Some days I walk through public places
and everyone recognizes me
and I wonder how they came to own that part of me—
their memory of me
“the reactionary,” Gino the Wise
“Ugh,” my mom said, frowning at my camera phone. “I look so fat in that picture.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Erase it,” she said.
“Mom, seriously, you look fine. And it’s about the skyline, not you.”
She grabbed at my phone, wresting it out of my hands. Blech. Things had escalated beyond my comfort level. It wasn’t worth fighting with her. I grumbled to myself as she studied the screen, trying to make sense of the menu. Finally, she puzzled out how and deleted the picture.
“Happy?” I asked.
“You don’t have to be such a smart ass about it,” she said.
It is the nature of photographs to misrepresent, for them to be misconstrued through the virtue of switching media. Three dimensions became two, and the resultant flattening smears subjects across a canvas. An arbitrary moment is selected as the focal point. Even a video is a series of selections played in rapid succession, giving a more convincing illusion of a complete representation.
As I search back through my own memory, I pass myriad unflattering self-portraits. Whether I am acting out of malice, neglect, or ignorance, I am a villain in many stills. In some, I’m a clown. In some, a slut. In some, I’m even a prude.
I’ve since retired many of these depictions as defining. I know it’s me, but like a person studying an unflattering Polaroid, I say, “That doesn’t look like me,” chiefly to myself and perhaps to a person or two whose opinion I really value.
I had a falling out with the majority of my poly web about a year ago not too long before my separation and divorce proceedings. Regardless of anyone’s assessment of my handling or mishandling of the situation, the stress of that much upheaval was intense. I found myself journaling about the demise of multiple relationships, striving to write in a way that people not hip to whom I’d been seeing (primarily the circle of friends that knew me and/or my exes in more than passing) wouldn’t be dragged unnecessarily into any conflict but at the same time chronicle adequate details and impressions so as to help me sort through my turmoil in a timely manner. How well I did in that depends on whom you ask, I suppose. I did my best, but whether my best was good enough is up to question.
At least one ex was troubled by my depiction of things and is rumored to have tried to force a sit-down with me through administrative channels. If this is the case, I really wish something had been directed through Skyspook. I still don’t know if I would have accepted or denied the request, but he seems at least a more reasonable avenue to relay the request, rather than community resources.
Was I selective the first time I went to see a school guidance counselor to question some of the things that seemed to be off about my home life? Yes. Did I tell the whole truth? In a sense, no. I didn’t tell her about the long nights when I had croup that my mother would sit up with me with hot cocoa or the typewriter she’d gifted to me along with the giant orange secretary’s manual so I could type up some of my stories about vampire kitties.
I focused on what I perceived was wrong, the things I was concerned about.
It’s been said to me, “Well, that’s all fine and good, Page, but what do you do if someone’s spreading lies about you? How do you defend yourself?”
Well, if they’re anonymously venting about you, then it’s really not that different than them venting about you in their head (people are rarely objective when blowing off steam – there’s at least a hearty element of hyperbole), only now you can see it. I think we all vent about one another from time to time. In my estimation, it’s probably not that big a deal.
But if you’re called out, names are named, what then? The best way to defend yourself?
Your life is your testimony. Live it well.
Seriously. Prove the accusation wrong with your future actions. Move on.
Most people know that we’ve all had ugly photos taken of us, bad portraits drawn. You wouldn’t be the first.