On Love, Sex & Instant Messaging: Photos

Not so long ago I wrote a post about the number of men that I have spoken to online who have asked me what I’ve been looking for on the internet. A number of you reached out to me and let me know that you had been through similar experiences, how frustrating it is and how nobody should be expect anything – after all, the internet is just the internet!

Today, I wanted to talk about another pet peeve of mine – the request for photographs. It all starts and sounds so innocent, but it can sometimes have some very negative, rather harmful consequences.

By now, you’ll most likely know that I was a regular user on the anonymous app, Whisper. I’ve since deleted and condemned Whisper as I’ve just found it to be a negative, useless waste of my time. I’d had a few good chats on there, but overall there was nothing that swayed me towards staying on the app, After one last, completely unnecessary bombarding of thirsty messages, I left.

On the app, quite a few of the younger men have been a bit besotted with me. According to them, I am rather unique. I’m interesting, funny, kind, mature (usually that’s because I’m also older, which they seem to love). Okay, enough, I’m not here to blow my own trumpet, I’m just telling you what they’ve been saying,

But then it happens;

After a while of building up a rapport, the request for a photo comes. “I’m curious to see what you look like,” they say. I’m curious to know what they’re thinking. What did they think a confident, educated, open-minded brunette was going to look like? Probably nothing like me:

Me in a sunhat at Paignton, Devon in 2010.

A little backstory on this photo, it was taken on the coast of Paignton in Devon, all of about six years ago. Yes, it’s quite outdated, but for me, I think I’m absolutely killing it and the photo has special significance to me. It’s a photo my late father took, so you can forgive my being quite attached to it. Upon request, I can happily provide a less sunny photo of me, but it’s still me, nonetheless.

A photo of me

But even that’s four years old.

The sequence goes like this: They ask for a face pic, you send a face pic, they ask you to send another, then a full-body photo and finally one of you wearing even fewer clothes. Should you refuse at any time, you are immediately accused of catfishing and thusly blocked. For a woman with an ounce of self-respect, finding a decent conversation on these apps can be rather hard.

But it gets worse.

“Not bad” one replied, I was aghast. Not bad?! I showed him not bad when I blocked his ass. Not bad?! Honey, I’m the motherf*cking queen!

But you see? That comes from a place of self-confidence and self-respect. I know my worth, I know my value, so when any cheeky, probably spotty, probably underfed (or overfed, I can but assume here) brat feels that he has any right to pass judgement on me purely for my appearances, I will gladly send him packing.

But not every woman will, and herein lies the problem.

Not every woman knows her worth, and not every man does, either. Not every person knows their worth, because if your self-esteem isn’t what it could be, then these comments will really knock and affect you. Any time that we send a photograph of ourselves to a stranger, we invite them to pass judgement on us. Most are kind and complimentary, but I have been blocked, I have been ghosted and I have been downtrodden too, and it hurts. Not everyone in life will be your cup of tea and that’s fine, but that doesn’t give anyone a right to pass judgement upon them. Nobody is “not bad”. Everybody is beautiful to someone!

But people do pass judgement, and what’s worse, they even seem to feel as though they have a right to.

I never used to be this way, I too used to be so shy about who I was. I hated my skin, I hated my face, I hated my flat chest and my added cuddle. I used to battle with Body Dysmorphic Disorder. because I thought I had a “runny egg face” (blame Casper the movie). I was my own worst enemy!

But you know what? In this world, there are men who absolutely freaking love me, there are people who love me, exactly as I am, warts, flab and all.

And they know me, the real me, not just the stranger that they’ve been chatting to for ten minutes on the internet.

So I had a stroke of confidence, I looked in the little mirror that I have on my notice board (feng shui command position, folks 😉 ) and I decided.. f*ck it, it’s time to put me out there, it’s time to show the world the real me.

Of course, I could have got all dressed up for the occasion and I could have posted a glamourous photo on the internet, but, I decided, that wasn’t really showing the world me. If the internet wanted to see me, then it would be me as you would normally see me, no make-up, no hiding, nothing – just me.

A lot has happened in six years. I was diagnosed with and started treatment for OCD, I got harassed by my neighbour, I got bitten by a dog (not mine), I was the victim of threats to kill (from aforementioned neighbour), I set my old home on fire (accidentally, though everyone claimed otherwise), I moved house and most recently, I lost my Dad to cancer. Add 7 months of lockdown to all of that and you can forgive me if I’ve seen better days – Hey, at least I’m still smiling!

I am a real housewife and a real woman. I don’t wear make-up every day, I don’t get dressed up to go shopping and I can’t afford to get my nails done just because. I have acne (even at 32) and hair that I’m often raking at as a result of stress. When people ask me what I do, I tell them that I am a “housewife, pet mom and blogger”. For whatever reason, there’s a common misconception that being a blogger must mean you’re beautiful. I’m a woman, an average woman- a woman who just knows her worth. I don’t need makeup to look good. If I wear make-up, I’ll wear it because I want to!

Me wearing a little make-up.

Growing up, I had an old school friend, let’s call her K. K used to love taking selfies, but she had two very different smiles – The one she kept for genuine laughter, and the one she kept for her photos. I despised a lot of the photos I saw of K. It wasn’t that it was K, it’s that they weren’t K. They weren’t K as I knew her, she was always being fake in them.

Last year at the Bristol Christmas Market, Mr Wolfie wanted to stop and pose for a selfie. I hated the idea! It has nothing at all to do with how I look or who I was with, for me, it’s all behavioural.

If you have to take a photograph to prove that you are having a good time, then to me, you’ve fallen at the first hurdle. If you have the time to stop and take a selfie (especially if it’s a “perfect” one), then you can’t have been having a good time to start with. I have photos of me having a genuinely good time, want to see what that looks like? Here you go:

A picture of me looking completely drunk whilst being utterly sober!

Here I am, laughing on vacation with my family. Do you see? I wasn’t even aware of my picture being taken! It’s not glamorous, it’s pure, organic joy.

So how did I manage to take a selfie?

You see, for me, it’s about the relationship that I have with my audience. I had to look at the camera in the same way that I would look at a friend. Weird? Maybe, but at least fairly natural.

I grew up in a time when people took pictures of things and other people, not themselves. You went on vacation and took a photo of the sunset, not a photo of you with the sunset behind you. I enjoy the odd bit of photography in my free time, but that is still photography of things, not myself.

The beauty of not taking photographs of yourself is that there is no emphasis on you to look good. You do not need to have perfect hair or make-up to take a photo of a snow-capped coniferous tree, you just point, click and go. You can have a bad hair day or an acne breakout in peace, after all, you’re on the other side of the lens.

I understand why so many people question the honesty of a photo (because of catfishing), but that’s a little thing called trust. It amazes me how seriously some people treat these brief exchanges and the level of distrust they throw at people who refuse to jump through hoops. Whatever happened to just making friends? Why do we have to move so fast and all of a sudden?

It’s a sad world we live in when we judge one another on appearances alone. When the sun goes down, we should judge one another for the impression we leave, not for how we look online.

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