In my last year at school the school got email. Not for everyone mind, for a school of well over 1,000 pupils we had 100 email addresses. You had to ask your parents to sign you up for one, with priority being given to pupils with family overseas. And I’m a little embarrassed to admit that when I first started university I’d never met a PC before and I had to take written instructions down to the computer room to try to find the internet and my email. And as for a phone; well one of these days I’ll tell my girls about phonecards, especially the sort that only called your parents, about queuing for the phonebox in the corner of the quad on a rainy night, and the long lost art of letter writing. I have a feeling they’re going to look at me much in the same way we might someone recalling the days of outside loos.
We weren’t deprived, it was just the norm, but I wonder whether it made us easier to protect. We weren’t bombarded with advertising and commercial imagery; it was there, in magazines, in tv ads and in film trailers; but there is a massive difference between a monthly glossy read-and-abandoned, and a continual barrage of virtual reality.
As I write, two tiny daughters are asleep upstairs, deeply relaxed, starfish hands outstretched, without a care in the world. And just as I am certain that Kitty has her fingers curled into her hair and that Elma will have wriggled the length of her cot and be pressed up against one end, I know that somewhere in a newspaper office someone spent today coming up with a headline branding a ‘celeb’ as being too skinny, while in the neighbouring office, someone else in the public eye has been decreed to have ‘piled on the pounds’.
How can I protect my beautiful daughters, give them the space to grow into strong, healthy, kind, confident, happy young women, in the face of an enslaught of media fluff that is consistent only in its relentless assertion that, where girls are concerned, looks are really all that matters.
I don’t have an answer; the girls are 10 months and three so it would be bizarre and spectacularly presumptious to believe that I’ve got it all figured out. But if the first step to finding a solution is a consciousness of the problem, at least I’m trying to think it through.
And it does make me wary about what behaviour I model. Which brings me to my beloved friend Lightroom. I love it so. It does fabulous things to my photos, it straightens the horizon when I’m having a wonky day, it crops out the clutter that appears in my lounge whenever I turn my back (I blame pixies) and the kitchen bin, and prevents everyone from looking as if they’ve been tangoed when I’ve forgotten to reset the white balance.
But I’ve got to remember to use them in the right way. To entirely mangle-quote:
“With great cropping tools comes great responsibility”
I never want the girls to feel that they are not in themselves enough. They do not need tweaking or airbrushing, it’s their Mama’s technical skills and general housekeeping that do. It would break my heart if they thought that I played around with their photos because I needed or wanted to change how they look.
My ideal would be that in watching me adjust photos a little, they gain an inherent awareness of what can be done, that the camera really can lie, and pretty spectacularly to boot.
But whether they pick that up from a little everyday exposure or not, I am determined that when they get a bit older we’ll be having a little Mama-daughter time messing around on the computer to show them exactly how mere mortals are turned into supposedly aspirational perfection with a few clicks.
(all photos straight from the camera for once – we were trying on the winter hats to see who needs/would really really like a new one)