I don't remember what caused me to post to Twitter that red lips and black chokers are always a good idea. However, I do know that for the past few months since making the assertion, I've had in my mind a passive plan to test the theory. My completely subjective, unilateral, and admittedly biased assessment of the trial is that it was an overwhelming success. It manages to capture the middle ground between classic vintage appeal and contemporary spooky pseudo-gothiness. Thank goodness I have a fashion blog through which I can share these utterly useless musings.
It is quite peculiar that I have a fashion blog at all, really. I'm not exactly the fashion blogger "type", if ever there were one, if only for the fact that I am extremely uncomfortable having my photo taken.
It has nothing to do with how content I am with my overall appearance. My general attitude regarding my natural physical appearance is that it's really quite irrelevant to my happiness or life experiences, for while I might have some of the physical attributes that mainstream society arbitrarily deems laudable (my abnormally low BMI being the most obvious), I also have a number of things that our socially-constructed standard of beauty dictates flaws. The whole situation is extremely subjective and its hardly worth caring about pleasing any sort of general consensus. I tend not to like general consensus much, anyhow.
I realized early on that there will always be people who are not fond of your appearance, and there will always be people who are, and that while the former typically far outweigh the latter, it is the opinions of those few in the latter category that matter most. Worthwhile company will always look favorably upon your countenance, because they will view your face as the vessel that carries your mind and your lips as the mechanism that manifests your ideas and your eyes as the focal point for interpersonal connection and your body as the vehicle that brings you into their life. As for those who fail to understand the true value of your visage? Consider it a means by which to filter out the people you would not much care to know anyhow, because anyone who takes it upon him or herself to be concerned with what they consider to be flaws in your physical appearance is not someone worth knowing, and certainly not someone about whose opinions you should care.
Instead, my discomfort with being the object of photography stems from an over-abundance of self-consciousness. The very qualities that I respect most in myself, those that inspire self-reflection and adjustment and growth, are the same qualities that make me endlessly unsure of exactly what I should be doing when someone points a camera at me. Am I to smile? Am I to frown? Am I to sit up very straight and proper, or slouch about like a melancholic sloth? Am I to act naturally? What, exactly, is natural? I mean, really, there is nothing natural about me, about anyone, for if we have lived our lives correctly, we are only the people we have chosen to be. Oh, did they already take the photo? What on earth was I doing when that happened?
As a result of my overactive and overly self-reflective mind, I find that in most photos, I am in-between things. My mouth is half-forming words. My eyes are mid-route to a blink. My face, with its unusually-stretchy skin and constantly-furrowing brow, is contorted into something between a grimace and a question mark. My arm is an arc-like blur of uneasy motion. Photos of me tend not so much to capture a moment in time as they are to capture me contemplating an attempted fabrication of a moment in time.
Brit is the only person who has ever been able to capture photos of me in which I do not look like my face is an unfamiliar machine whose gears I am awkwardly crunching into formation. There is an easy grace about the way in which she interacts with the world, and I think it makes me feel internally at peace, at least momentarily enough for her to snap a few photos in which I simply am.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Lamson, my boyfriend, and the person who most frequently takes photos of me for my blog. Lamson is a remarkably creative and talented individual with the drive to excel at anything he attempts. If you give him an instrument, he will want to give you back a song. If you give him a pencil and paper, he will want to give you back art. If you give him a camera, he will want to give you back a moment in time...and we've already established that moments in time are not best captured in my muddled expressions. The pressure to in some way "perform" for the benefit of the end photo tends to amplify my feelings of discomfort, rendering me downright manic.
"Try to look more natural," he says, clicking away.
Cut to me, one eye half-closed, my lip curled up exposing my canine teeth, my eyebrows smooshed together creating a vertical crease down the length of my forehead.
"What are you doing?" he asks. "What is that?"
"I'm being natural..." I mumble, unable to commit to even the intent.
"Hm." He pulls the camera away from his face. "Maybe you need a prop. You know, to help you relax. Here, come hang on this fence. Wouldn't that be fun? Just climb on it and stuff."
I awkwardly perch myself on the bottom chunk of rotting wood slab. "This looks dangerous..." I say, my face contorting to match my concern.
"Put your hands up to brace yourself!" He gestures to the slab above me. I grip it tightly, knuckles white, elbows at ninety degree angles, jaw clenched.
"This is weird," I think, "This isn't right. Who does this? Who just hangs on wood? This doesn't feel stable. I'm going to fall." Lamson takes fifty pictures of the scenario, waiting for me to feel more at ease, hoping my face will soon start to look less frightened. The pressure to look anything short of absolutely deranged mounts in my head. My eyes open wider. My nostrils flare. My lip starts to tremble.
"Okay," he sighs. "How about these berries? Look at all of the berries growing over here! You should come check it out." I awkwardly stumble off of the fence and trudge over a wall overgrown with blackberries. "What should I do?" I ask. "I don't know...maybe you could pick a few?" he suggests.
I reach my hands up into the air, my tongue lolling out of my mouth and I grab awkwardly at the fruit. Click. Click. Click. What the fuck am I doing.
"Here," he finally says, handing me the camera. "Why don't you take some pictures of me?" I can't tell if this is because he feels he has finally managed to get a shot in which I look somewhat normal, or if he thinks that being on the other end of the camera for a while might put me more at ease. I look at the camera display. He's taken over one hundred already, and every single one lacks the easy authenticity that would make it in any way usable.
He trades me places and walks over to the berry bushes. As I push the button, he pulls berries off of the bush's spindly stems, collecting them in the palms of his hands, a cigarette casually dangling out of the corner of his mouth. "Maybe you should start a blog," I grumble, jealous of the ease with which he faces the camera's lens. He raises his hands towards me, full of blackberries, as a peace offering. I scoop them up and thrust the camera back into his arms, scurrying away to a clearing, where I wolf the fruit down like candy and scowl in his general direction.
"Don't move!" he says, fiddling with the aperture.
He smiles. "Got it!"