a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Erika and the Man With the Red Beard

Posted on: November 20, 2014

Since January 2, 2014 I have taken a picture of myself almost every single day. I’ve posted these pictures; sometimes flattering, sometimes not so flattering to my Instagram account. With the majority of the year behind us, only two of us remain under the hashtag #selfieaday2014. Me and a guy with a large, reddish beard, aka Red Beard Guy.

There are other daily selfie hashtags on Instagram, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything truly remarkable, but I do love that after screening #selffieaday2014, I’ve watched faces join and leave and now it’s just me and Red Beard Guy. For over 300 days I’ve seen his face. It’s round and freckled. He has a long-ish, narrow nose and his sometimes bespectacled eyes are evenly spaced on his face. He doesn’t have a widow’s peak and his hair seems full, if slightly receding on the sides. He doesn’t appear to have many (any?) tattoos and he seems to enjoy video games, comics, and Nirvana. I have no idea where he lives, if he’s partnered or single. I don’t know his sexual orientation or preference. I don’t know what he does, what makes him happy or what makes him sad.

I sometimes wonder if he wonders about me and I wonder if he continues to take selfies to “win” our own private competition, or if he, like I, have a slightly deeper reason for taking a daily picture.

Initially the reason for doing the #selfieaday2014 was selfish. Like everyone with Facebook I saw, liked and shared the cute viral montages of people who’d taken photographs of themselves daily, documenting their lives or the lives of loved one and I thought I’d give it a try, too.  I was looking for a way to move myself forward in this social-media obsessed world I’ve built around myself and my blog and who I am as “Black, Gay and Jewish.” I thought I would do my own photo collage at the end, I’d make a video and write a self-indulgent post about how amazing it was to “discover” who I was through my own eyes after taking my own photo every day for one year.

And then Patrice died. And then I lost my job. And then we went through a year of fertility treatment, tried to get pregnant 4 times and failed four times. And I had fertility surgery. And then we moved across the country, leaving everything we knew behind.

And through it all I kept taking selfies, and while it still feels really embarrassing and still quite self-involved, it felt important.

I wonder if it’s the same for Red Beard Guy. When I’m feeling more voyeuristic, I’ll click back through his selfies and he, like me, sometimes doesn’t post much about the day or why the selfie is being taken. And on other days, he’s incredibly honest and vulnerably open with his current situation or state of mind. Sometimes I’m taken aback and worry about him, and then I’m reminded that the reason I, too, am taking pictures through streaming tears, puffy eyes and blank stares is because I want to be honest.

A few weeks ago I posted on Facebook the current state of affairs of my new life in Seattle. I prefaced it with something to the effect of not “Facebook-happying” and wanting to be “honest.” I told my truth. The move sucked, absolutely nothing went right and while I could keep posting pictures of our road trip or plaster a smile on my face. I was tired of lying and I wanted to tell the truth. And after I told the truth I got votes of confidence from friends appreciating my honesty on a social platform built on illusions of happiness. I also got really concerned phone calls of worry, which I’m sure were meant to be in comfort, but they felt like I’d done something that had made someone else uncomfortable. I always wonder why it is that we’re more comfortable to like happiness than it is to reach out to people when they’re at their lowest points in their life. There’s another post about social media “happying” but I’ll stop for now.

Last night I did calculations and realized that even if I continue to take a selfie for the rest of the year, I’ve missed 15 days and there are 39 days left in the year. I had big plans for myself this year; goals and things I wanted to prioritize, but life and death side tracked most of my aspirations. As slightly pathetic as this next sentence is, doing #selfieaday2014 feels like the thing I’m most proud of this year.

 

 

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