Recent research by The Body Shop reveals that the average young woman spends 753 hours of her life, that's approximately ONE MONTH, taking, editing and uploading the perfect selfie. True story.
I have often been amazed and frustrated at the preponderance of open laptops and their mishmash of owners filling almost every table in every coffee shop and café across the globe; that is, until I joined the ranks of table-takers nursing a macchiato long past its due date. It's so unifying to be surrounded by so many people pretending to be serious writers. The blogosphere is filled with thousands of the great unwashed and uneducated dabblers, along side so many discarded award-winning journalists as well as hordes of wanna-be novelists and screenwriters. We all seem to have so much to say, and there's something comforting about doing it all together while being alone in our heads.
Today, while NOT writing the article I am supposed to be writing, I became fixated on a pretty teenaged girl at the table right next to me, tossing her hair from one side to the other, all the while texting and snapping, as she posed -- at first pouty-mouthed, then sensuously, lips parted, smiling at no one. She repeated each 'look' and snapped selfie after selfie, making sure to catch her reflection in the window. She must have seen me staring but to her, I'm past the age of deserving even a glance; I don't exist.
She was bored and had obviously run out of people to text, friends to call. She took another selfie, making a 'yucch' face at her barely-touched bagel. Then a picture of the contents of her purse, of her split-ends and then of the scar on her knee, which she named "Scar-Jo", written in eyeliner on her napkin. That and all the other banal photos were then beamed into Cyberville for all her admirers and their admirers to share with their admirers. Bored from watching this boring girl, I steeled myself and began tapping on my computer.
This was to be my Pulitzer prize-winning piece on body-shaming but my fragile concentration was shattered by Scar-Jo-girl's loud Miley Cyrus ring-tone. Completely clueless that she wasn't alone in the universe, she began berating the person on the other end. It could have only been her mother, given the accusatory diatribe she unleashed: "Because of your 'poor planning,' I'm going to have to go to prom wearing those stupid ($5000.) 'pretend' invisible braces, which will ruin everything!" I wanted to smack her. Lucky for her and the rest of us, she gathered up her stuff and stormed out of the café, still ranting, leaving her bagel just sitting there. I'm tempted. No. I'm better than that.
I turn back to my computer but am soon distracted by the arrival of a guy, best described as "Pigpen" who is all excited as he drops into his chair where a friend, almost as disheveled, has been absent-mindedly Snapchatting. Pigpen, his shirt wrinkled under an ill-fitting jacket, and hair looking like it may be housing a couple of hatchlings, is excited because he aced his job interview. The waiter brings him what looks to be a glass of chardonnay. In his exuberance Pigpen knocks it over and it shatters all over the table. Both guys are killing themselves laughing. They simultaneously whip out their phones. Selfies and pics are snapped and instantly posted. I immediately think, there goes his chance of a job. It may have just been apple juice but in that flash of the moment, Pigpen is going to come across like a sloppy daytime drunk.
I now am ruminating on whether I'm being too judgmental, given that I once sported a Farrah Fawcett look-a-like full tress of streaked hair on a head possibly better suited to a mane. I wore mini dresses when less leg would have been better but with absolute confidence as I loudly giggled and laughed along with my peers in many a cafe where the regulars would have been far happier if our sloppy, obnoxious gaggle had not been born. The push of a button technology that is now ubiquitous didn't exist for us but yet we were just as preening and impervious to the world around us as the selfie-obsessed texters of today. One day, they too will look back askance and wonder how the current crop of young people can be so caught up with their own fabulousness. Some maybe reminded of their younger selves but most will grouch,, grumble and groan proving that they have disconnected from the good times gone by.
I return to my work when the waiter asks if I'd like anything else as he picks up the pouty girl's bagel-plate, which mysteriously has migrated to my table and is now empty, except for a few crumbs. I'm horrified and wonder if I should take a selfie to prove to myself that I don't even know when I'm eating. I decide not to. Firstly, I am as far from camera ready as a homeless woman on her way to the local garbage dump. Actually I am dressed as a writer -- in a baggy formless sweatshirt and nondescript, stained, well worn, past their prime pants... I think they're mine. My hair is awful, an overgrown thatch and there is ink on everything. I always make notes on scraps of paper/napkins before inputting into my computer. Secondly and the real reason; I can't bear the idea that my unconscious eating of someone else's leftovers will live on to remind me how pathetic a moment that was. I am not selfie-worthy!