Sunday, 2 September 2012

Motherhood: Airbrushed (in which you get to see some hideous photos of me)

Last week, I had cause to dig out my headshot, which I use to accompany features when I'm writing.  Want to see?



I'm totally hot, right?  Do you hate me?  Well, don't.  For a start, it was taken by a professional (my lovely friend Ian whose arm I sometimes twist into taking photos to illustrate my work).  Also, it is airbrushed to buggery.  Oh, it's me alright, and it's not a poor representation, but the exhaustion and eye bags have magically been whisked away.  It's how a nostalgic ex might remember me when wearing his slightly rose tinted glasses.  It is a far cry from the woman who spends Working From Home Wednesday banging out articles whilst eating a Mr Freezey ice pop and wearing a paint splattered Jon Spencer Blues Explosion hoody and PJ bottoms.  Nobody wants to see that.

Want to see my house now?




Charming.  Utterly charming.  Country cottage?  Ideal Home exhibit?  No. 1950s ex council semi with bits falling off it that generally looks more like this:





The only bit of photoshopping I did on that was the big yellow star to cover up my son's naked bottom.  Classy.

So, what's my point?  Well, that it's easy to put a picture perfect, airbrushed view of your life on the internet for all to see.  I could write a home style/family life blog if I wanted to - you know - all instagrammed cupcakes and charming bashed up painted furniture and barefoot children frolicking in the leaves.  Me And all my ants.  (How hard can it be to remove some ants via photoshop?)  I just prefer not to because, as nice as those things are to read, they don't half leave you feeling like shit about your life.  Because in real life, toddlers draw on cushions with felt tip pens and smear jam down the walls.  They have a crust of unwiped food around their mouths and there's plastic V-Tech crap cluttering up every surface.  And God, Mummy needs an eyebrow wax and her roots doing. 

Now, suppose - just suppose - that the people who write those sort of things don't live like that all the time.  Maybe they have a bit of wallpaper held up with Pritt Stick where their child yanked it off too.  Maybe there's a stain on their ceiling where the tin of condensed milk exploded when they were turning it into caramel on the stove to make millionaire's shortbread (er, just me?).  Because it's incredibly easy to airbrush real life out and only show what you want to these days.

I decided to put this to the ultimate test.  Do I have photographic evidence of me looking the worst I've ever looked in my life?  Damn right I do.  No sleep for 48 hours, 30 hours of serious pain, a heart problem, a chest infestion, losing God knows how many pints of blood all over the delivery room floor, a pair of enormous forceps and  what felt like several hundred stitches.  Yet still someone took a photo of me a few hours afterwards (and made me hold the baby when all I was capable of doing was dropping it).  I wanted to kill them with a stick.



Please don't make me hold the baby. I quite want to die.  I am terrified of the baby.  I don't think there is any blood left in my body, I am traumatised from the pain, I haven't slept and if I could actually stand up without being in searing agony I would do a runner. Also, you are never comning near me again, partly because I'm traumatised (did I mention that?), partly because I've been sliced open and stitched up where one should never be sliced and stitched and partly because I'm pretty sure something prolapsey is happening down there.

Isn't motherhood beautiful?

Now here's what 10 minutes of novice faffing on www.picmonkey.com did for my post birth self:


Here I am, fresh from labouring in a field of wheat. I did a small cough and the baby popped out onto a bed of rose petals.  I have never felt better.  I think I'm one of those earth mother types.  Now, how about some lovely sex once this little one's fallen asleep, or maybe some waterskiing.

Yes, I even airbrushed out my baby's forcep mark.  That's how easy it is to fake a perfect birth.

Cut to about 10 days later.  I had now barely slept for nearly 2 weeks.  I was still seriously anaemic and my face was still a lovely shade of mottled grey.  I don't know when I'd last washed my hair or got dressed.  Richard took this photo of me when I fell asleep with Rory on our bed after feeding him.  I kind of like it because of the cute matching hands on stomachs.  What I don't like is my face and how ill I look, oh, and the unmistakeable shape of a crumpled breastfeeding pad under my top.  (Please note: The relatively flat, stretchmark free stomach is 100% un-airbrushed.  I don't care if you're jealous; I had an awful pregnancy, a barbaric birth and a baby who didn't sleep through the night until he was two and a half.  I deserved that post partum stomach).



It's definitely photoshop o'clock.



Much better.  Yes, I gave my newborn baby a virtual spray tan. What are you going to do about it?

I can even make myself go from 39 weeks pregnant water retaining barrage balloon to flat stomached virgin holding an invisible beach ball with just a few clicks of the mouse. Look:





I hope that has demonstrated to you how easy it is to fake the perfect house, the perfect skin, the perfect life.  Just remember this: If it's that easy to make your photographs put a different message across, it's even easier to lie with words.  What you see (and read and even hear) might not be 100% the truth.  In fact, there might only be 3% truth in it and a lot of artistic airbrushing of the facts.  That style blogger who always looks perfect?  She probably slobs around in an ancient pair of gym tracksuit bottoms and her husband's t-shirt like the rest of us.  The home educator who seemingly devotes her life to the education of her children?  She watched Jeremy Kyle this morning and left the kids in front of CBeebies while she pottered around on Facebook for an hour earlier.  Even the perfect mother you see at playgroup every week who never seems to get anything wrong or have a hair out of place might be struggling with PND or an unsupportive partner behind the scenes.  So take their ideas, friendship and inspiration, but lets leave the feelings of inadequacy well alone, shall we?

