My Face On The Internet
I’ve been trying to keep my face off the internet, to shield it from the prying eyes of identity thieves and the malevolent Photoshop skills of pornographers. But I’ve decided to stop being so paranoid. Nobody’s gonna photoshop a dog’s dick in my mouth, and if they do, who cares? I should be flattered.
But I want to take things slow, Internet. We’re still getting to know each other. I don’t want to go from faceless to full frontal all at once. So here’s a glimpse of Ethan Ryan as a young man, smiling at the camera, in the midst of thinking his six-year-old thoughts.
My face has 43 muscles, 14 bones, one facial nerve, and about a square foot of skin. Two eyes, a nose, and a few moles. Occasional zits that come and go like unwanted houseguests. Styes on my eyelids if I don’t get enough sleep. Crows feet. Bugs Bunny buckteeth. Bushy brows. Prominent chin. White skin, although not really, since in Adobe Fireworks white is #FFFFFF, whereas my skin is more like #E3C8AD. Out of a 96 pack of Crayola Crayons, my face would be Desert Sand, or maybe Piggy Pink.
My face is made up of 48 duodecillion atoms. That’s a guesstimate. If all those atoms were turned into atom bombs, my face would really mess sh-t up.
My face is normal, average. It might even under some circumstances be considered above average. Like if I were to post a picture on hotornot.com, and if that picture were taken in natural light, at sunset, with a very shallow depth of field, and my face was turned at a quarter profile, looking away from the camera, not smiling, I might get a rating of 6.7.
Is it possible to paint a self portrait with words? How do blind people see themselves, when they touch their own faces with their fingers?
Some Native American tribes believed cameras could steal your soul. Crazy Horse, one of the most famous Native Americans, never allowed his picture to be taken, even while on his deathbed. Today’s secular, technocapitalist Americans generally scoff at those silly Indians for fearing snapshots, but the indigenous belief that cameras are soul thieves is just as strange as the modern belief that cameras can violate one’s right of publicity by appropriating one’s personal likeness for commercial exploitation. If he were alive today, Crazy Horse would not take kindly to the paparazzi.
According to Wittgenstein, “The face is the soul of the body.”
Many Muslim women veil their faces with the niqab because they believe a woman’s face is awrah, or an intimate body part that must be covered. The niqab is a controversial piece of clothing. Some Muslim women consider wearing it in public to be obligatory. But I’m not a Muslim woman, so I only wear my niqab when I’m masturbating.
On The Dead Weather song “Blue Blood Blues,” Jack White sings, “I only got one face da da da da / I tried too long to erase.” I can listen to that song on repeat for hours.
Susan Sontag says, “In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe.” She also says, “By furnishing this already crowded world with a duplicate one of images, photography makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is.” Basically everything I’m trying to say here Sontag already said more eloquently in On Photography.
I usually hate how I look in pictures, my face frozen in a stunned smile. I can be engaged in the most serious, intellectual conversation, but the second someone whips out a camera and says “Cheese!” I’m instantly transformed into a redfaced, grinning moron.
But I like this picture. It has a nice composition, with the lawn triangulating toward my mischievous smirk and bright eyes. I feel protective of this little boy, and maybe a little envious. His family’s all together, living under the same roof. When he’s not at school he’s playing with his friends, or in his room reading comics. The future’s a big strange thing that he’s in no rush to see. He’s lucky.
Of course, the subject of the picture above might not be me at all. Maybe I found a photo in a book I bought at the Salvation Army and used it as a writing prompt. Maybe that mysterious boy died long ago. Maybe he’s extinct, like the triple-horned dinosaur signified on his T-shirt.
Everything I write is fiction, even when it’s not.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”