My top front teeth are a little snaggly. They’re perfectly lovely and healthy, but they just grew in at like a 13 degree angle to the rest of them. Every time I look at a picture of myself where I’m smiling wide, I wonder if people can see just how crooked they are.
Once, I was at a conference where a photographer was hawking his wares. Not only would he take a professional photo of participants at a “conference special” price, he would enhance the photos for free. To show me what he meant, he took my picture to demonstrate just how good it could look. Gone were the purplish circles under my eyes that you can see in pictures of me from as far back as the Nixon Administration. My skin was preternaturally smooth and tan. And my teeth, people, my teeth… it looked like I’d had the full Angelina Jolie treatment at an expensive dental cosmetic surgeon. Gleaming. White. Straight.
The effect was incredibly creepy.
It wasn’t a picture of me, really, but of a distant relation who’d spent a lifetime as an anchor at a local TV station. I noticed other things too: not a hair out of place, no wrinkles in my shirt. It was supposed to be me, but better. Instead it looked like Franken-Me.
We are used to “perfection” in the images we see. Post-pregnancy bellies look radiant and sag-free on the covers of magazines proclaiming, “Six Weeks After Baby: How She Got a Rocking Post-Bump Body” with the starlet of the moment looking hot and tan, not sleep deprived and sad. Actresses we’ve grown up with are touted as “still smoking at 50!” with their faces looking strangely smooth, which they attribute to olive oil and runs on the beach, not the wonders of Photoshop. We are sold a fantasy and spend a lifetime trying to live into it, reviling the reality we see around us.
That’s why it made me particularly sad that today, on my Facebook feed, I got an ad for an app that would allow me to “tune” my face. Quaint and distant are the days when we had to go to a photographer to get our Better Selves in a picture: now we can do it from the comfort of our own iPhones. What’s more, it’s not just our professional pictures that can be tuned, but our “selfies,” those self-portraits that are supposed to represent us in casual moments. Our images must be managed at all times, not just sprayed and tanned and slimmed, but also Photoshopped to match the unreality of the images we see around us.
I am not worried for me – there will be no Facetuning happening in my life. I have come to accept my snaggle-teeth (although, full disclosure, at times I still fantasize about Invisalign). But I do wonder what it will mean for my kids and their peers to grow up in a world where the rejection of their real selves is so absolute. If the Instagram generation feels that even their selfies need tuning, what else is left? How much self-rejection can we take and still feel whole?
Don’t tune your face, please, dear lovelies. Love it instead.