Saturday, February 26, 2005


Everything's coming up roses... We had to sing that song as part of a Judy Garland medley in year 8. (Are you reading this, Jellyfish?) Although I hate the way I look, I can't be arsed Photoshopping this picture because I have been photoshopping stuff all day. It takes me that long because I'm not particularly good at it.

Elaine has written about being terrified of your photographed image. I would like to write a little essay about Photoshopping oneself: how you must first submit to the vanity of wanting to be Photoshopped. Then you must detach from your loathing of your ugly face and body and see them purely as design opportunities - as shapes to be cut and pasted and carved into with the clone stamp tool - as colours to be replaced - as objects to be renovated. And when you're finished electronically mutilating yourself, you sit back and are pleased with the new improved you - but you know it's only a simulacrum, and you feel crushed at not being able to live up to your Photoshopped promise. Still, the computer provides an enticing possibility - what you could perhaps look like.

Of course, let's not forget the humiliation of being caught in your vanity by people who see you on the computer Photoshopping yourself. And let's not forget the disappointment of people unfavourably comparing the various versions of you. Some bloggers, who are hot, put pictures of themselves all over their blogs. Some have only words, and leave that to the imagination. I'll never forget how one blogger sent another blogger a photo of a third blogger, who never posts photos of themselves, and how the recipient of this photo was crushed at how much less attractive the blogger was in the photo than on the blog.

I'm still quite troubled about having posted that unPhotoshopped picture of myself. I mentioned to my mother that I was thinking of doing it, and she got alarmed and suggested I would end up locked in a car boot somewhere. "Because that woman put herself on the internet!" Never mind that it was the husband, who knew her in real life, wot done it.

But my concerns are different to my mother's. I feel naked without my Photoshopping - open to mockery about my appearance from which I can't defend myself. Because we all know that the camera doesn't lie.

But anyway. Here's how the photo came about. Last Sunday, I was having brunch with this young lady. We were sitting at an outdoor table, and inexplicably, a guy came past and presented us with a long-stemmed red rose each. We were embarrassed and pleased and surprised and suspicious all at once. It was a rupture of the everyday. As we walked through the city afterwards, sniffing our roses every so often, we remarked on how such random things heighten your awareness of your surroundings - the way you move through space; the looks you attract. Kate said it would be an interesting experiment to walk through the city carrying a random object and observing people's reactions. My first thought, unoriginally enough, was a fish. But that would be unpleasant as well as random.

And there's something about a woman walking through the city carrying a single red rose. It's presumed she has a narrative. A lover must have given it to her - is it an apology? - Valentine's Day was last Monday - is that why she's smiling? One thing I did notice was that everyone felt they needed to joke about it - from the construction worker ("Awww, you shouldn't've!") to little Emma ("For me?"). Could it be because a red rose is such a cliche that they have to deflate the unoriginality of it with an equally unoriginal mock-rebuff?

Right now I am too sad and tired to consider these questions with any incisiveness, if ever I do. But you know what - this week some things did come up roses, in a 'sold your soul to the devil' kind of way. First, I got a credit card. Now I can pay for my show. And pay, and pay, and keep on paying. Second, I sold an article about mannequins to Sunday Life, my favourite intellectual journal.

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