I have less than fond memories of the summer of 2020, and I’m sure that’s not unique to me. At the time, COVID-19 had revealed itself to be a much more permanent problem than previously presented, and I was slowly coming to the realization that it may be months (really, over a year) before I could safely see my friends in person again. With school out and my job abroad cancelled, my days had become incredibly monotonous. I lost all motivation to put any real effort into my appearance. I could spend weeks in the same three iterations. Some days, I’d look up and realize I had spent over 12 hours in the same place, doing the same thing, barely interacting with anyone (including my tortoise, Sorbet).
It was on one of these listless early lock-down days that I got an ad on Instagram for some head-wraps and, probably out of sheer boredom, I decided to change up my hairstyle and purchase a few. I had to watch three tutorials just to get the knot right, but once I had the blue scarf secure, my reflection surprised me. I looked cute. I looked different. In hindsight, I realize that it wasn’t the headscarf per se but rather creating variety in my appearance where there was monotony and stagnation that really enchanted me. For the first time in months, I was excited by myself.
In hindsight, I realize that it wasn’t the headscarf per se but rather creating variety in my appearance where there was monotony and stagnation that really enchanted me. For the first time in months, I was excited by myself.
So, of course I had to take some pictures. First was the arm outstretched standard selfie. When I got tired of the limited frame and posing options, I propped up my iPhone camera with my bathroom sink, rushing to get in position before the ten-second timer went off. With those pictures a success, I had to try the scarf with different clothes, different makeup, and in different rooms. I lost track of time trying all different kinds of poses and filters. And when I was no longer satisfied with the limited filters on the iPhone, I downloaded some editing apps and tried a whole new set of layouts, collages, and borders.
I believe there is something special in curating yourself, spending time with your image and playing with your appearance. I choose to post some of my favorite photos to Instagram or share in a group chats, but even more still are just for me, things I can look back on and be reminded of how I was present with myself on a specific day: I actually look really nice in that sweater; that lipstick was a fun color; this pose made me feel feminine and powerful; that’s the first time I tried that hairstyle.
I believe there is something special in curating yourself, spending time with your image and playing with your appearance.
Over a year into the pandemic, I have taken many more photos. Lock-down did not suddenly become less isolating, I did not suddenly stop missing my friends or wishing that my sister didn’t move states for work. But I did start paying attention to myself again, tuning into the simple joy and autonomy of self-expression. I’m almost embarrassed to say that it took twenty-one years and a global pandemic to truly understand how my image can be something just for me, something I can mold and manipulate on my own time for my own pleasure.
So, I invite you to be your muse. Take photos with your hair in that style you never thought to try. Draw yourself like a Margaret Keane painting. Do your makeup like you’re the newest cast member on Euphoria. Stand still in front of the mirror and let yourself smile. Or just let yourself be. You are the only person on earth who will always be able to see you. You may be surprised by the kind of conversations you can have with yourself through the lens of a camera.