Editor’s Notebook: May 2012

birthmom

Embrace the Goofy.

When you receive dozens of email a day, the subject line is everything. One simply can’t read it all. Yesterday one came with an intriguing title: “Facebook’s Influence on Beauty.”

I’d been thinking about that very thing lately. Practically everyone carries a camera connected to the internet. I’ve texted pictures of plumbing and was able to save my back entryway from flooding with the instructions I received in reply; determined whether I needed a tetanus shot based on crowd-sourcing a serious-looking leg wound (the answer was a uninimous yes); identified plants for curious friends. You probably have similar stories. But then there’s the people photography thing.

Each morning that I trudge off to my corner coffee shop, sometimes in garden gloves and yellow rubber boots (and jammies), for a cup of dark roast and an empty five-gallon pail to switch for one full of recently brewed grounds for my compost pile, hair usually astray and eyes mere early morning slits, I hope my visage remains on the down-low—a dim image between me and Madison, the darling young woman who admires my coffee mug of the day ($1 brew, with refills even, if you bring your own) and trades my empty bucket for a full one that will fill my garden’s worms with joie de vivre. Not something you’d want to post to strangers on a dating site.

You know those movie magazines with indignant captions to photos of famous people living ordinary moments, complete with with unshaved pits and makeup-free, in their ratty comfort clothes? How dare they lack perfection! Nowadays we can all relate.

In professional photo sessions, sometimes 100 duds yield to one perfect image. And it’s really perfect after Photoshopping. (You think those breasts on the photo of me in the chain-mail bra on CATALYST cover a few years ago existed in nature? Not quite.)

At the same time, I notice how Facebook photography is acclimating us to more intimate moments of people’s lives: impromptu but usually happy. Some­times people look a little goofy. Bad posture! Fat day! My roots are showing! Okay, we usually “untag” the unflattering ones, and in serious situations may hit “delete.” Maybe it’s because I had a big-decade birthday this year that I’m easing up on caring so much how I’m perceived. Maybe this is just a stage and I’ll grow out of it by next month.

ednotebookI’d been thinking these thoughts since my friend Sunny Strasburg posted a photo of John and me taken at a recent dinner party. John looks great; I look like I just crawled out from under a bed where I’d been kept for a few months. But there was something in this photo. It was funny, ridiculous, and in its own way beautiful. I “owned” it. I did not untag myself.

(All these thoughts and I’d only gotten to the title. Now you know why it takes me so long to read my email.)

For some reason, I thought this press release would refer to someone’s new book about acceptance: accepting how we look—and who we are, accepting the multiplicity of angles and facets that offer interest if not a stereotypical definition of beauty. Obviously I thought that because that was what was on my own mind. Instead I found this: Facebook has put a whole new twist on “photos”—people are feeling more pressure to look good now that everyone from their grammar school friends to their extended family views their photos.

I’ll admit it: I usually take a few casual girlie measures before heading to a place where I think my mug may get immortalized. But I also notice that people who love us don’t notice the same things that we might criticize about ourselves.

I continue reading: A plastic surgeon suggests tapping your lips and pinching your cheeks. He can also comment on the newest beauty trends such as chin implants and lip lifts to get a sexier more youthful look.

Maybe someday. Right now, I opt for flexibility. Embrace the goofy. It’s probably good for the soul.