Little. Yellow. Different.
Those of us above a certain age may recognize those words as a slogan from a late 80s commercial for Nuprin. (Travel back in time here.) I can't decide if I'm amazed, weirded out, or slightly brainwashed, but that is what I thought of when I read the photo prompt for today.
There is some irony in the fact that I remember a commercial for ibuprofen years before I joined the Navy, injured my shoulders, and began a ridiculous regimen that occasionally surpassed several thousand milligrams of the painkiller per day. It's like this marketing bug stuck with me almost knowing I would have a long-term relationship with the medication.
Fortunately, it has been quite a while since I've had to turn to prescription strength ibuprofen, and I'd like to think that my reconstructive surgery in 2011 has helped that, but that still doesn't drive me in a direction for the day's photography.
Thinking to myself that I need to take a picture of something different was like trying to isolate my favorite droplet of water in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia Beach. So I shifted my perspective and thought that, instead of taking a picture of something different, I should take today's picture differently.
With my trusty pocket pal, the Samsung Galaxy SII, I went for the special effects.
FLOTUS at the Mandela memorial, to the horrible trend of funeral selfies, and extreme selfies, shooting my own just felt right.
Here's one with flash.
I don't look at myself in a negative light as often as I used to twelve, fifteen years ago, but I can say with confidence that now, even in a negative light, I like what I see. I see the highlight of light in the corners of my mouth and I think about how my braces in my sophomore and junior years of high school helped me literally mold the smile I have today. I notice the frames that frame my eyes, and think about how grateful I am to see.
(sidebar: I just searched my blog for what I thought was a post about me getting my eyeglasses in the sixth grade, but to no avail. What I thought was a blog post was a section from my unfinished NaNoWriMo book Juliet's Window.)
I see my hair and I think that, nearly ten years after separating from the military, I still prefer to keep it pretty short. If it gets long enough to touch the inside of my earlobe, it freaks me out. I see my clean shaven face, and I think of all the bartenders and servers that look at my when they card me, telling my I've got a baby face.
Spring semester, 2006, I dove into my first acting class at DVC, Beginning Acting with Beth McBrien. On this particular day she led us through an exercise that had everything to do with seeing yourself. Scanning. In the Arena Theatre, we all got out of our seats and partnered up with someone else in the class. Standing less than two feet from Mario, someone that became one of my closest friends while at DVC, we took turns scanning.
I went first, speaking what I saw. Truthfully, honestly, and openly. I see two eyes. I see brown hair. I see a nose, I see you smiling. I see you blinking. It goes on for several minutes. Observing and speaking about it has never been difficult for me. I'm observant and I like to speak my mind truthfully. But then it was time to switch. And as he looked at me, I stood there, on the stage of the Arena Theatre, surrounded by the other pairs in the class, and was scanned. He spoke what he saw, and I stood there silently. I tried to smile through it. I probably started laughing at one point. But as he continued to look and kept commenting and observing and telling me exactly what he saw, I couldn't take it. I ran up the stairs into the hallway and the flood gates opened. In a ball, sitting on the cement in the cool hallway, I was a complete mess. At first I couldn't understand what had caused this emotional outburst. We were just participating in a simple beginning acting class exercise. I kept my head down, but as my classmates walked out at the end of class, they all knew I had been sobbing. Not crying. Not weeping. Sobbing.
After everyone had left, Beth had came outside, and she had invited me back inside to talk. I had told her I had no idea why this exercise had such a drastic affect on me, and without prodding, she assured me that if something as "simple" as scanning could evoke such a high level of emotion, I held in my person such a powerful fuel that actors covet. Later on, I realized what this exercise reminded me of--hearing what someone saw in me in such a brutal truth. But it wasn't in a classroom, and it wasn't in the name of art. It took me a while to be ok with scanning, but once I got past being so defensive (usually with laughter, which was--well, still is--a defense mechanism) I learned that the simple act of seeing, observing, and sharing in a truthful, honest manner, is the most direct connection you can share with someone. Over time I learned that that doesn't just apply in theatre. Sure, theatrical acting was the focus, but it's also an integral piece of professional acting (because, let's face it, even though we aren't all thespians, we're all acting to some extent on the stage we call the workplace), as well as social interacting (you don't talk to grandma the way you talk to your favorite bartender...or maybe you do).
So yeah. I see myself. I see myself in a different light because I've acknowledged that I see myself. And a lot of that has to do with what other people see. Not to say that how I feel about myself is based entirely on how people view me, there's a balance in consideration or ignoring those views, but how I see myself has so much to do with awareness. And what I do with that awareness has helped me see myself in a positive light, whether or not the filter through which I'm being viewed is negative.
So thank you, Beth McBrien, my partner Mario, and beginning acting class for detonating the first blast in the years of sedimentary insecurities. Thank you, art, for allowing me to see myself in a way that will go beyond the theatre doors. And thank you, childhood experience, for rooting yourself so deep within myself that a simple harmless act of someone telling me that I have brown eyes and freckles on my skin could force me to run out a classroom that simply encouraged us to embrace art within ourselves.
If it were not for all this, I would be exactly the same as I was years ago. Heavily guarded. But I'm not. I'm much smarter, or rather, aware, of who I am. And I love that I'm different.