Tabatha Wharton


{musings of an aging millennial trope}

Selfie of The Year.

{this post originally appeared on Tabulous}

So I guess it's time to talk about this.

This is the photo that was honored as one of two Selfies of the Year at BlogHer '14.

But I guess I should start with the story of the photo, since at no point was there ever really a chance for me to stand up and say This isn't just a pretty picture, this is a piece of my heart dying.

I can tell you that I took it sitting on the end seat of my living room couch, closest to the window, while my spouse was upstairs giving the kids a bath. I had a fuzzy idea of what I wanted the photo to look like in my head from earlier in the day, so I set about moving myself within the provided light and adjusting angles at an arm's reach away. It was one of my first "posed" selfies, if you will, and not just an opportunistic attempt at capturing a flattering angle or new favorite outfit.

It was intended to be a series, with another, similar shot to display a ring-less hand whenever that decision would be reached.

I knew, in the day or so before I took the photo, that such a decision would eventually be reached. And I remember glaring through that one visible eyeball, unleashing every ounce of unfettered anguish and defeat that I felt with those pieces of metal wrapped around my finger.

Those rings, once symbols of everything I had ever dreamed of and never truly felt worthy of having, were my imprisonment.

I look at that photo and see the first seeds of knowing that my entire life was unraveling without my consent. I knew that eventually, I was going to have to face that my marriage was dead and that no amount of resuscitation on my part would ever revive it.

In the moment of that photo, I let myself feel all of the ugliness I'd been trying to avoid, all of the resentment and fear and disappointment and loneliness of the past five years of my life.

And hearing people tell me it was a beautiful photo over and over again was hard. Harder than I anticipated.

And there is the winning photo, scrolling by in front of everyone. My heart, you guys, it bursts and breaks.

#365feministselfie #blogher14 #selfiebration

I don't think it's about having (forgive me this really uppity sounding moment) my "work" be misunderstood -- part of the experience of partaking in art is gleaning your own interpretation of it, so hey, I guess there was something about it that struck a chord with a bunch of people. And maybe people did sense the strong and dark emotional experience I underwent that lead to that particular capture and they just didn't know what else to say or how else to convey an appreciation of that effort than to express what's commonly a universal compliment, to bestow upon it the sanction of beauty because in this culture, that's always one of the most deeply ingrained goals to strive for.

But I do know, as I walked across that stage for my two seconds of recognition, the applause was heard loud and strong in my soul, as if maybe, maybe more than the handful of people who know my life understood what it took for me to take that picture and publish it, and more so what it took for me to be able to be on that stage and be recognized for it. So I curtsied because what else do you do on a stage whilst being applauded?

And then I blew the audience a two-handed kiss of deep appreciation and love, because without those people clapping and whooping for me, there's no way I'd have been there at all.

Well, and the nudging of one woman in particular. Who actually told me she was surprised that this was the photo picked. She liked a different one better. So do I, kind of. But I'm not complaining.

From where I stand now, I see that selfie not only as a capture of who I was and how I felt at that moment, but as a quiet premonition to myself, to the woman I was on the cusp of beginning to be.

It was the first step, admitting to myself (and my Instagram feed) that I -- that we -- had a problem.

And, for the record, I stopped wearing my rings altogether a few days afterwards.