Note: To avoid confusion, please insert winks liberally.
I don’t love hashtags. I’ll hashtag on Instagram because I have it in my head that it’ll get me followers. I also use it sparingly on Twitter to promote my blog. Wanting followers is something I can easily be real about. (Imagine a hashtag before “be real.”)
But does it count if we’re real only when it comes easily to us? I don’t know the answer, which means maybe I don’t know what it is to be real.
I can’t even comfortably stick a hashtag in here because it conflicts with some image of myself as the cool outlier, the renegade baddy but goody who struts around with a self-authored rulebook.
I’m the girl who doesn’t have any tattoos because everyone has them. (If I had the balls, I’d get sleeves. That’s different.) I text “haha” because I refuse to be an lol-er. I don’t watch reality shows for the same reason I don’t wear fanny packs. And hashtags — I was into them way back for everything other than their function as searchable tags.
Hashtags were my punchlines and subtext. Witness a sampling from 2010-12:
Roads define my existence. Crossroads, roads-less-traveled, roadblocks, off-roads, road trips. A little road rage. #LiteralPlusMetaphorical
I have the answer, I just don’t listen to myself. #ThereinLiesTheProblem
I’m in Sri Lanka shooting a film and outside my hotel window someone keeps practicing “It’s a Small World” on a snake-charmer flute. #NoJoke
Last night I skitched in heels on snow-covered road out the car door, driver did same. Car drove itself. #FunIsNotAlwaysSane
“If you’re not fond of fake,” the commercial says. Meanwhile every commercial exists to pander to your desire for fake/new/other. #WhichOneIsIrony
Anyone else besides me, and apparently all the Asian nations, afraid of the number 4? #SoWhatIGetOneSuperstition
But it’s not for the hashtags that I shared those with you. You want me to be real? OK. I really picked those to say, see how interesting I am, see what a life I lead, check out my brain. Everything I wrote is absolutely true and real. But you don’t see any tweets about me wearing the same sweatpants and watching Dexter for three straight days with a clump of hummus in my hair. That’s real too.
By the time I became active on Twitter again, a popular tweeter set me straight: hashtags were passé. He meant in the old manner, but I developed an all-around allergy to them.
Everything I did on social networks was to coddle my self-image. We all want love, attention and respect. “Follow me, I’m pretty. Follow me, I’m funny. Follow me, everyone else does.” Popularity begets popularity. I had the respect, but I wasn’t so popular. You just can’t be both an outlier and popular. To be popular, you have to conform.
To this day, I’ve resisted starting a Facebook page because I don’t want to conform. But equally because I groan at the work involved to build followers, and in the meantime, I’d be embarrassed at a low number of page “likes.” Pathetic, right? Yet most of us are prey to the same social media bullshit. Especially if we have a blog that we want people to read. It’s exhausting to monitor how “on” we are — intelligent / interesting / funny / badass. But oh, that high we get off of whatever admiration is doled out to us.
So I just don’t know what it means to be real when it comes to the online world. We might share our flaws and failings, and still, it’d be designed to garner admiration for our bravery.
Even if #BeReal were simply referring to physical appearance, is it about unfiltered but carefully-picked selfies?
Is it about our bodies, shortcomings and all? Because if that’s the case, I’ll be real and say, I’m never going to show you a picture of my ass in a bikini in unkind light. I don’t even want to look at it. Instead, I’d find a bright patch of sunlight — the effective “no-filter” filter — and in the picture you’d simply see the tone of my legs and the curve of my buttocks, which might lead you to believe I work out even though I may live like a shut-in.
But the truth? The truth is spider veins on my saddle bags, and a bit of ripply under-butt that’s starting to get harder to act like isn’t there.
“Real” for me means being relieved that I like most of what my genes cooked up for me. It also means admitting I have flaws and calling them flaws. I believe in self-acceptance rather than this movement where we’re supposed to pretend that flaws aren’t flaws but something beautiful. I’m not calling the things that aren’t pretty, pretty, and I’m also not displaying them. A personal choice is valid whether we’re bold and unabashed in the way we present ourselves, or reserved and selective. Neither way is less or more real, because “real” is whatever way we are.
I do have selfies without make-up or filters, which still happen to be flattering — today, I’m not showing you those either. That’s because being real means even though my worst shortcomings are off-limits, I’m not playing the compensation game by selecting the good-bad picture of me to pass off as an act of courage. That’s the one where I look like a goofball or show my age or the bags under my eyes, but is still flattering because of some brazen or charming aspect.
Today, as much as I want you to see me through my crafted self-image, I’ll admit to you instead that I am vain. I would say I’m working on it, but I haven’t gotten farther than more successfully affecting modesty. At least I’m also kind and intelligent.
Elsewhere of course, I’ll continue to show you those artful selfies. I haven’t stopped wanting followers and people to read my blog. But as vain as I am, it’s my brain I want you to love. For example, I’ve never posted a picture of (just) my cleavage even though I have great boobs. If I made them the star of my show, they might draw thousands of followers. But my damn pride is bigger than my vanity: love my brain, read my words.
And maybe once in a while, I’ll sell out, turn some of you off even as I titillate others of you, and write with no shame about my “rad, natural breasts.”
That’s part joke and part making a point. Also, it’s genuine admiration for my boobs as if they were someone else’s. (Apply winkies.)
Whether in words or pictures, we all have any number of choices in how to present ourselves. Some are easier and others, more impactful. But since all of it is measured, neither gets a greater or lesser stamp of “real.”
In the end, I’m Gunmetal Geisha and me being real means coming here to talk about my sorry-shape ass and “perfect” breasts because I want you to look at me on Instagram, chuckle at me on Twitter, and read me on my blog.
What’s your personal definition of “real”?