where did the you that is you go?

  photo (14)

"What is the truth of women's lives?" --Gloria Steinem


I posted the above picture on Instagram because I was annoyed by my photo-shopped self portraits. (Do you ever annoy yourself?) I thought, "Ok, these are pretty good pictures. I've also filtered and cropped the shizzie out of them. I don't really look like this." I attempted to neutralize my gratuitous selfies with an uncooked picture of my weekly mustache maintenance.


Alas, the truth of my life: I invest a lot of time and money in hair removal. Like my friend T said, "If you've got a head full of dark, luscious hair, you're going to pay for it everywhere else."  Amen, my hirsute sister. Amen.


Another truth of my life: I am intoxicated by the power I have to create an online self that is seemingly superior than my actual self. Who is not intoxicated by this?


And what of Gloria Steinem's question within the context of social media? How do we, as women, maintain the truth of our lives when it is so easy to crop and filter the messier, yes even the hairier, bits? I think it's fair to say that women are particularly skilled in the art of semblance. We often regulate our bodies, our words, our feelings, and sometimes the very truth of who we are in an attempt to fulfill a certain ideal about who we think we should be. Even the most self-aware of us perform these roles on stages large and small.


Crop. Filter. Edit. Repeat.


Of course, editing isn't inherently bad. I understand that sometimes it's important to choose our words and movements carefully. And that certain realities are better kept within the confines of our hearts and homes where they will be treated gently. I also understand that the manicured construction of our online lives can be an inspiration to others as well as an opportunity to celebrate the beautiful.


Still, I wonder.


When does the self-edit wand morph from a tool of enhancement into a tool of erasure? (Poof! Where did the enticingly flawed you that is you go?)


When do the narratives we tell others about our lives become more fairy tale than forthcoming?


Can we maintain our integrity if we reveal only the refined and rarified versions of ourselves? Or does integrity require the  raw be recited as well? (Maybe the answer is in the definition of integrity itself: The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished)


I know that many of us grapple with these questions, especially as we construct various versions of our lives on blogs, Instagram, Facebook, etc. How do we tell the truth of who we are when there is so much temptation to do otherwise? Maybe the trick is in learning how to speak fondly of the polished and the pockmarked. And more importantly, to recognize in our quieter moments that the imperfect versions of ourselves are far richer, far more profound, and far more interesting than the magic an Instagram filter can bestow.