I shaved my whole head about four years ago.
When people asked me why I did it, I’d give a vague answer, “Everyone told me not to, so I had to.” But the truth was that I was beginning to feel okay with my appearance, even pretty, and I was not okay with that feeling.
Strange though it may be, I did not feel as though I was deserving of liking myself. Growing up with an eating disorder, I was at war with my body and mind. I told myself that it was not permissible to like my own body unless I was at a certain weight. Even when I got down to skin and bones, I still thought I needed to lose more weight. My stomach wasn’t flat, my thighs touched, and I was curvy–always have been.
Luckily, selfies and front cameras were not really a thing during this time. There are only a handful of photos of me at my lowest weight. Teens and young adults who are experiencing eating disorders now frequently take hundreds of “body-check” photos, images meant to document their weight loss and compare their bodies to their past selves and others.
I am slowly becoming okay with my own appearance. I do not weigh myself, nor do I measure my body at all. I am more or less free from my eating disorder. Sure, I don’t always eat breakfast and sometimes I can be weird about certain foods, but overall I’m pretty okay.
One way that I have made peace with my body is through self-portraits. These aren’t just selfies I take for #SelfieSunday, these are (at least to me) works of art that explore themes such as trauma, eating disorder recovery, self-harm, and LGBT issues. When I am alone in front of my camera, I am not afraid to be ugly. These photos aren’t meant to be pretty, they’re meant to tell a story. I can experiment with different angles, props, and editing styles.
This was one of the first self-portraits I did. I actually blurred my face by accident in post production, but I liked the look of it, so I kept it that way. To me, it describes the way the past can sneak into the present and distort things.
Sometimes I get shots I love. I was listening to Hole’s album Live Through This when I took this photo. My favorite song on the album is “Doll Parts.” When Courtney Love sings “Was she askin’ for it/Was she askin’ nice?” my heart aches. I was crying when I took this photo, but instead of self-destructing, I made art.
There is a pandemic upon us. Everything is shutting down, except the grocery store where I work. People are freaking out and hoarding food, hand sanitizer, and paper products. When I first heard about this, I didn’t think it would be that big a deal. But it is! I’m trying not to panic just because everyone else is panicking, but these are stressful times. The main thing that concerns me is that the AA clubhouses and other meeting places are closing, as well as my synagogue. People are supposed to stay home and not go anywhere, not that there’s much open to go to.
It’s a strange world these days, and it’s hard not to feel scared and uncertain. I do know, however, that not everything is cancelled and closed. Singing and dancing around my house is not cancelled. Calling a friend or relative is not cancelled. My cat is not cancelled. Taking a walk is not cancelled. Making art and writing is not cancelled. A home-cooked meal is not cancelled.
Right now, it would be easy to fall back into self-destructive patterns because of everything that’s going on in the world. But I have to have hope that things will get better. For now, it’s my camera and me vs. the world.
I don’t recognize myself without makeup, I thought as I looked in the mirror the other day. Who is this woman? Pale face, acne, wild eyebrows, and none of my signature dark lipstick. Is this me?
I spend a great deal of my time thinking about my appearance. I rarely go out and about without fixing my hair and putting on makeup. It’s not like I spend an hour contouring my face every morning, but I usually at least put on a little makeup to look and feel “presentable.” On the one hand, it’s probably a good thing to make sure I don’t wear the same dirty sweats every day, that my hair is clean, and that I’ve brushed my teeth. But on the other hand, I don’t want to be one of those women who tells herself she can’t go anywhere without makeup.
When I am shopping for groceries in the seemingly apocalyptic hellscape that is the supermarket these days, does it really matter what I look like? I get so deep in my head wondering if I look okay, if people are or aren’t looking at me that I forget to just live my life and be present.
I did go to the grocery store yesterday, and I didn’t have any makeup on. And it was fine! I even ran into a few coworkers who I’m friends with, one of whom told me I looked nice. (Love you, Miranda!)
I accomplished so much yesterday, and I felt proud of myself. I am realizing that my appearance is the least important thing about me. What matters more is: am I being kind? Am I taking care of my pets? Am I being a good friend? Am I being a good Jew? Am I keeping my home clean? Am I eating? More often than not, the answer to these questions is YES!
Again, I turned to my camera, not afraid of what I’d see and I snapped a few photos of myself. And this time, I actually smiled.