Last week at an apartment party in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood on the North side, I whipped out my iPhone 5, told the folks at the gathering to press together, and clicked away. Simple act, happens at least a hundred times a day, and I completed the ritual by posting the picture to my instagram and linking it to my Facebook account. But, before I could put the camera away I heard a friend joke, read, throw a little shade (?) my way and say:
“Watch, tomorrow there will be like five picture of himself up there.”
Yes, guilty as charged, I am a selfie. One of those annoying people who take tons of self-pictures. Declaring to the world that I look good and you know it. This is so true that the same friend had earlier brought up the topic with me; apparently he and another friend occasionally discussed my self-pictures. My narcissism flagged alarm. But, here is the thing:
No one ever asked me, “Why do you take so many selfies?”
I mean, I am not traditionly phine, cute, or awkwardly endearing. I am fat. Daaaaaark. My nose is wide. My hair is kinky ( a biracial friend once used my hair texture to describe to a white stranger what “bad hair” is, apparently any hair that can kink up; mind you, at the time my hair was short, combed, and nap-free but I digress). My eyebrows are not plucked, and I swear my pores are visible. But this is the point.
I live in a world where this is celebrated and attainable:
I could go on, but you get the point. That is beautiful. No argument there; they may all be assembly line phine, but they are each phine. I even fail on quirk level:
now note: I have limited the photos to black men; the reality is that in the GAYme of Trones, white boys tend to be the Lannisters (the most powerful, most often desired, and the ones most likely to toss their beauty privilege around), but I just figured for once we could focus on just us.
I take my selfies because I am that guy who, unless he takes the picture or suggests it, doesn’t get his picture taken. My friend who asked, truthfully had very little right to judge; everyone takes pictures of him, with him, and for him. The same is true of almost all my friends. I live in a world where I didn’t hear someone romantically call me beautiful and desirable till I was 26. I live in a world where either body privilege or race privilege is always against me. So I point my camera at my face, most often when I am alone, and possibly bored, and I click; I upload it to instagram, and I hold my breath because the world is cruel and I am what some would call ugly, but I don’t see it. At first I clicked so I could see what others saw, but I don’t. So now I click and post and breathe, waiting for others to see what I see: beautiful dark skin, Afrika’s son, a dream un-deferred, pretty eyes,and nice lips, and a nose that fits my face; I want them, you, to see that I am human, and there is a reason why I got to this size, but I owe you no explanation or justification for any part of my existence I owe you no explanation or justification for my smile or my swag or my selfie. Hell I didn’t even owe you this.
Like I said, I owe you nothing, but I owe myself everything.