1000 Words on a Photo

Sometimes it is hard to create posts for this space. First of all, there’s nothing like trying to create honest and interesting content on a regular basis to make you realize that blogging is not necessarily an easy gig. Also, I think it is particularly challenging to write about something as loaded as weight and body image–because I feel different each day, sometimes each hour. (Maybe blogging about parenting feels similar?) I will write half of what feels like a great post, leave it unfinished because of other responsibilities, and by the time I return to the draft my perspective has shifted. While I can completely identify with the voice that wrote that piece, I can no longer access it. So I’m faced with two options–write a hackneyed ending and post it or leave it unfinished and unposted. (Guess which option has won out?)

I always remember this quote from Wordsworth (who I actually pretty much hate), “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” I think good writing needs a equal parts spontaneous overflow and tranquil recollection.  Maybe the trick is to make sure I complete posts in the initial rush of emotion. I can return later to edit, when the honesty of the experience is less raw, but shouldn’t leave writing the ending to the cooling-off period. I think that may be easier said than done. Even though I actively miss writing when it’s not a part of my life, I have a love-hate relationship with the process itself.

But I didn’t want this post to be about writing–for two reasons. 1) Half heartedly writing a blog post once every few weeks doesn’t qualify one’s self as a writer and 2) more importantly, reading things about writing is only interesting, at best, to other people who write. But fucked up perceptions of our bodies? I’m looking to all the ladies to give me a “what, what” in recognition.

Today alone has been such a roller-coaster. I have at turns felt super happy about my cute new t-shirt and shorts, fat, bad-ass for being fat and not giving an eff, insecure that other people judge me for being fat, etc. I took the following picture, which captures an interesting moment, and I want to share some background. My hair stylist (who should win all the awards for haircutting brilliance) is out on maternity leave for another two weeks. I don’t trust any other human to cut my hair (after a decade of hairdresser commitment issues and tragically boring–or worse–haircuts), so this maternity leave has left me with, well, what eventually turned into a mullet.


I was sharing the mullet-related issues with my co-workers, and since we all work from home, I wanted them to enjoy the visual. So I took this picture. Here’s the funny thing about this–I pretty much look like a cross between this guy and this guy–yet, against all odds, I get a total thrill from the picture. In part, I know I can count on my lovely co-workers to take joy in the picture, the fact that I’m worried about my mullet, and the fact that I spent five minutes of my work-day taking back-of-the-neck selfies in my bathroom mirror. But it’s more than that. I took pictures where my not-skinny arm is very prominent, where my neck doesn’t look “skinny” (whatever that means), etc–and I feel pleased with the result. Maybe there was just something so freeing about taking a picture with the intent to make people smile that made me perfectly content about the amount of space take up in the frame. And I think that’s a big part of it–I can see the silly intent of the photo above all else.

One of my oldest, dearest friends was once working her way through a self-portrait assignment, and shared with me a brilliant observation. She said that we’re all so familiar with our perception of ourselves, with the view we carry in our head of our faces head-on, that an accurate self-portrait is next to impossible. Take a look at the greatest artists of our time, and compare what they actually looked like with their own self-portrait. It’s something twisted, familiar and wrong at the same time. To combat this, she set up a system of mirrors, so she was looking at herself from an unfamiliar angle, and drew one of the most life-like self-portraits I’ve ever seen.

And so maybe that’s why I kind of love this bizzaro picture of myself with a mullet.* This is an impossible angle to see without mirrors and cell-phones. I’ve rendered myself a stranger, and in doing so, I don’t feel compelled to bring judgement. You know how now, when you look at a picture of yourself, you look first to your area of insecurity, to see how prominent it is in the photo? In the picture, the joy, memories, and hilarity of the photo come after a thorough scrutiny of our own flaws. What would it mean to start seeing photos of ourselves as we do of strangers? To leave the scrutiny and self-hatred behind, and see the joy, memories, and hilarity we present in any given frame.

I don’t know what this means, and I certainly don’t know how to apply this perspective to the head-on-view of myself I’m familiar with. But it feels like an interesting tool to aim to have at one’s disposal–what am I seeing first–memories or faults? And, of course, how can I embrace the mullet?

*Please don’t feel compelled to comment on how I don’t really have a mullet. I kind of loved my my mini mullet. I have since received an emergency “bang trim but for my neck” and Julie-the-superhero-hairdresser is going to make me look fierce next week. Bonus: she’ll tell me all about her super cute new peanut.

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