I’m old enough to remember the days when you were lucky if you had your very own camera and money, too, for a roll of film with 12 exposures. If you had saved up all your babysitting money, you’d spring for the 24 or 36 exposure roll.
You’d take photos, hoping for the best but it was a blind crapshoot, really.
Then you’d have to wait for a week or two to have those photos developed. If you were wildly extravagant, you’d pay for One-Hour developing but it was so expensive that you hardly ever did that.
You could wait.
You would wait.
You had to wait.
Often, you’d find a blurry photo or someone with eyes caught mid-blink. The landscape photo that seemed to riveting to you at the time turns out flat and boring and unfocused. Once in awhile, you’d get a great photo, one you’d stick to your mirror with tape.
Nowadays, you have a shoe-box holding your collection of old photos. You study them sometimes, trying to see yourself in those unfocused photo where the flash didn’t go off. It never occurred to you to turn the camera around and take a photo of your face. Why would you have done that?
If you’re like me, you have a few photos from each year of your life, if that. Your life then looks like a Goodwill store haul with acrylic sweaters and wide-legged pants and Members-only jackets and that one Gunne Sax dress that you spent a fortune on and kept and wore for six or seven years. You barely recognize your face. Your hair was a crime against Breck, the antithesis of Farrah Fawcett’s mane. Your dad wouldn’t let you wear makeup so your most defining feature was the circles under your eyes.
So, yes. I’m old. Old enough to know that the current generation of teenagers is having a vastly different experience with their own faces.
It is indisputable that this generation of kids possess the most photographed faces in the history of the world. First of all, we took a billion photographs when they were little and some of us scrapbooked them into acid-free albums with coordinating colorful sheets of acid-free paper with acid-free decorative stickers.
Then our kids grew up and started taking dozens of photographs of their own faces and their Outfits Of The Day (OOTD) and their friends and extreme close-ups of their own eyeballs. We’ve raised a generation of teenagers who are hyper-focused on their appearance, who snap a photograph each time they send a message to a friend via Snapchat. Literally, they have to take a photo in order to send the message.
The girls my daughter’s age are obsessed with their eyebrows. THEIR EYEBROWS! When I was a teenager, I had eyebrows. We all did. Some of my peers plucked theirs into thin parantheses hovering above their eyes but I just . . . had eyebrows. I didn’t give my eyebrows much thought at all on a day-to-day basis.
But just today, I heard this statement from my own offspring, “Usually, my right eyebrow is terrible and my left eyebrow looks good, but today, both of them are perfect. I’m so happy.”
At the risk of sounding like the fuddy-duddy that I am, I’m just going to say it. Selfies aren’t good for one’s self.
It’s a terrible thing for a teenager to be so aware of her looks and to be constantly photographing her own face.
Selfie-awareness is not the same as self-awareness.
My eyebrows and I are just happy we grew up in a time before self-scrutiny. We are the lucky ones, even though we only had film cameras with flash bulbs and inevitably out-of-focus, closed-eye photographs of ourselves and those we loved.