Monday, 11 January 2016

Hair and photos

A few years back, I began to notice how positively I respond to seeing someone’s face in association with their online writing. I love it when friends post a photo in their articles – it always speaks to me as much as do the words.

So I began to post selfies to go with what I wrote here. It was, I suppose, a way of showing up; of being here so it might feel the most like a real encounter it could be.

I never gave much thought to what the result of this could be.  But of course, over time, what happened was that an unnervingly large array of photos of me accumulated on the internet, looking disconcertingly different as I got thinner, fatter, more well, less well, happier, sadder, cut my hair, grew my hair . . .

In aggregate ~ strange. I didn’t like it. So I went through the blog getting rid of the pictures of me.

And I have been doing the long, patient trek of growing back my hair. So the photos I have kept in the places where photos are (like my Amazon author central profile, for example, and my profile on here), I’ve chosen a photo from four years ago when I had long hair, and put that on any profiles needing a picture. Because that’s what I’m travelling back to, and I thought if I have that photo for the time being then eventually I’ll catch up with it and become who I am.

Of course, I don’t have control over all photos of me online – some are from interviews or articles about me by other people, and they have whatever photo I gave them at the time – because I never had a studio pic for professional purposes, I’d take a selfie of wherever and however I happened to be just then and send in that. So there’s still a random collection of all these different-looking people that are, oddly, me. But not as many. And some of them will ebb away in time as they fall out of Google’s mind.

I also deleted the post I had about getting rid of xanthelasma, because I have had soooo many responses to that. People write in asking what to do and how to do it, telling me the problems they are encountering in treatment and asking what to do next. Which I don’t mind in itself, but I feel acutely aware that I – who am no kind of health professional – cannot possibly advise someone I don’t know, on the other side of the world, about a condition or reaction I cannot even see. I began to feel uneasy about it, as if this could be irresponsible. So, even though I know it helped a lot of people, I deleted it.

I’m not quite sure why I’m explaining this – maybe in case you ever looked at the photo on my profile and wondered in startlement if I’d managed to wind out my hair like a Tressy doll. Well, I am, but slowly.

And I do think about more sober and profound and spiritual matters than how long my hair is and what pictures of me there are online – but I hope you know that.


Jen said...

Ah Pen! I do understand about image. I like seeing your face on your posts, but understand why you are no longer doing that.

Since I have started wrapping my hair almost full time I feel increasingly incomfortable about my standard image I use. If it doesn't appear on my gravatar you can see it here

Which is actually a professional photo. I love my wrapped self more than unwrapped. I had to do some filming in December and decided to do the filming unwrapped and then cover for the rest of the shooting of other people. Really strange.

Also, I decided to be filmed standing, rather than using my wheelchair, despite always trying to increase diversity in the work that I do. Then I beat myself up for not representing the disabled community.

ACK. Why are these things so difficult.

Pen Wilcock said...

I know. The whole world of public image is a minefield. But like all minefields, it doesn't look like one until you start to cross it.


BLD in MT said...

Oh, we know that.... I think its good to revisit blog posts of years past. I've found places where I've made updates because I am no longer doing a thing the way I had described. Things change. Always.

Pen Wilcock said...


Yes. Part of my love affair with minimalism is the urge to leave no trace behind. I like to light a small fire and cover the ashes as if it had never been there when I move on. Figuratively speaking. If you see what I mean.

A bit like what Carlos Castaneda said:
“I have no routines or personal history. One day I found out that they were no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped them. One must have the desire to drop them and then one must proceed harmoniously to chop them off, little by little. If you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts. It is best to erase all personal history because that makes us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people. I have, little by little, created a fog around me and my life. And now nobody knows for sure who I am or what I do. Not even I. How can I know who I am, when I am all this?”
― Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan

Jen said...

Gosh, I am not sure I could be that minimalist - to have no routines..... or personal history. Although I like the idea of a personal fog. Of course that goes completely against any notion of social media and building an online presence.

Pen Wilcock said...


Well, I think blogging can flow tolerably well with that approach. I think the key word in what you say is 'building'. My own aim is to be present online without building anything - no 'platform', as they call it. So I go back and delete what no longer applies. And I try to be part of what is flowing - river not dam, as it were. A bit taoist. xx

Julie B. said...

I will miss the photo of you with each post, but I too understand. And you have the kind of hair that looks good any way you wear it. :) xoxo

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx Waving!