Confession time: I used to take near-daily photobooth portraits of myself. Not the fancy kind that are developed while you wait, but the iPhoto kind. It was a habit that began with my entrance into the land of all-white computers and has since tapered off to a rare, necessity bound activity.
I don't show most of these photos to anyone. They live on my hard drive anonymously, where I have them stashed for the nights when I get nostalgic for old haircuts. I peruse the ones from my first months of college when I miss my shaved head. I dig through the mohawk and Manic Panic phases to remind myself that I can always just say "fuck it" and look as strange as I always feel.
But more recently, I've been digging through them looking for appropriate head shots for writing situations. I have a new editing gig, which means writing a bio for the staff page, and finding a picture to offer up to my editor in chief as my personal internet thumbnail. My hair changes length, style, and color so frequently that this is one of the things I hate the most about living out my writing life publicly. If I send one of the recent blonde pictures, it won't look like me. If I send the shot from the weekend post head-shave, it won't look like me. Go too far back into the archive and piercing and tattoos disappear one by one. I get too pale, too tan, too round in the face, too made up, too wildly dressed, too comfortable to lay around PJs all day. Every picture is just too much of something.
The most infuriating thing about this practice is that none of the pictures looks quite like how I see myself. No matter what, the picture I choose will be somehow inaccurate. The one I've dug up for my new editorial bio is a little old, but perhaps one of my favorites buried in the archive. I am dressed up for Halloween at the retail store I worked at during my last semester of college. My costume that year was the Angel of Death. I cropped the giant goth wings out of the image. The black lipstick is a little faded, and seems more like a burgundy than full on onyx. I have yet to stretch my ears. If the frame was wider, I'd be missing a few tattoos. But the girl in that photo looks just the way I feel on my strongest, best days: she knows exactly what she is doing and exactly where she needs to be.