It’s official — “selfie” is the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year. Why not celebrate an act of abject narcissism by firmly rooting it in the English language?
And it makes perfect sense, because we live in the it’s-all-about-me 21st century.
Since every child is special, every child gets a trophy or a ribbon or a gift certificate for simply showing up to compete in one athletic event or another.
Come to think of it, untold millions of adults must be special, too. They take a picture of their breakfast and post it on Facebook, and wait for hundreds of their cyber friends to comment that gosh, your scrambled eggs really speak to me. In fact, they’re telling me to have a great day! Thanks for sharing!
So it’s perfectly logical for your average, everyday special adult to take a picture of themselves and share it. Because that way, others will know how special they are, too!
When I came across a bag the other day, filled with old family photographs, I remembered how different life used to be. My mother loved to take pictures — not of herself but of others — with the latest technology of the day, her Polaroid instant camera.
I still recall the flash bulbs that attached to the camera, the grinding noise as the photo slowly rolled out the bottom, and the smell, vaguely reminiscent of turpentine, as my mother waved the picture through the air to dry it.
My mother had a knack for capturing the absurd. I found one picture, I’m guessing from Christmas morning, 1965, when my family gathered around our first color TV. There I am, chubby-cheeked, almost 10 years old, wearing a new sweatshirt that reads “Official Girl Watcher,” with two bugged-out eyes, just for emphasis.
What was Santa thinking?
I’m there with four of my siblings, each with a hand on top of the television, looking like we’d just found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
In another photograph I’m even younger, wearing a sweatshirt my aunt illustrated for me, one of the wild things from my favorite book, “Where the Wild Things Are.”
I look a little morose, maybe because a day earlier, in an attempt to learn the art of catching a fly ball, it landed not in my mitt but on my face. I have a pretty respectable shiner.
That was my mother — always in pursuit of celebrating the odd and offbeat, sometimes at the expense of her own child.
What inspired my mother to enter my younger sister, Jan, and I in an “Addams Family” look-a-like contest? But there we are in that sepia-tinted Polaroid shot, Jan with braided hair, a la Wednesday Addams, and John, dressed as Pugsley, looking annoyed and maybe a little tired, crashing after a sugar high from a third slice of chocolate cake.
I’m sure my mother would have something to say for today’s high-tech navel gazers. Something like, “Stop being so hung up on yourself. The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know.”
That’s a sentiment that has all but been lost in our I’m-so-special world.
John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.