THERE’S A PHOTOGRAPH, long lost, I used often to describe, to illustrate something essential in myself. I was five and visiting Disney World. I wanted to have my picture taken with Goofy, but I was shy. Also, not understanding the lack of peripheral vision in the mask, I didn’t get that I hadn’t gotten his attention. And so what evidence there was – or perhaps still is, somewhere – of this encounter: a photo of that character with some other kid (his parents taking theirs as intended), & me, a few feet away, little boy of coy resigned posture, photobombing my own commemorative image.
Much has been decried or even celebrated of selfie culture and its underlying impulses, the ‘for whoms’ and ‘whys’ of the choice we make in documenting ourselves in our moment. To add to such navel-gazing would no doubt extend the rabbit hole that much further, so I won’t. Instead of that, I’ll rather turn my attention to the specific (tho no doubt no less narcissistic) act of mapping a series of images I’ve selected as an index and gloss to a life lived thus far. In this case, the notion of experience wraithlike & lingering, a golem of the self that trails behind, that reminds, that effaces. Dark scribble over the reflection that shows up each day in the glass.
.. which is not to say that there isn’t a fondness for the weight one willingly drags when one looks back. Most of the stories I’ve chosen ever to share socially have detailed some humiliation, some misstep or another – and there’s been some satisfaction in that. As to why I’d share my shame & regret with a raconteur’s fervor – beyond the obvious: dropping ballast, distancing the incident thru an act of telling that reveals to the listener an unassailable ownership and helps as such to render in the speaker an imperviousness to the kind of criticisms he’d encounter in the company of others, behind his back, or echoing & imagined inside his own head — well, let’s presume a joy of morbid reverie. But also in the same manner in which we may advertise our sadnesses in tweets or choose to include in a published book an image of our face streaked with tears, it’s in our sharing what’s unflattering that we build the greater bridge to sistren & brethren alike, a brick flung into the temple of warts-and-all humanity, for better or for worse, in the epic forge of what forgets us.