Day 3 offering. I think I may have written myself into a corner with this one. But the idea still amused me.
She sat back, dumbfounded, staring. The screen flickered and died, she stared so long at her phone. Tapping it to life, she gaped – open-mouthed – at the photo she had just taken. And marvelled at it.
It was perfect. She had managed to take the perfect selfie. The angle of the camera in relation to her chin wiped out any suggestion of a second one hiding underneath. The sunlight streaming in from the bedroom window flooded her complexion with gold, tinting her brown hair with copper and bronze. Her eyes sparkled like gems filled with fire. Her body looked curvaceous – no hint of odd plumpness in her thighs, no suggestion of bony elbows that jabbed like knives.
She looked beautiful. The perfect version of herself.
A couple of fingertip-taps and her selfie was uploaded, online for all the world to see. She changed her profile on every site she had: this would be her new identity, her permanent face from now on. Even when I’m sixty, I’m not changing it! She wondered if she would ever look like this again.
Half an hour – and fifty likes – later, she stretched up from the sofa, setting her phone down on the table. She was a little bored with the beautiful comments pouring in, and needed a break. Besides, it’ll be better to see the number jump after I’ve left it alone for a bit.
She shuffled into the kitchen, scratching at her lower back, and opened the refrigerator door. Glanced over the contents, and settled on the last piece of cheesecake, near to withering in the back. She ate it quickly, from the package with a fork she merely wiped clean on a suspect tea towel, barely tasting any sweetness, trying to ignore the little voice that reminded her of her hips and thighs and how little help they needed to stay that wide. She pottered around, aimless, made a cup of tea, made a half-hearted attempt at cleaning up, then gave up and hurried back to her phone.
One hundred and fifty likes! But it’s only been ten minutes! And I only have 56 friends.
She stared entranced at her selfie, wishing she could always look like that. But she knew that it wasn’t the truth. And it never would be. She sighed, turned on the television, and settled in for another lonely night with Netflix.
Waking with a snort and a start, she half-sat up on the sofa and wiped a trail of drool from her cheek. The tv had switched itself off, the only light in the room from the streetlamps and a winking blue dot on her phone. She ignored it and staggered to the bathroom, her legs numb before the pins-and-needles hit. She winced in the sudden overhead light, keeping her eyes mostly closed while she peed and flushed. She washed her hands, her hair falling forward over her face so she couldn’t see the reflection in the mirror. I don’t want nightmares. But she caught a glimpse of her reflection from the doorway, her hand paused over the light-switch.
Even though her mouth hung open in a most unattractive startled-fish expression, the reflection in the mirror was … perfect. It was a perfect expression of wonder and amazement, and a twin to the selfie she took earlier. The fluorescent lights picked up the copper and bronze in her hair, and her eyes still glimmered like jewels.
She approached the mirror slowly, not wanting to frighten off the vision of loveliness before her. But it stayed. And it smiled at her with confidence. I’m not going anywhere, it seemed to say. She returned the smile. Stay as long as you like. I won’t kick you out for eating crackers in bed.
Oh, how they laughed.
Months passed. And the perfect selfie had become her face. She walked through life with the ultimate confidence, day in and day out. Nothing fazed her, because all she saw was the beauty of herself, shining through every pore. She didn’t settle for second-best anything now, and people seemed to go out of their way to help her succeed. This is what being beautiful does for a person!
Her life had become busy – with work, with colleagues, with friends – and she had little enough time for her online life anymore. The occasional group photo of a debauched night out, or too many drinks on the beach, but she didn’t stalk her own newsfeed like she used to.
It was a bit of a shock, then, when she happened to see that her profile pic – that perfect selfie – was no longer as perfect as she remembered. Her hair had lost most of the copper highlights, and there was a definite thickening around her chin area. She did not run to the nearest mirror, but she did hurry a little. Nope, nothing’s changed here. She inspected every detail of her face, stepping back and stripping to check for any sagging or expansion in her body. Nope, all is still … wait a minute.
She stared into the mirror, but this time she wasn’t looking at herself. She was running through her potted memories of high school and Literature classes at uni. No. It’s not fucking possible.
She ran for her phone, rather than her shelf, and downloaded a copy of Dorian Gray. Knowing the set-up, she skimmed straight to the end, looking for advice on how to avoid the same downfall. The book was no help – oils and canvas don’t even begin to compare to pixels and digital images. She knew that his portrait was hidden from the world, but hers was out there for all the world to see.
She looked at the original selfie on her phone: a few grey hairs had turned up, and wrinkles were beginning to show at the corners of her eyes. Fucking hell! Look at what the shock of this has done to me! She checked her profile pic, and sure enough, everything was changing on it, and the perfection was marred. Everyone who knew her would see her deterioration and … what should she do? If I take it off Facebook, will all that crap land on me instead? If I leave it there, will I stay this way forever?
She tapped to edit her profile, and paused, finger hovering millimetres from the screen.