Monday, July 15, 2013

The Disappearing Blondie

Yesterday, my parents and I took a little Sunday drive to see some local sights. It was nice to get out and Do Something because I've been quite Cabin Fevery lately. We saw a few interesting exhibits, and I stopped my parents to take a photo of them. Ma asked, "Do you want me to take a photo of you?" I shrugged my shoulders, "No." And so we went on and looked at other things.

About an hour later, I found myself sitting alone on this little bench while the folks wandered off to look at something else. I pulled out my camera to look at all the pictures I'd taken. Then I turned the camera on myself and snapped the above photo. I don't have on pretty makeup. My hair is pulled back in a wonky ponytail, and I look kind of grimacy because I'm squinting in the bright light. I'm not even really smiling. But it was important to take this photo and capture the moment in time.

I don't like it that I've disappeared out of photographs. This is one of the problems with being single for many, many years. There is no one to take pictures of me. I take a TON of photographs of just about everything in the world, except myself. It's awkward to take a bunch of solo pictures. It feels weird to hold the camera out from my face and hope to look somewhat normal. And it's embarrassing to stop strangers on the street and ask them to take a photo of me next to some goofy statue just so I can look at it by myself later.

Photographs are meant to be shared, enjoyed, and treasured. My solo photos only serve to show my weight loss or weight gain over the years. I have very few in which I'm surrounded by friends or loved ones. I receive tons of photos of my friends at Christmas time, but I don't send out cards. It seems oddly self serving and awkward to send a photo of my Solo Self with some fancy printed writing on it. Here's me alone again. Merry Christmas. It's kinda depressing.

I received my very first digital camera as a present from my Chicago ex back in 2004, the year Little was born. It was the perfect gift. He knew I'd want to take a bazillion photos of my little baby girl, and I totally did. I have endless digital photo files from 2004 to now, and Little comprises a large amount of them. The rest are photos of exhibits, flowers, and random farm barns or city buildings. Sure, there are a few spatters of friends and family here and there, but if I died and you looked through my photo collection, you'd be all WTF where is she? 

I have two large boxes of printed photographs that I need to go through. It would be good to do some weeding from back during the "double prints" days and get the pictures under control. I avoid the boxes like the plague because they are filled with photos from college and Oregon and Chicago and my beloved Kingie and I don't want my heart to hurt as I become overwhelmed with Extreme Nostalgia, which I'm very prone to. I know there are a bunch of photos of Yours Truly in those boxes because back then, I had a lot of friends who eagerly snapped shots whenever they could. I also had roommates or my boyfriend to help capture those moments in time. I have no desire to look at the photos now, but I know they are there, so that's very comforting to me.

One of the best photos I ever saw was of a girlfriend of mine sleeping with her four cats. She'd fallen asleep sitting straight up in her bed leaning against the wall, and the cats had cuddled up on there with her. Her boyfriend took the picture and showed me. It was hilarious. It wasn't a staged, fake-smile photo. It was simply a girl and her four furbabies in a vulnerable moment -- dead asleep with no awareness of any cameras. I'd like to have some of those random photos in my life again. Not everything has to be perfect. Retakes are unnecessary. I don't always have to be sucking in my stomach. Some of the best photos in my magical photo boxes are ones that no one knew I was taking.

The other day, I started randomly telling my parents about Webster's bedtime rituals. He'll climb in the bed, sit at the very bottom for a while, and then come up to where I'm reading and nestle in my arm nook. I can't have any blankets up against my chest or he'll wait until I move them. He wants his nest Just So. Then I pet his belly and he flops down and puts his little head on my upper arm and covers his little eyes with his paw and purrs until he passes out. Since I'm a Raging Insomniac, I'll get up to go to the bathroom or watch TV or get a glass of water throughout the night. Each time I come back to the bed, Webster is there waiting. If I don't go to bed around 11 or 12, he'll start circling the bedroom door like a shark, waiting. He loves his bedtime snuggles. If I roll over in the night, he crawls over the pillow (always pulls my hair, of course) and bats my arm until I open it up and let him nestle back in. I went on and on.

Ma: "Why are you telling us all of this?"

Me: "Because this is a huge part of my day. It happens every single night, and no one is ever there to see it. It's a part of my life that I wanted to share."

Yes, I DO want to share my life -- I want to share more of it and not be so closed-off from everyone else's daily rituals. So the next time Webbie snuggled into the bed with me, I stopped reading on my iPad, turned on the camera function, pretended to be asleep, and took this photo to show my parents Webbie's favorite spot:

Once again, it's not the world's most flattering photo. You can see my underchin, I don't have on any makeup for those redhead lashes, and my pillow is mangled under my head. I took this photo somewhere around 3:30am when I couldn't sleep to save my life and was very peeved about it. But this is how I look every single night when I go to bed. Webster is always there, and I wanted to remember that. I wanted someone to know: We were here, and we snuggled.

I'm going to Do Better about making sure that I show up in more of my own photographs. It's sad to scroll through literally YEARS of my life without seeing a single picture of me to prove I was actually there -- that I lived, I loved, I existed. I'm not going to become obsessive about it, but I am going to make sure that even if I'm alone, I take a solo shot now and again. Even though I don't have kiddos to put on a Christmas card or a hubbie to take embarrassing photos of me when I'm not looking, I still have moments that are Important. I'll work on finding a way to capture them.


bibliogrrl said...

I tend to hide from cameras because I have gained so much weight over the years, but now that I have a baby niece, oh man. If she is on my lap, double chin be damned! I totally get you.

Rita Arens said...

I totally get it. This made me think of Beyonce.

Blondie said...

Well, damn, that was a good song. Gave me goosebumps.

Melanie said...

I get it, I am in very very few photographs, in fact you would be hard pressed to find any pictures of me and my kids together or my spouse. Because I don't feel good about the way I look I hide behind the camera and there is very little evidence of the life I'm living. It's sad but I just can't seem to get over myself.

Cindy said...

Don't be embarrassed to ask strangers to take your picture. I love to help people by taking photos! In fact, while on vacation I frequently offer first and in return they take photos of us. It's a win/win.

A. Wright said...

I have to purposely get a photo of myself, because I'm always the one holding the camera. Moreover, I am not photogenic, at all, it's scary really. I share Melanie's troubles, and thank her for being so honest.

Timothy said...

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

—Steve Furtick

How can your be present if you’re constantly looking through a viewfinder?

Live life, don’t take pictures of it.

terry said...

I love these pictures of you!