July 11, 2016

When we Retouch our Photos, we Reject our Sacred Lives.

Do Not Reuse

Crow’s feet, broken capillaries, wrinkles and liver spots emerge on a face that has lived.

Sunshine and cold weather elements, coupled with stress and even the act of smiling, may be what has led to the face that we’ve now so thoughtfully received.

What a luxury to have danced to such a vibrant pulse, (whether happy or sad), and an authentic and magnanimous life that we in turn have souvenirs from—our poignant doings are epic reminders of being “lucky.”

To quote Hannibal, “Our scars remind us that our pasts were real.” And on that eerie note, I cannot be more grateful—for everything.

Not all of us count our blessings though, for being alive and embodying a shell that has all limbs intact (and yes, also has gray hairs or sun spots or a host of imperfections) is a struggle in today’s rapid, technologically soaring society when it comes to measuring up.

Surviving and moving through any degree of pain can catapult so many of us into categories of shame and depression that could sink a ship and crash a plane, usually our own. Yet there’s a lifeboat involved here, genuinely, and it involves accepting age as the blessed alternative to not being allowed to cherish and live out that wild and gallantly exciting privilege.

With tomorrow promised to no one, it is important that we stop trying to eradicate anything too “real,” as that self-violent action transports us toward an “always in hiding” existence and such cannot lead to our best, not by any stretch.

Indeed, by retouching our photos we are caving into the mass notion that natural human beings—we—are not enough.

We are still in the stage and cage of needing validation and exuberant praise from others. We are trying to impress and put a better us forward for all to see or “Like” on Facebook, and applaud.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel beautiful! There is not a modicum of self-worth lost when merely hoping that the world can celebrate in our joy (and if that means our physical beauty on certain days, then that’s an element of us that we are certainly allowed to be quite proud of). So to send out what we believe is a “gorgeous us” is a lovely thing, entirely.

Where it gets dangerous in the name of negating the self however, is when we become almost afraid or ashamed to showcase what and who we really are.

Case in point, I am a 46-year-old woman who does not do Botox or fillers of any sort. I’m allergic to Retinol and as a result, make my own facial moisturizer—a Sunday ritual I enjoy.

Also, I decided during the past two summers that I would lie out daily, sans sunscreen, and gulp in as much vitamin D as my body could quite possibly absorb.

And having had an absolute ball donning every hair style (shaved, Mohawk, extensions—twice—bleach blonde, boxed black, foiled highlights and “Montreal Red”), let’s just say that I have taken my best accessory and danced the tango and back again. My heart is full, but my hair as a result has been through an undeniable and cantankerous war. Therefore right now it has been chopped, as to get the multilayered stress off the ends, and my hair continues to be cut despite it lengthening in droves and reminding me that “life changes, hair grows back,” and if it doesn’t, then that still is not the worst thing in life! By far.

Nonetheless, I am experiencing changes that I am genuinely excited and grateful to live out (again the alternative being a pretty macabre and quite devastating thing), and those include pre-menopausal weight shifts around the time when my period comes, more changes in mood and food cravings. Surely I see a couple of veins or cellulite areas if I go looking, as if conducting an inspection. But what a wasted activity to devote my energy to! After all, I drink wine every day, am an exuberant and fanatical fiend of healthful gourmet grand goods and I do not exercise, at all.

The math above simply means that I am not getting asked to be on, The Real Housewives of Whatever-ville nor am I waiting by the phone for that request, but I am not sure that rules me out from “still being beautiful.” Inside and out.

With this conviction, I am speaking out about Photoshop nonsense because I feel strongly that it may help save some lives or possibly make mirrors a more friendly place for us to visit.

We don’t need to beat ourselves up and decide that we do not matter or muster a picture’s worth. Nor do we need to retouch our natural photos.

There’s something about expression-laden faces (think Gabrielle Reece, Ben Kingsley) that is so arousing and beyond all fathomable get out. Strength, confidence, life experience (yes worn right on the front) and an undeniable sexiness abounds.

And call me crazy, but there is just something about a mannequin that turns the libido off; or about an airbrushed and steam rolled photo that at first glance is pretty glamorous, until the real person enters stage right, that can change our entire interest about another.

Not only do most people not look anything like their profiles on social media or daily selfies that are altered before they’re sent, but when those individuals arrive in the flesh, they are lacking any morsel of the presence that their dear doctored-up picture pretended to be—each and every time.

Personalities are tamer than promised, their palate and zeal for eating is nothing like it was presented and moreover, their physical being does not match the immaculate pixel art that was posted. And how the hell could it?

Who wants to starve and get down to a size zero or claim that they are a zero, a mere shell of the best them that they can be? Who wants to look one-dimensional and appear absent of lines and definitions that make our powerfully poignant stories, and us, so very important? Who wants to erase or etch out an entire part of their own existence—that same existence that proves their bravery and wisdom and set of skills which separates them from all else? Who wants to spit in the face of God and defy and degrade the luxury to still be alive when not everyone is given that sacred set of circumstances?

I’ll tell you who, because I was once there—people in pain.

Let’s face it, when we do not feel good about ourselves, we loathe, hate and attempt to change everything that we can possibly control (our name, body size, newly measured and restricted meals, image to the world and the list goes on). Conversely, when we have grasped a bit about who we are and who we are so obviously not, we begin to not give a fiddler’s f**k about what anyone thinks.

At that point, we are guided and gifted to have a sense of sharing our best and most whole selves with the world—smile lines and all.

Tabloids, reality TV and celebrity imagery a la Twitter does nothing to help foster a natural acceptance of ourselves and of our cosmically given bodies, faces and story lines that we’ve been undeniably and unequivocally blessed to live. All the more reason therefore, to emerge on the other side of that selfie door with our true selves hanging out, just as we are. Nothing more, nothing less.

When we think about it, the person we so deeply want to be loved is not the smoothed out stranger who is staring back at us with a vacuous gaze from our photo albums into epic fear, shame and then subsequent cowardice of emerging as our authentic selves. Instead, how very lovely and attractive it indeed is, to see real people, doing real things that matter and feeling comfortable in their own real skin. People who gallantly stand up, own what they’re doing and who they are—just as is.


Author: Laurie-Beth Robbins

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Nicole Cameron; Caitlin Oriel

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Laurie-Beth Robbins