“It takes a certain type of person to have a painting of themselves above the mantel” said my friend Kirk, who at the time was admiring the same great room I was, the walls packed floor to ceiling with minor Picassos, major Modiglianis and candid portraits of our genteel host as a younger, freer man in Paris which would have been beautiful even if they hadn’t been taken by Man Ray.
“Hey! I have a painting of myself on my mantel!” I protested.
If I’m being honest, it’s not a terribly good portrait and I can’t even remember who painted it. It’s a little Liechtenstein by way of early Byzantium for me, but although I have a painting, I don’t think I have a single photo of myself displayed anywhere in the house.
Is that weird? That’s probably weird.
It’s not the dreaded Fat Girl Shame, and it’s certainly not out of modesty. I don’t have many photos of myself from my younger days and most of my grand adventures were either solo, or else photo documentation would’ve been an unwise choice. I do have several photos from last year’s trip to Ireland, but most of them are from the budding hours of our last night in town and feature a good-hearted but misguided and exceedingly ungroomed gentleman of our recent acquaintance trying to forcibly tongue bathe me on the dance floor while I shot pleading looks to my BFF who, in the tradition of all BFFs everywhere, laughed at me mercilessly and kept the shutter snapping.
Other than that, no photos.
I have a girlfriend, Penelope (obv not her real name) on the other hand, who is a normal person.
Like normal people, she has photo documentation of her life scattered in little Ikea frames all over her living space. The odd thing to me is that almost all the photos are from her teens and early twenties…a hundred pounds ago. Especially the ones on the refrigerator. I know she’s uncomfortable with her weight. She’s been uncomfortable with it since she was nine, but it’s like size 22 Penelope doesn’t exist, just size 12 who could still fit in her cheerleader uniform.
I just don’t know what to think. It makes me unusually uncomfortable, like the friend who still uses a head shot from when she was 19 as her internet dating profile, even though she’s in her mid-thirties with a totally different body shape. It’s frustrating, because she’s just exactly as beautiful now as she was then. Same thing with my skinny photo girl.
Maybe I don’t know what it’s like since I’ve always been a big girl.
I’ve never had this slender past to look upon with a combination of pride and shame. Sometimes I’m larger and sometimes I’m smaller, but I don’t harbor any belief I could still pass for 19. The last time I passed for 19 I was probably twelve and a half. Still, if I had photos of myself from that period, I’d probably stick them up.
Just not exclusively. It’s the exclusivity that’s weird.
Is it diet motivation? Coincidence? Blanket self-delusion? Intellectual dishonesty in adorable Swedish frames?
Someone help me understand.