And from now on, this is the only sort of photo editing I want to see:





32 comments:

  1. This is just awesome! Love it.

    PS Rory is rocking that moustache!

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  2. "The home educator who seemingly devotes her life to the education of her children? She totally watched Jeremy Kyle this morning and left the kids in front of CBeebies while she pottered around on Facebook for an hour earlier. "

    Who? Me? ;-)

    PS Would love to see the JSBX hoody actually.....

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    1. Yes, you. Tut. get off the internet and educate that child. ;-)

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  3. You are a total hero! There ARE too many twee, holier than thou blogs around. My god, we can try to make our kids lives like something from Enid Blyton- all Ginger beer and cake making, and going for healthy walks. In reality they want a can of coke and an afternoon on the Wii!
    I carry guilt around by comparing- and you just absolved me!

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    1. Thank you so much for saying what so many of us are thinking! I am so tired of reading about blackberry picking and pond dipping from some of my friends, as if by creating some kind of idyllic storybook childhood our children will turn out to be polite, perfectly behaved and full of social graces which of course reflects on us, the parents! Yeah, right! They'll still blame us for everything when they hit their teens anyway ;)

      I love this blog and I can absolutely relate! Thank you!

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  4. You just made me feel a whole lot better about myself too :) Good job!

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  5. Wise words, and so refreshing. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. I love you! I Love your messy house and I LOVE this blog! You just made me feel so much better about life and my bingo wing arms I just saw in a FB bridesmaid photos!

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    Replies
    1. By "messy" I mean - real/lived-in/just like mine? Just realised that could be offensive.

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  7. Fantastic blog piece. I'm now following you (of course!). I'll have to look at photoshop-ing all my photos as I've never liked the dark rings under my eyes ;-)

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  8. I like all of the non-photoshopped pictures A LOT. And the word "vigin"

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  9. Hilarious... And how true! My husband is a photographer so i tend to look like my better looking younger sister most of the time in photos *dies of shame*

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  10. Just brilliant!
    The only thing missing is a pair of slightly wonky drawn-on glasses on the last photo...
    xlovehazelx
    via Twitter

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  11. Thank you for being so honest and fabulous and realistic. It's easy to get stuck in this silly pretence of life all being rosy and fluffy and wonderful when the real world isn't like that and we'd all get along much better if we admitted that to each other and ourselves.
    You're brill.

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  12. You totally took this post right out of my mind! Love it!!!! By the way, photoshopped or not photoshopped, I still think you look fab!!!!
    x

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  13. I don't think I've looked good in a single photo since I was a toddler.
    I'd use photo shop but that's just fake / I can't be arsed to learn how to use it.

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  14. Oh my God. I actually think I love you. After having a pretty shitty week (ok most of bloody Summer) you have made me laugh and made me feel so much better all in one go. I read lots of blogs that just make you feel sooo inadequate about everything and for a PND nutcase like me it's really not helpful ; )
    I shall just read yours instead
    Heidi x

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    Replies
    1. I came across one yesterday that made me feel like the most ugly, useless troll ever to walk the earth. I KNOW it's all airbrushing (of photos, events and life in general), but it still gives me that horrible inadequate feeling even though I know.

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  15. Hi. I just came across this after reading your Listography post. This is great! I have often thought of posting pictures of my house on my blog, the 'perfect' one taken from a judicious angle which makes it look like my house is nice and tidy, and the real one taken showing the entire room, which looks more like, er... your loungeroom...
    Great post - thanks!

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  16. Thank you thank you thank you.... Made me laugh and feel lots better for not being perfect :-)

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  17. Great post! Just found you today from your reply on athriftymrs blog. Love your humour and am now going to have a good look at the rest of your blog. Thanks for cheering up my Monday morning.

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  18. ok, I'm several many years down the line. I actually did blackberry-picking, home-spun, lentil weaving wholesome stay at home yummy shit for 4 years. They sipped fizzy water and apple juice as a special treat. They were taught french at preschool. We made olive bread together. My sons are teens now with serious Coke (pepsi) habits, they do not leave their rooms unless it is to raid house for meat products or to go and buy crisps. They play computer games mostly all the time and they cannot remember ANY of the pond-dipping excursions :) I love your house, it looks like mine. Only tidier. . . . we are all just doing the best we can, trying to come out with a sense of humuour, some sanity and maybe even a sex life still in tact :D x

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  19. Brilliant - I don't ever edit except to take out house numbers/school uniform badges/full names etc, but I totally have that fireplace effect going in all my shots - as I sweep the detritis from the kitchen table over to one side so that I can take a tidy photo of a pie :D

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  20. Thank you for having me take half an hour off my precious-kid-at-school-time-when-I can finally-do-my-work to read your very funny blog. Love the Spanish post - this sort of thing happens to me too. I once answered an office phone call from someone, shall we say, called Mr Benson. I responded by saying "Mrs Benson speaking, how can I help you?" Now that was on reflection not a misunderstanding, just stupidity on my part I admit. That job didn't last long.

    Photoshop is everything to me. Son came home with class photo with him at front waving and looking gorgeous as usual with a big wide gaping smile. Like the flies on his trousers. Just a quick nip and tuck with the clone button - cheaper and easier than burning down the photographic studio that takes all the school pics. :) Jo

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  21. I think I love you and a million thank yous!

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