I’m on Facebook totally against my will. That’s right, someone tied me up and duct-taped me to a chair and took me by the hair and bashed my face into the keyboard such that the combination of keystrokes actually connected me to a browser which navigated over to facebook.com and then signed up up and added all my personal information, including my current location and former high school. It was a very terrible experience, and I don’t want to talk about it any more.
However I got there, the end result is that I am on Facebook (along with my mother, which is just bizarre. Hi, mom!) and I generally try to ignore it. I have only recently discovered the capability that allows you to ignore all requests that involve tossing goats and beating people with noodles and checking to see how compatible you are, movie- and favorite-kind-of-duck-wise, and that was a relief because it was very exhausting, going to my page and discovering that 149 people wanted to punch me in the face with a Triscuit or something, and not really knowing how to respond–I tried, but it got confusing. Windows! Opening up! Do I want them to access my personal information? Can we add a widget? Can we change the fabric of space-time? Do you know who your real father is? How many people do you want to notify that you’ve been adopted? Exhausting.
What Facebook has done for me, however, is bring back the past in glorious, surround-sound technicolor. You and your friends can upload pictures to albums, and then if you are in any of those pictures, you can get tagged. Suddenly there is a proliferation of photos of me, all tagged with my name and a link back to my page, and an email in my inbox–this person has tagged you in a photograph! I always go to see the photograph. Since I have not been photographed recently (I am reclusive like J.D. Salinger, only with less critical acclaim), these are all old photographs of me–very old. The oldest so far is from 1999, directly out of college or thereabouts.
It’s a picture of me at my very first job’s Christmas party–we are all of us grouped up in one big cozy hug, all snuggly and wildly, outrageously drunk. It’s a crowded picture, so it took me a moment to find myself, but there I am, in the right-hand corner. I’m the big girl with the long dark hair, leaning over the tiny little redhead. The difference in size between us is kind of comical–Lori was very short, very slender. In this picture, it is hard to recognize myself, but there I am and that is my face, and I am smiling and happy and pretty, and that was a very good night, I remember. That was my face, in 1999. That was the face I used to have, the face that I thought I have in my head. That’s me, and how I present myself to the world, right there, right?
Look–people I meet, who eventually find out that I used to be a lot heavier and have many more pounds on me, tell me no, no way. That can’t be true, that is not possible. I cannot picture you with more pounds than you have got. And that’s just because when you meet someone, the way they are and look and act, that is the reality of that person that you carry with you. There is no past to compare it with–this version here is the base, the starting point from which all future yous will be compared.
But I have a very long history of having been fat, and, I thought, a very clear idea in my head of what I had looked like then, with the building blocks of a clear idea what I look like now, happening. Except that I look at these photographs and do not recognize myself at all–and it’s not my size, my shape, my weight. It’s as if the contours of my face have changed entirely, as if my head has been remolded like Jell-O with stuff in, as if I was a Real Doll with a detachable, swappable skull. My face–an integral part of my identity–is entirely different. Can the weight really have made that much of a difference? My nose is so much more prominent, now. Sharp and…let’s say dramatic. And less wide–did I have fat in my nose? My chin is knobby, and I have what might pass for cheekbones. There’s my jawline, defined and angled instead of soft and sweet. My eyes seem larger. My head seems longer, and less round. My face has changed and it’s freaking me out. That picture doesn’t look like the me, at all. That’s not me, at all.
Of course, it’s not surprising. I’ve lost a lot of weight, and some of that weight will have come from my head. My body has changed–why not everything above my neck? I have one of these old photographs printed out on my desk, and I keep looking at it, because I cannot get over this, and want so desperately to reconcile my old self with my newer. I want a straight through-line, a clear and logical procession, a link to the past. I want to see myself in this picture, and I am struggling.