to begin, but we were totally unprepared for the homesickness, heart-breaking men, and alienation of the cold city we encountered in college.
The other day, I showed my daughter a picture of the rose garden. The glare of the sun blows most of the details away, but we were terrible photographers. But some things remain vivid. It was clear to everyone that we desperately loved ourselves. I am blown away by the new clothes I bought at the mall and obsessed with my body. We were very vigilant about how we moved in the world with determination, if not composure. I wondered what it would be like to love myself so unrestrained and unapologetic.
The word “selfie” may sound precious. It alludes to narcissism and resonates with a certain sense of ridicule. But I like that intimate feeling. There is something between you, and the mental distance between your brain and body is reduced. Selfies, unlike self-portraits, are less risky. We’re all posing for selfies, but they suggest candor.
I started taking it myself. I also bought a tripod for this purpose.
At some point during the day, I step away from my desk and sit in a comfortable spot. I often sat in a blue-green reading chair by the window, blue like the bay on a summer day. Other times, I collapse into bed exhausted without makeup on. No matter what I wear or how I feel, I take pictures. I vow to keep it even if I don’t like the way it looks. Day by day I am becoming my own historian.
I always get annoyed when my daily life is interrupted. I live most of my life in my head. novel plot, because I tick off my mental to-do list, I feel uncomfortable when this comes back to my body, even if only temporarily. I found myself asking, What rights do I have in front of the camera? Do you want to dedicate album space to yourself? There is no getting away from the fact that I am, on some level, asking for permission to exist.
When I look at my selfies at night, I see something like the old teenage me, a young woman who, despite speaking confidently, had so much to learn. The scenery on her face became more and more familiar. Below her nose is a double wrinkle reminiscent of an elm on her straight trunk. My cheeks, along the contours of my face, are fuller than they used to be, but there’s still a hint of her hairline veins that’s depressed like a river on a map. Black eyes (her classmates called them “Devil’s Eyes”) that watch over everything carefully.
I hope to continue taking daily selfies for at least a year. In the snow-covered garden, in the background a thousand children splashing, sweating in the pool, dressed up for the holidays, dressed up on a lazy Sunday morning, seasonal pictures of me. There are 365 of his. It’s exciting to think that we can look back on this record. Will I get more wrinkles? (Yes.) Do you want to change your hairstyle? (Maybe.) Will I somehow be comfortable in front of the lenses I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding? (Hopefully.) At this stage in life, an album of selfies feels like a triumph.
It used to be embarrassing to pay so much attention to your face. Now that attention is how I find my way home. For a few moments, while I study myself obsessively, I also embrace all my past selves that meander through this evolving landscape. We are here, we are together, and we will be known.
taotai She is a writer and editor in Ohio and lives with her husband and daughter. her debut novel, banyan moon, will be released in June. Tao also contributed to Cup of Jo about his absentee father, mother’s style and physical affection.You can subscribe to her newsletter here.
PS 12 readers share what they love about their looks and their mothers in pictures.
(An illustration: Alessandra Oranau for jaw cup)