It’s popular to mock selfies these days. “Stupid self-absorbed teenagers, taking selfies on their camera phones. We would have never! Especially at a funeral.” Except, please. As a slightly-too-old-to-be-a-millennial, you’ll have to excuse the fact that I just had to step away from the computer and go get my Nineties-era photo albums up from the basement. Okay. Done. They’re full of a lot of things. Snapshots of people I see passingly on Facebook, here in a more youthful and hopeful form. Pictures of my little sister, pictures of my high school boyfriend, pictures of speech competitions and school plays, pictures of that slightly annoying high school theatre friend named David (I MARRIED HIM, SELF). But you know what I value the most? The pictures of me.
Yeah. I said it.
Because how else do we understand our lives, looking backwards? We understand them though piecing together the bits of self we left behind. The photos, the notes, the journal entries. I’ve always been a documenter, so I feel lucky to have boxes of journals, bags of passed-in-class folded notes, and shelves full of photo albums. And let’s not forget six years of writing on this site (which I always vaguely hope is interesting to you, but let’s face it, I wrote it for me). I could spend hours retracing my fashion choices, the faces of the people posing with me, the contours of my hometown in the background. I like examining the ways I’m the same and different, figuring myself out through those painstakingly recorded archives.
This month, we’re taking a time-out from discussing interpersonal relationships to focus on the personal side of things. Because let’s be for real, some of my favorite pictures on my phone are selfies. The staff did an unofficial count of what our phones are full of, and the result came in a bit like this:
Maddie: 70% selfies, 25% Juno, 5% who knows what
Lucy: 70% our pets, 20% selfies/pictures of my hair, and 5% everything else
Kate: 60% travel pictures, 10% selfies, 10% things I’ve knit or made, 10% pretty clouds and funny random things, 10% Kev and cat
Meg: 60% baby, 10% work, 10% selfies, 10% selfies with the baby, 10% family shots
My kid gets a lot of airplay on the phone these days. But even in documenting him, I’m documenting my life. He might or might not want to look back at photos of him mugging with noodles in his hair, or a video of him humming while walking around the house. But I’m sure as shit gonna want to. I’ll look at him, what he was wearing, his little baby chub, our living room in the background, David’s football playing behind the shrieks, and I’ll remember what our live was like then, in painful, nostalgic clarity.
Selfies aren’t as simple as self-absorbed snapshots. In documenting ourselves, we’re documenting the ways our most important relationships have shaped us. By documenting ourselves, we’re valuing the intrinsic good that we bring to the lives of others. Because we’re not just girlfriends, wives, mothers, and daughters. We’re humans that are loved and love. That make funny jokes, and have good hair sometimes, and make awesome lipstick choices.
So my phone is full of selfies. Some of them document a good hair day, or a particularly good outfit. But most of them have at least two people in them. In the hours when the baby and I are home alone, we like to look in the phone mirror and mug. We make silly faces at each other, and then one of us hits the shutter button. My selfies document the life I’m living, right in this moment. They feature good hair, but also little toothy grins and chaos and silly faces.
My selfies. Myself. Plus a handsome husband, some serious hustle, and one chubby baby. And me, the blur somewhere in between.
I can’t wait to share stories of your blur this month. And yes—your good hair days. Share your best stuff with us on Instagram with the hashtag #APWselfies (or the perennial #APWwedding), and we’ll get On documenting you, Just as You are today. Follow us there for #Selfies month fun.
Photo: from my instagram feed (updated to fit the debate, why not)