You know what I hate?
Profile pictures on the internet where you can actually see the person's cell phone in the bathroom mirror.
You know what I hate even more?
When the person who took that picture and posted that picture on the internet for everyone to see? Is actually looking at their EYES in the mirror and therefore NOT looking at the cell-phone / camera / audience / me when I'm looking at them. Bad form. Terrible form.
You know what I hate way way way more than either of those things?
That I am the kind of person who not only thinks about these things? But lives in a time when you, dear readers, will know precisely what I'm talking about. Because either you're thinking: "Oh I hate that too!" Or else you're thinking: "OMG?! I wonder if I've done that!? Am I one of THOSE people? How embarrassing!"
(really I doubt that any of you are in that second hypothetical readership-position....otherwise I wouldn't feel so smug mocking how you talk. What with the "?!" after the "OMG". Terrible. But, in fact, while this parenthetical aside is lingering longer than it should, I may as well take this moment to say to you, in case you actually *are* that reader, that you should go ahead and keep reading and don't quite unfriend or unfollow me yet, because really? ultimately? one of the points that I'm making is that you are at least partly preserved from the ugly strain of hipster-narcissism that I'm describing here.)
I am as guilty as the rest (see appendex A below) -- of, over the years -- taking far too many pictures of myself to be classified by anyone, anywhere (ever) as being an "unselfconscious" guy. I'm over that particular failing, but I wish I weren't. I wish I *were* an "unselfconscious" guy, but that quality has dwindled to near extinction due to virulent strains of surveillance, voyeurism, exhibitionism and posturing.
But one thing that I have developed is a *real* appreciation for the...well...."real."
(whatever that is)
A moment of authenticity that one finds in a photo of one's self? That's both rare and exquisite. And, I've always told myself, if I ever came into possession of such a photo: a photo that captured me -- on accident, being normal, and in a context with some remarkably fortunate and accidental aesthetically interesting vibe -- if that ever happened to me? That would DEFINITELY be my profile picture EVERWHERE from then on.
So today, I was getting into the car and must have bumped on my camera phone by accident and when I started to stuff it into my pocket? I found the picture at the top of this post. The UR avatar. The picture that I've been waiting for. The accidental pearl of great price. The holy cameraphone grail.
So? Right? What am I waiting for? This should be me from now on. The authentic, accidentally captured internet-version-of-ME.
So the fact that I'm wavering, engulfs me in all kinds of self doubt. Why? Why can't I just go with it? Who cares about those extra seven pounds wrapped around my neck or that you can't see (what my mom always said were my best features - ) my eyes? So what!? This really happened. And that should matter more.
I wonder if, when you get addicted to looking a certain way and then publishing only the best, or aggressively de-tagging those photos of you that your frenemies keep snapping and posting while you sleep or guffaw or wrinkle your nose in that unattractive way that displays your tangled nose-hairs, I wonder if these habits-of-image-maintenance cultivate an inability to stomach the real.
Whether or not it really happened.
appendix A. below