Photo contest: poem about the impact of social media on an older woman’s self-image

Ugly selfie of a normal non-ugly older woman

Ugly selfie of a normal non-ugly older woman

She retired and now she’s on the internet
she’s looking at those photos
of all those gorgeous over-50 women
and she’s looking through her photos
for a photo of herself.
This one is new but she looks so old.
Here she looks nice but the photo is old.
So she take a selfie and she sees
a monstrous lumpy nose
hair you could ride a bicycle through
and wrinkles reflecting the moon.
Somehow it doesn’t look right
it doesn’t look quite the way she feels
or the way she thinks she looks.

She studies older fashion bloggers
and she loves the way they look
so normal and so real
not like models on the catwalk but
like people on TV or in
shopping catalogues.
And she studies the prima donnas
of old age style and loves them too
so bold and operatic
so dazzling and dramatic.

So which is the right look for her?
Normal beauty (as seen on any screen)
or theatrical (like a New York style queen)?
Normal (except she cannot photoshop)
or flamboyant (except of course she’s shy)?

Who is she in the end?
She thought she knew
until she went on Facebook
and her body slumped.

27 thoughts on “Photo contest: poem about the impact of social media on an older woman’s self-image

  1. Jennifer Holdaway says:

    All pretty weird and unreal territory for me too Rachel. It isn’t meant to matter what we look like on the outside but it does a bit. Your look is just the current form of you and has been reassuringly recognisable as Rachel through your life time. You have a young spirit – perhaps that is what you can claim as the ‘you’, and that certainly shows on the outside too. Giving you an extra bounce, a spring in your step and a sparkle in your eyes. You may have missed this. X

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      What an adorable thought. It’s true that a photo freezes and flattens a living breathing moving creature. Thank you so much, Jen. The selfie adds another twist to the conflict between our self concept and our changing bodies. X back

  2. Claudette says:

    Ack. The selfie-taking generation is driving me batty. Makes me double take every single shot I take of myself or anyone else. It’s….obsessive. Sigh.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      The pain, the pain. Who am I?

  3. I so rigorously weed out my selfies, it’s not even funny. Just sad. Occasionally I catch a glimpse of myself in full sun (usually reflected off my car window as I’m about to get in), and I’m aghast at the wrinkles and the vast decay of my neck. And I’m trying to be in a relationship with a man who has other women competing for his attention. It is very hard.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Know the podcast The Guilty Feminist? (“I am a feminist, but…”) this body image thing is all rather confusing.

  4. cedar51 says:

    occasionally my phone camera forgets what it’s supposed to be doing, and I find myself there on the screen….I’m then glad I have Aladdin “dress up” of a few decades ago…

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Way to go!

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Good move!

    3. lynnefisher says:

      Hate that moment when you see yourself unexpectedly – I yelped when that happened once. But what we do to ourselves is ridiculous really! Too much social programming going on…

      1. Rachel McAlpine says:

        And how does the caterpillar recognise itself in that butterfly?

  5. JT Twissel says:

    I hear what you’re saying…. I don’t know what it seems to be such a sin to age.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It’s not not not. But can confuse.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I prefer my granddaughter’s opinion of me. “I love your face when you smile, Amma.”

  7. Ally Bean says:

    I don’t get the appeal of selfies and refuse to be part of the trend. Show me what you’re seeing, not you. Color me old.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That explains why I have trouble recognising you from your Gravatar 🙂 As a writer I often need a photo for a book or a poster, hence my doomed experiments!

  8. we might be old, mottled and wrinkly but it’s better than dead!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Hard to argue with that.

  9. Now I shuffle off to Happy Hour with 30 other wrinklies to laugh our heads off for a few hours…..

  10. V.J. Knutson says:

    Media images reflect a small percentage of the population – I can really relate, Rachel.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, it’s a sorry state when we think of tv presenters as the norm of human images.

  11. Robyn Haynes says:

    I can relate to this so I just stopped looking in the mirror and instead chose to see my image in my grandchildren’s eyes.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You do have some good tricks, Robyn.

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        A matter of positive survival

  12. anne leueen says:

    I try to avoid selfies. One of the really nice things about riding a horse is that the photos taken emphasize the horse and the rider is just a little add on. I’m happy with that!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Excellent plan. My kingdom for one!

      1. anne leueen says:

        Ah….King Richard speaks again! I think he would never have posed for any selfies!

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