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This Is Not A Selfie (TINAS). This is not a selfie but it is part of my wellness practice. The fancy light leaks come from randomizing a retro camera app. In random mode the app mixes together elements like old film (grainy or damaged), crappy equipment (think 1970s plastic-matics), dirt, scratched lenses, etc. You never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s awful; sometimes it’s lovely. This one had a little bit of everything and it still came out lovely.

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Obviously taken before I got so mad.

As promised after my Passion frag, I am returning to my self-portrait practice. I feel rather defiant about this because my face is changing. I don’t mean my skin, I mean the shape of my face is changing. It is consistent with the change I’ve seen in the faces of aging relatives. No one escapes it. No one is immune. Fat or skinny, healthy or not, everyone in the paternal gene pool ends up with this particular face shape as they age. There is nothing I can do about it. It is completely genetic. I can’t stop it or fix it with any kind of remedy or adjustment. This is simply what happens in my family.

Most people dread wrinkles. I always said I’d much rather have the wrinkles than the dreaded family face change but I don’t get to choose. This is the luck of the genetic draw. My face has already begun to change and a return to self-portraits means confronting that change. The practice becomes loving the face I’ve got now, not the face I used to have, and certainly not some face I don’t have, never had, or can’t have. And I will never consider plastic surgery or any kind of chemical or interventional treatment to correct, enhance, restore, etc., so put your hand down. That’s not love. It is not wellness.

My face does not need to be corrected. My face does not need to be artificially enhanced. My face does not need to be restored. My face has done nothing wrong. 

This is touching a nerve. A throbbing, swollen, angry nerve. A post like this has probably been coming for a while now. There is only so much pressure one can take, even a wellness enthusiast. I am enthusiastically vexed that every other image or message is one of war on the aging process.

I am fed all the way up with the constant harassment to look younger. I’m so sick of this on behalf of women of all ages. I believe it is unethical and abusive to coerce a woman into believing she should look younger — EVER — at any age. A woman’s skin should be allowed to look the age it has achieved. So should a woman’s eyes, hair, belly, breasts, hands, ass, everything. Women should be allowed to look their age in goddamn peace. Suggesting that a woman correct herself into looking younger is every bit as offensive as suggesting she correct herself into looking thinner. Or for that matter, looking anything other than how and what she is.

Women have been poisoned with this unrelenting pressure for at least 100 years and in 100 years all we have succeeded in doing is making women miserable, distorting what they believe is necessary (or even possible) and convincing them they must alter, torture, correct, and even disfigure themselves because it is some kind of crime to look their ages. AT EVERY AGE. Every day I am alive I am harassed to look younger — to want to look younger — and it is BULLSHIT.

NO.

I refuse. I will not try to look younger. I will not want to look younger. I will not allow anyone to convince me that is reasonable or even sane to vilify my age or its natural appearance. Why do I need to deceive the world as to my age? What is to be gained by this? I should convince people that I’m younger than I truly am for what purpose? So that people will think I’m more attractive? This is not why people think I’m attractive. This is not how attraction even works, dumbass.

We’ve managed to reckon with fat-shaming. That’s a thing now and we are evolving accordingly. But age-shaming? Still going strong. I’m supposed to be ashamed of my age? Hide it? Camouflage it? Why? Aging is not a fucking flaw, people. Nor is it a defect. Not a failure. Not a dishonor or a disgrace. Stop marketing age-defying shit to me. I don’t want to defy my age. My age and I are not in conflict with each other; it is a natural condition of my existence. Stop suggesting I style my hair or face for no other good reason than to appear younger. I’m not playing the part of a younger woman here. I have no need to fool anyone.

A return to self-portraits is clearly activating the anger and resentment compounded over 40 years of enduring the same harassment day in and day out. I’m obviously ankle-deep in a personal backlash against a world that won’t let me be. Won’t let any woman wear the stripes she’s earned or smile with the face passed down to her. I’m beyond pissed off (in case you couldn’t tell). This is why a practice which includes emotional wellness matters.

Maybe next I time come here with TINAS I won’t be so angry. Maybe it will take more TINAS.

— Mercy

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