Why I shaved my head for a friend’s tatas and what it taught me. by D. A. Królak
What happens when she has to shave her head & you think it is a good idea to show solidarity? (*View as one-page)
Solidarity Selfies: Shaving your head for a friend
No Filter. [For Lisa]
The rain tapping the window and grey pallor of the day is a perfect place to start. Nice diffused lighting, great for selfies, while being both crisply maudlin or frigidly goth. Isn’t that something a kid would say? Full of a natural bravado that comes with creating a digital narrative to your existence, the prerequisite for life now. Quick post it & see how many likes you get.
I’ve now seen the inside of more bathrooms (quietly judged by all items on your sinktop) than seems possible for one person. The disheveled interiors that stand in stark contrast to your well-coiffed and ambiently lit picture. A lifelong devotion to art made self-portraits my favorites. Where the artist gets to step to the front of the object that they’ve so often subjectified others by. It is so Meta! There are deep psychological forces at work and on display in every one of them. Every tiny nuance is carefully thought out, in oils and self-conscious brush strokes or the push of a “button” on your touchscreen. Meta-squared DaDa.
There is both a journey and reflection in every self-portrait, whether that be in oils or your latest Instagram snapshot. Some spend more time than others, and we all know that the internet’s cloud and every cellphone overflows with the ones that you didn’t post. Steadfastly refusing to delete them so your masochistic side can pour over them and be reminded of the awful truth. That is the real fun.
Guess who takes selfies, all the time, but you never see them? Without posting anywhere. Varietals to remind myself of how unbelievably long the hairs have gotten, sparking anger directed at the artist formerly known as my hair stylist, for embracing family over the shop she owns & leaving me to look like a homeless person. (Nearly perfected recently). I’d show you, but you must pay a price of admission to that freak show.
So when four times a day someone posts a new one, I’m secretly judging them, we all are. Even worse, judging more harshly the people who comment. It is the same inane conversations repeated over & over again to infinity. On feminine posts it is always this constant barrage of how great they look, keep it up, woo-hoo. (As if the only thing that mattered was you telling them how great they look to you) Each time I try to parse which ones really mean it, and which ones are saying it snidely. Online or in a text you are free to inflect it anyway you choose. Context is lost when the sound is not present to signify.
What seems like light years ago – there was a conscious decision to not post pictures of myself. For one, the attention it garnered from people who – knew me only online – and perhaps weren’t as inured of my unique style of sarcasm, self-deprecation, and general dismissive derision was often as unsettling as alliterative. (Better in person). Of course in the beginning it was very interesting to see how people reacted, and each “Like” felt like a high five, every comment – a moment stolen from someone else’s day to stop and ponder the spectacle that is me. (Anyone who has had a dating profile knows this implicitly since 1999 and the inevitable blow-back).
Secondly, attention and itinerant gazes are a dangerous drug. Be wary, use with caution, or have an entire generation lost to the scourge. That is why I don’t mainline selfies but prefer to do them in private. Instead pieces of art with some humor that best express what is my singular vision and persona pass my eyes and quickly become simulacrum or the profile picture for the day. For how the world sees me has been complicated from birth, and not at all in alignment with how I see myself. Having written about it many times and pondered all that it means, I’ll not dredge those up and remitigate them here. Buy the book.
Some months ago, during the daily routine of making the social media rounds, a dear friend sent me a message:
I have cancer, at least Stage II, don’t want sympathy or sadness, because I’m going to make this cancer my bitch!
Possibly not only the best way to announce to someone that you have a deadly disease that takes many lives but to instantly make tears come to my eyes. Although, they were the strangest mix of both joy & bittersweet sympathy, I gulped & wrote back:
Beat that Bitch with a Bat!
Probably, (I hope) the non-politically correct answer she was hoping for when she confided in me before going public with a status update. Having been stumped, and with the above song recently playing in my head it felt like serendipity. Grief, Pain, and all of life’s tribulations are better handled with a side of humor or helping of gumption. Getting cancer is not a joking matter, but dealing with it requires levity at the very least to stay grounded. Otherwise you just let it all get to you. Then cancer wins, then the world & you lose.
Breast Cancer has been a bitch stalking me my entire life, and I’m tired of it. Where is the block button? Can I fill out a police report now? Taking my grandmother over twenty years ago, infecting the other, and touching the lives of all the strong women in my life.
Hey Cancer! You picked the wrong Bitch!
When it came for my grandmother, it crept in like a home invasion with late detection, multiple rounds of Chemotherapy, and like the proverbial guest overstaying its welcome time & again – when it left, it decided to take her with. The shame on top of loneliness & despair, pain administered daily through heartache, were incomprehensible to watch and are even harder to remember. A woman who’d had the strength to raise both my mother and me, bear any cross with a smile and no complaints, fought many foes, slayed the dragons under my bed, and left me with possibly the best advice you can give to a child who seems to be the scorn of the entire world.
Watching the mighty brought low is never easy, unless they are your enemies. Cancer makes enemies of us all and to ourselves foremost. Enemy to our body, adversary to our nagging thoughts, foe of our indefatigable desires. It reminds us life is pain, both concretely & abstractly exponentially amplified by every little decision or action you face, every single day.
Having worked in the non-profit sector for a charity race, comprised of survivors raising money for underserved women in the nation’s richest zip code was an eye-opener. Seeing up close the harrowing tales of how it impacts the lives, not just of those dealing with cancer, but with everyone who loves them. Their children, dearest friends, parents, siblings – made me realize we all get cancer. Whether we like it or not.
So the recent meme that allows those of us to use our online profile to advocate, show solidarity, or otherwise give some new meaning & purpose to our national obsession with being seen and complimented intrigues me greatly. How could I not subvert that?