A little lighter topic, you’ll be glad to hear.
I updated my Facebook profile picture tonight. Because my hair’s grown a fair bit since the last one, and there are people on FB (including my mother) who don’t see a lot of me in person who might like to know how I look these days.
I thought the picture was alright, in as far as I think any picture of me is. It’s of my face. I’m fully clothed. I’m pulling a bit of a silly face (because I can’t take a serious selfie to save my life) but I thought it was okay.
I regretted it immediately. Facebook informs all of your contacts you’ve changed your profile picture and it comes up large in news feeds. This makes me feel self conscious. I did the same on Twitter, but that felt okay. No-one gets notified when you change your (tiny) profile picture on Twitter.
Friends (exclusively female, interestingly) started liking it, and I felt mainly shame, but also a little vanity.
Within 5 minutes a boy I don’t know very well (he’s on my course at university – we have to be FB friends for admin reasons) commented (jokingly I’m sure) that the picture was terrifying. In a fit of burning self-hatred, I answered immediately, agreeing with him, and almost apologizing for the existence of my face. He went on to add that it was the eyes, that they looked psychopathic. Having regained a little cool, I answered that I had just committed a murder. A woman jumped in with the obligatory ‘it’s lovely’.
I felt so humiliated. I had posted a photograph of my face to the world. The world had scolded me, and I immediately wanted to hide. I deleted the photo. I didn’t want any more witnesses to my shame than had already seen. I didn’t want any more women parroting empty praise. I don’t want people to think I want them to ‘like’ my face (although of course, it would be very nice if people actually liked my face).
I walk through the world in this body of mine that I don’t like. Probably the most memorable and identifiable part of that body is my face. It’s how most people recognise me.
It’s just a face.
It isn’t a beautiful face.
It isn’t an attractive face.
It isn’t even a vaguely pleasant face.
But it cannot be so offensive that it causes terror.
It’s what I’ve got. I’m already riddled with insecurities. Every depiction of women in popular culture tells me that I look wrong. But even in the knowledge of my wrongness I have to walk around in my body and I have to wear my face. I don’t get a choice.
And that boy, in his sarcasm, probably didn’t know how bad he made me feel with such a casual remark. But why should he feel it acceptable to say that in the first place? Even as a joke? We aren’t really friends – we’re more colleagues than anything else. It feels like bullying.
I was bullied a lot as a kid and a teenager. I thought that chapter of my life was closed – for the most part it is. But when it occasionally resurfaces, it still cuts me as fresh as ever it did in my childhood. The feelings and deep seated body hatred are still hot.
You could say I asked for it, by putting myself out there. Changing your profile picture in a way invites comment. FB publicises it for all the world to see.
But if you must comment, maybe it’s best to keep it to people you have some kind of intimacy with, some sort of personal connection and trust. And maybe be nice if you have to say anything at all.
The lavishment of false praise makes me squeamish, but it’s not as bad as being told your face is frightening. I already hate myself, I don’t need any more fuel for that fire.
Don’t talk about my face. It’s not a choice or a statement I’m making, it’s just what I’ve got, and it’s my misfortune to have to live with it. I know its failings. I don’t need to be given extra reasons to hate myself.