I'm Not Ready for My Close-Up, Mr. Demille
O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as inthers see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, an' foolish notion. -- Robert BurnsThe foolish notion in this case was to size myself up, to see myself as others see me by getting a video camera. I had a suspicion the mirror wasn't telling me the truth. I suspected this because I could settle on a hairstyle and go years and years without a change, without any suspicion that it was unbecoming. It looked fine in the mirror. It looked fine as long as I didn't see any photographs of myself. If I did, then, of course, it would have to change.How could I have looked so bad for so long and not known it? Why didn't anyone tell me? Does it have something to do with your image being reversed in mirrors?Then I have to wonder if how I see myself is not only effected by the reverse mirror image, but also by my looking at myself from inside my head. I have no 3-D visual knowledge of myself. I am within what I want to see. How can I see it?And what in the world do other people see when they look at me? It is astounding how incorrectly I am perceived by others. Everyone guesses I am taller, thinner, younger, and more red headed than I am, and I don't think they're being merely mannerly. They seem sincerely surprised to learn how short, fat, old and brunette I really, truly am, at least statistically.Now I am going to find out the truth. I am going to videotape myself on a regular basis. I am going to film a running documentary of my life. How odd will this be? Not too odd, I think, because one channel surf around the television dial produces a boatload of programs based on home videos. It seems like everyone in America is filming every moment of their lives already. Barely a thing happens anymore that isn't captured on video, and much of it ends up on television, as entertainment, news or public access torture. I am years and years behind in the Documentation of Me.And I also have a personal theory about the liberating benefit of knowing how other people see you. My childhood was spent in the dark ages of technology, back when even television was a flickering black and white picture. It was a rare and prosperous home that had a little 8 mm camera to take equally grainy black and white films of the family. But everyone I know who grew up under this kind of recorded scrutiny has a level of self-confidence, or at least self-awareness, about themselves. Many went into extroverted careers like sales or the performing arts.Surely, being filmed from birth to death gives you a unique sense of yourself, something I've always been lacking, yet up until now, I had never been tempted by video camera salesmen.Part of the reason is nothing cute is ever going on around my house. I am old, my cats are old. We are sedentary and lacking in mobile cuteness. We are not changing in appearance by the day, as babies tend to do, babies being an excellent reason to get a video camera. We're not growing taller, our hair is not getting curlier, we're not speaking more words. We may actually be speaking less words.Still, I was haunted by a plot line in the old boomer classic "The Big Chill" where Jeff Goldblum's character discovers a video camera in the home of his wealthy hosts (at the time of this movie, home video cameras were still more a luxury than standard operating equipment). Left alone, he films an interview with himself. During the course of a tumultuous night, other visitors to the household discover it and do the same. Singly or in pairs, they emote, confess, observe or come to grips with their images. The played back tape provides character clues everyone, including the audience, needs at the end to figure out exactly what has gone on in their lives.Now the Big Chill moment in my own life has arrived. Oh what a gift the giftie would give me, to finally see myself as others see me, to find out once and for all what my problem was, what people on the other side of hiring desks or dinner tables were actually seeing. And, as an added bonus, to model all my clothes to see what was flattering and what needed to be tossed.And I'm going to do all that....one day. I bought the camera, all right. And I've learned to use it. I've filmed the furniture. I've filmed the cats. I've even gotten some new, bouncier cats to film. I've filmed my friends. I have filmed everything but me.The tripod sits in the corner, waiting to examine me with its cold, dispassionate eye, waiting to tell me the awful truth or pleasantly surprise me with...well, the wonderfulness of me, the discovery that I am quite a bundle after all. It could happen.But probably not. For I have caught a few very fleeting glimpses of myself already, darting through a frame here and there (fat! fat! fatfatfat!), and in the depth of my being, all there is to know is:The hairstyle will have to change, the color, too, and my favorite dress I thought looked so good on me? Well, it doesn't. If the video is a mirror to the soul, I can't get past the circus tent under which my soul performs. Maybe if I only filmed my eyes. Maybe the essence of me is buried in there.There's still a lot of clothes that need to be looked at with a critical eye. There's still a house tour tape that needs to be made for relatives who haven't seen me in years. There's still that long introspective monologue I need to do to find out how I come across when trying to articulate. Or that parting message to the media that needs to be left behind if I hitch a celestial ride on the next bopping comet coming through.One day. One day.Oh what gift the giftie gie to never see ourselves, period.