Go ahead, try and find a photo of me taken between 1998 and 2012. There aren’t many, and those that exist were taken under duress. I’m generally the picture taker, documenting every moment, flower, cloud, cup of coffee, sign, shadow and sunset. My daughters and husband are my favorite subjects, and I have protested about being included in family photos for so many years that they no longer ask.
And then came the selfie. Not the pictures documenting my cute scarf or a good hair day (though I confess to doing both). This is the selfie duet, the photos we take to mark a time and place with someone we adore, complete with the wacky “look at us, together” moment. The moment that only I am having with only you, right here, right now. The one where you can see up our noses, and our faces are in an unflattering wide angle, but we’re laughing and noticing each other and this time. It isn’t about the scenery, or even the good picture. It’s just about us.
These selfies are so darned close… there is no hiding. Every gray hair, every wrinkle, every flaw will show, with only our smiles to compensate. A selfie duet requires intimacy. A little leap of faith. A minute to pause. And it always requires laughter.
My appreciation of the selfie started slow, before I even knew what was happening. Hiking with Steve, enjoying a baseball game, visiting San Francisco with my daughters, at brunch with my cousin. The bonus was that I could have chinless photos (which is so much easier than asking everyone to please use their skinny lens).
I had an older iPhone that didn’t have a reverse view, so there was always some chance involved. But with a new phone and a front-facing camera, I realized I could do this all the time, with everyone I was connecting with, as long as they would play along.
But this is the selfie that changed everything.
My husband’s aunt, who after 35 years, is truly my aunt, and was in the last weeks of her life. We were honored to be highly involved in her final journey and spent several days and nights with her… visiting, sharing, comforting, feeding, medicating, helping her work through her pain. It was a remarkable experience, primarily because of her amazing acceptance and openness.
On one of our last visits, I spent the afternoon sitting on her bed, watching the San Francisco Giants with her. I realized that while I had over 500 pictures of her cabin in Lake Tahoe, and all of the family events she had graciously and generously hosted, I had none of the two of us. I asked Steve to take a few. They were fine, and certainly served the purpose. But then I had the idea to take a selfie duet. One turned into ten. Aunt Pat didn’t even know what a selfie was. She giggled and asked me to take another, then another. She felt no sense of embarrassment over her oxygen tubes, or the fact that we were in bed. Maybe it was the morphine. Maybe it really was the moment.
These pictures captured both the intimacy and the inexplicable joy that somehow showed up at this time, at this place. I can still hear her laughing, the surprise of discovering something new, so close to the end of her life.
I will keep on taking selfies, every chance I get, maybe even with you. One of these days I will master the art of minimizing the nostril. Until then, watch out and get your smiling face on.