The Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

Facebook and Humility
April 5, 2010, 8:56 am
Filed under: Auntie K's Words of Wisdom Wednesdays

When I was in eighth grade, I was cast as the Narrator in Podunk Middle School’s production of Into the Woods, Jr. Allow me to take this opportunity to clarify that if there’s anything that’s more humiliating and excruciating than middle school itself, it’s the unique bear-trap that is middle school theater:  we were stuffed into awkward, unflattering costumes that reeked of Aspercreme and cigarettes, whose ill-fitting nature ensured that we lumbering piles of acne and sex hormones were not in any way eroticized. I feel that my costume was especially horrible – I was a rotund preteen, and my costume functioned as a lycra sausage casing. Sequins came into play more than I care to admit.

However, one message sticks with me from this experience: the same director that provided us with such questionable attire insisted we take photos to “promote” the show. While I still hold that for this she was a sadist, when the chorus of whines came back after the pictures were developed (taken with what else but a throwaway camera in a hot hallway, so we were all at our absolute reddest and shiniest), she shouted with a frustration that only a middle school media specialist can know:

“These are your character shots, and you all are just going to have to suck it up . If you hate how you look in them, get used to it  – there’s no such thing as ‘a bad picture of you.’ That’s how you look in real life.”

At the time I thought she was just a raging bitch (as is customary for 13-year-olds) but she absolutely had a point. It was remembering this that I embraced any and all photos of myself on Facebook – an exercise in humility.

I’m an average-looking gal. I’m a bit overweight, I have acne and a mashed-potato nose. I was once rated a 6 on I also believed, for a significant portion of my life, that if I just crammed myself into too-tight clothing and sucked it in all day long, somehow, nobody would know how fat and ugly I really was. As is the norm for women in our society, I saw myself from everyone else’s point of view, and as is the norm for junior high kids especially, behaved as if everyone was always watching me.  When the pictures from theater came back, I was mortified – my belly fat spilled over the old, too-small dress pants I was forced to wear, I appeared to have a double-chin, and, much to my chagrin, I could not hide behind my mane of blonde hair, as I had also been forced to both pull it back and stuff it into an unflattering, child-sized fedora that had been squeezed onto my giant pumpkin head.

In the same way, it stung a little at first every time a bad photo of me popped up on Facebook, something that happened with increasing frequency as time went on.  Some friends of mine desperately untagged themselves in every unflattering shot, making sure to portray themselves in only the most gorgeous fashion. For me, though, the Facebook phenomenon made it easier to accept myself. Whether I became desensitized to my own pudgy mug or whether it simply taught me not to care is up for debate, but the more awful pictures surfaced, the more I was able to laugh about it and, in turn, love myself. No matter how many vegetables my physical features resembled.

Something else happened, too: I stopped caring so much about how good/bad/ugly I looked and more about how much fun I was having. The summer where all my friends seemed to have cameras was the same summer I decided to wear shorts again (after a hiatus since childhood because of my large thighs), to put on sneakers and generally not give a fuck about anything but climbing on playgrounds and eating ice cream if I felt like it.

To be somebody who could have fun was a much easier goal than trying to be “pretty” – pretty is the white dragon of society; there’s always something more that you could be doing to be prettier. My recommendation? Change your Facebook profile picture to the absolute worst picture of you you can find or take. When you can comfortably and shamelessly say, “Yeah, that’s me,” you’ll feel freer.


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