I was looking through the photos I had taken on my mobile this afternoon. I was wrapped up in woollies and blankets on the sofa with a dog perched on top. Comfortable and relaxed it seemed such a long time since I have been so content I suppose. It was lovely looking back on the year and remember adventures I had been on though I did have a twinge over not really finishing writing about Canadian adventures. Occasionally I would come across a “selfie” though always with my kids in the photo. Usually my face in rather stern looking in concentration about getting the framing right but the old one has me smiling in it. Do you find it weird when you see a picture of yourself smiling? I do.
I have seen younger people take selfies and it seems that all they do is take selfies. I wonder if they even see the view. This ordinary person suddenly puts on an excited, exuberantly bubbly smiling pose then seems to deflate into what looks like boredom after taking the photo. Is this the face of marketing today? I don’t understand why they always need to be in the photo and why they always appear over the top? Well talk about generalisations, how can I say “always” when I only witness a person’s action a few times. I think it is the ease that the performance is gone through that makes me say always. As for always being in the picture, well perhaps words can be left alone if one is in the same picture as a waterfall. I suppose instant communication doesn’t really allow time to craft a magical superlative in words?
Apart from my general ineptitude at selfies, what looks weird about the photo is that when I see myself smiling, I don’t connect that smile with happiness. I will be thinking about keeping my eyes fuller and mouth open just enough not to look maniacal whilst feeling the strain on my facial muscles. I can be happy about seeing the photo though and remember the time with my family when it was captured, but I know that that smile is about joining in and looking happy. Which makes me wonder how many other people does that apply too? It has amused me to see my son always pulling faces when I take a photo of him. I used to be a bit annoyed because I wanted him to be the person I see, confident and relaxed, but then I remembered that I used to do the exact same thing as a kid. Why did I pull faces?
For me it was about not being comfortable having my picture taken. I didn’t know what to do so I acted up and did something silly instead. Maybe I wanted to draw attention to myself but I don’t think so, I think it was more about not wanting to be asked into a photo. I like things to be truthful and straight-forward so formal photos just aren’t my thing, dressing up is not my thing if it is to present something false to the world. I think this is an autistic trait. To this day I prefer portraits that show people doing something they love, that tell the story of their passion. I guess it is all about direct communication.
I do feel the need to point out that I do like dressing up too if it fits the activity. I don my lyrca when I cycle, speedos and googles when I swim, etc. It may seem formal to wear a kilt for instance but with any occasion that encourages kilt wearing there is usually a ceilidh dance and there is something wonderful about swinging and swirling around with a kilt flying around you emphasising the movement. I have never really had the confidence play dressing up for a party though (aside from borrowing my mum’s clothes once as a teenager and going to a nightclub for a joke I suppose – seems more like a social experiment looking back on it with puzzlement). Dressing up sounds like fun, there is certainly a dangerous excitement around it for me. It feels too hard though, I think I would need a lot of support from my friends.
I am pondering what I would dress up as. Who doesn’t want to be a superhero? Should the costume express something hidden inside me? Someone in uniform? Someone I respect?
Then it occurs to me that what we wear, what I wear is a costume of sorts. My shorts and t-shirts are a uniform of sorts since I wear them most days. The bright colours I wear an inner expression of difference. The beard I wear to cover up the scars on my face.
How genuine and direct can any of us really be? How well do we really know our true self? I may purport to want direct and straight-forward communication but in everyday circumstances that is hardly the case from my end. That capture of the moment picture may have a false smile on it after all. Meeting me and asking how I am is hardly going to get a straight answer because that is not what the rules tells me I should do. Even if I ignore typical social interaction (and let’s face it I am only approximating it anyway), I am hardly likely to be feeling confident enough to reply to a stranger’s greeting with a list of reasons why this autistic depressive is having an okay day.
The fact is that we are all limited in how genuine and straight-forward we can be. Whether this is by social convention, our own confidence or self-awareness. I may strive to be genuine and straight-forward but when I puzzle over a younger generation and their addiction to selfies, I am also puzzling over my own behaviour. We all wear masks. It is just a matter of degree to which there are applied. My strained muscle smile is really no different to someone’s Hollywood selfie pose because rarely do pictures show the turmoil of the person’s psyche. And even if the true emotion gets portrayed in a picture there is no guarantee the viewer such a is equipped to translate it.