I worry about all sorts of nonsense when it’s about the girls. M would dance (more or less as freely as a witch around a ritual fire) on any and all types of music, jumping around – graciously, but not necessarily rhythmically – and demanding that I make a film of her. And then she would watch herself laughing unstoppably and laugh unstoppably at the images.
I remember the forming of self-consciousness about my image somewhere rather late, when I saw pictures taken of me a year before and I thought I looked really fat on them (I haven’t seen them in years so I cannot check if the impression was correct) – and how come I hadn’t realised it at the time (this would happen around 13-14)*. But this is not about body image – or only partially about body. I also remember being very annoyed, during one of the first dancing/aerobics lessons I took part in, at the fact that the movements I saw in the mirror were helplessly stiff, unwavy, inelegant, which completely stifled any desire to do that again – I may have had fun dancing, but it made me look ridiculous – therefore the self-consciousness won. It took a long time (and often many drinks) to dare to step on a dance floor and enjoy the thing I do, ignoring the potentially unflattering effect it has on my image.
However, although I have said `I` a lot while talking about this, this is not about me. It is about the fact that there is no record of me moving as a child – it was all before the time of recording every step, at least on my side of the curtain – and that it was a good thing, because I had all these years of feeling great about the world and myself. So I look at the girls and I wonder if the possibility they now have of being confronted with how they appear on so many more photographs and films will make them be self-conscious at a younger age. Or will it make them immune, because they will know how they appear from the outside all the time and they won’t get to be spooked one day by the spectre of the ridiculous? Will the fact that they will interact on the Internet with people who judge them immediately, as on fora, make them more wary of speaking their minds than when there were only our parents to state that something we said was stupid? Or will it teach them to weigh what they say more carefully and how to get respect from people by finding the right tone?
I’m not an `innocence preserved at all costs` ideologist, but I do worry – because none of this has anything to do with whether you are canonically beautiful `enough`, graceful `enough`, woman `enough` or even intelligent `enough` – you may be much of those things and still be held back all the time from the things that make you happy by your self-consciousness. Just as you may be smart and still worry that someone will crush your carefully built utterance with the terrifying weapon of making it sound ridiculous. And while the feeling of ridiculousness has its very important part to play in checking our behaviours, I am terrified in this Disney princesses – skinny teenagers – everybody speaks at the same time and wears the same sneakers – world. It’s probably very similar in essence with our own, and the girls will adjust just fine, but I would so like them to feel comfortable in their own skins…
* –Little did I know that it would, from then on, only be the other way round – always being dissatisfied with your appearance at a particular time and, a couple of years later, being surprised by your own pictures.