Picture Taking: On Being Selfie-ish

If I turn my head to the left and tilt my chin down– like I’ve just caught sight of a Midwestern field mouse who finds me as interesting as I find myself in this spotlight– my body leans lightly on the door frame in my mud-brown-red dress, then click.  From behind, a perfect A-line silhouette.  From in front, a cross-ankled JCPenny ad, complete with old wooden steps balanced by three orange pumpkins.  And me, a model no one but an imaginary field mouse is here to witness.

I am in picturesque Nebraska: corn fields fading, twilight leaning, train whistle wailing Nebraska and its nighttime splendor.  And all I want is for someone to photograph my perfect moment as my perfect self as I stand at the top of a new stranger-to-be-friend’s back porch with a maglite spotlight glaring onto my face.  And then, I realize I am the most selfie-ish creature alive.

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As previous blogs and friends and therapists will attest, while not as far as a Truman Show syndrome, I have a small growth in my outer consciousness that insists that at every moment, I am being watched and processed and delighted in.  For a minute, it was God.  Then Big Brother.  Then the abundance of iPhones.  Then, the Universe.  Now, it’s something like the Big Holy iPhone Brother of the Sky.  Regardless, it is these moments when I am so completely enthralled with how the environment is treating my beauty, that I miss the beauty of my environment.  Crickets.  Stars.  Rugged steps.  Falling leaves.  Click.  And still, only me.

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Social media in its wicked and unruly ways reminded me last Friday that five years previous, a hundred witnesses brought a camera to a party to actually document my every subtle move.  White dress.  Brown suits.  Butternut squash ravioli.  Dancing.  Click.  I don’t hate looking at my wedding photos because I’m not married, anymore.  I don’t hate them because they feel gaudy or outdated.  I hate them because my face is not one of someone who is happy.  My face is one of someone who knows she is being photographed for happiness.  Look at the way my chin never doubles and my arms never press flatly and fully to my sides.  Look at how my head tilts just so and my ruffled hoedown petticoat sways correspondingly.  Look at how naturally unnatural I am as I pass from single to married in one perfect, without-a-hitch (except with one unfortunate hitch) day, fully documented, fully celebrated, fully unfeeling.  My perfect moment as my perfect self.  Click.

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Maybe this began my obsession with capturing myself– a real moment in back woods Nebraska, maybe.  Or in the middle of the street in the Bricktown of OKC.  Or an abandoned motel off of Route 66 in Midway, Texas.  Or a bathroom in southern California.  I want something genuine from myself.  What did I do before I found these perfect situations for my perfect self to be captured?

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This is how it went: too elusive for film.  I let the Universe vibrate and let the feeling of all the feelings rumble my gut and fall out my eyes.  I was still and seeing.  I was captured not for the future, but by the present.  The goddamn Snow White of imaginary field mice, but then with that poison apple lingering under my trigger finger.  Click.

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