Ripping Times

Ripping up photos – or nowadays deleting them – is not just a thing in my family, it’s a widespread practice. I hear it from quite a few people saying they have hardly any pictures of their mum. Is it an expectation of being a middle-aged woman, fully sanctioned by other women, led by the previous generation?

Following last week’s dip into the stylish 1930s, 40s and 50s family photographs, lamenting my youth from the worst dressed era trapped in the worst camera and printing era, I am fairly confident that I need not worry about digging out horrific old pictures of me because I’m sure I would have already got rid of them. I started this hatred of myself in photos young. I was taught by an expert.

Some snaps may have survived, if I was under a hat, in sunglasses, behind a table… There’s a picture of me from a while ago that doesn’t look like me, I’ve no idea when or where it was taken, I’m not convinced it’s even me, and it’s James’ favourite picture of me. I have accepted this picture into our home as one might accept a book I’ll probably never read. Just sit there and look like you belong. We needn’t go any deeper.

Lately I thought I had reached a mature peace with how I present myself to the world: I no longer feel obliged to slap on a full face before leaving the house, a headscarf covers the grey roots in between dyeing sessions, I wear black leggings and a big black jumper autumn, winter and spring (we don’t discuss the summer) and life is easier. I’m an invisible middle-aged woman and enjoy this sneaky superpower. But, out with a few friends in the woods on one of our squelchy walks, someone took out their phone for evil purposes.

Every single snap of me was horrendous and I begged her to delete them. She thought I was silly. Does that mean I look like a wispy-haired saggy-jawed misshapen potato in real life? Everyone else looked lovely, muddy-but-still-elegant, smiley, human-shaped… Nice charitable ladies taking a sprouting wrinkled King Edward dressed as a crow on an outing, bless them.

Despite this, I’d still rather crop creatively (yes I was there, that’s my elbow) than indulge in the Instagram filter lark. Everybody under 45 these days looks like a radioactive fish-lipped alien on their profiles. If you check out their account you’ll find 400 identical shots, the only difference between them is whether they’re wearing grey or beige active- wear.

Everyone looked cool in 1950s and 1960s photos. The 1970s, not so much but at least they had comedy value. The 1980s… I will insist all images must be destroyed. Even nearer the end of the 80s when we were cosplaying the 1950s. It didn’t work. In the 1990s we were cosplaying the 1970s coz yeah the 70s were cool after all weren’t they? I can’t tell when’s when after that.

A few years ago I was aghast that kids were cosplaying the 1980s. Get a grip. How on earth was this permitted? A month ago I was dragged into a shop by my daughter and noticed now they’re cosplaying the 1990s, coz it looked a bit 1970s, but in grey. Meanwhile I’m still cosplaying Worzel Gummidge meets Morticia Addams in a hurricane and dodging behind trees when the cameras come out. If anyone actually wants a picture of me, I’ll draw you one.