“I’ve never liked selfies, anyway. I don’t even like to look at myself in the mirror. And in photographs, my face looks unbalanced and I always seem to be smiling nervously. Or my eyes are closed.”
I’m not a big fan of heights. Tall buildings make me dizzy. Glass floors suspended over several stories make me taste lunch all over again, and you couldn’t pay me enough money to get on that suspended net at Changi’s Jewel. Though, for some reason, looking out the window in a plane doesn’t faze me one bit — maybe it’s because by the time you get to 30,000 feet in the air, the whole idea of height becomes so unreal, your brain basically stops screaming.
It’s like watching Kill Bill, I think. The first time someone’s eyes are gouged out, you’re horrified, but by the time you get to that massacre in the Japanese restaurant and Uma Thurman slashes off the 78th arm and blood sprays all over the room, you start laughing. After a while, there’s only so much horror the brain can take.
Meanwhile, my sister likes to quote Terry Pratchett who says that people shouldn’t be scared of heights because it’s not the height that will kill you — it’s the ground. Which I think might also explain why more people die from taking selfies than from car accidents: they never think about the ground.
“Is that really true?” Amanda said the other day when I repeated this factoid after she read out a horrific story about some French tourist who died when he fell from a waterfall in Thailand while taking a selfie.
“Absolutely,” I assured her, though, to be honest, I really had no idea. I tend to repeat whatever I read on Instagram, which makes my very expensive education an absolute waste of my parents’ money.
From the couch where she was curled up in a fetal position in a remarkable reenactment of the queen’s death scene in the Tom Cruise movie The Mummy, Saffy piped up: “It must be true. When was the last time you heard of someone dying in a car accident? Almost never. But people seem to die all the time from falling off some cliff or mountain.”
Amanda frowned, her lips puckering up in a disapproving pout. “That’s just so tragic!”
Saffy’s bosom inflated like cushions. “I just don’t understand why you would ever stand with your back to an edge! To do it with the edge of a waterfall is even more insane!”
“It’s a terrible way to die,” Amanda observed. “It’s all just so unexpected! It’s like eating fugu sashimi. You don’t expect to die from excruciating pain when you sit down and place your order with the waitress!”
“Yes, but with fugu, there’s always the possibility, however remote, you won’t live to pay the bill,” Saffy pointed out, “but death by selfie seems like the ultimate unexpected and pointless way to go."
I’ve never liked selfies, anyway. I don’t even like to look at myself in the mirror. And in photographs, my face looks unbalanced and I always seem to be smiling nervously. Or my eyes are closed.
When, on a particularly memorable episode of America’s Next Top Model, Tyra Banks first introduced me to the concept of smizing — or smiling with the eyes — I was beyond thrilled. Here, finally, was a useful tip from a supermodel about how to take wonderful pictures. I spent hours practising, gently coaxing a mysterious Mona Lisa-like smile just by gently narrowing my eyes.
Eventually, I had the smize down pat and I unveiled it at Sharyn’s Christmas party by agreeing to lots of pictures. Amanda sidled up to me. “What’s gotten into you? I thought you hated having your picture taken?”
I assured her that I still did, but Tyra had taught me how to smize. I should have paid attention to the doubtful look on Amanda’s face, but I was so encouraged by my practice sessions in front of the bathroom mirror, that I kept at it – to the extent that I photo-bombed far too many photos.
The next day, we checked our Facebook feeds and came across Sharyn’s post of pictures from the previous night at the same time. Saffy gasped and Amanda sucked in her breath.
I was appalled. I scrolled through the images. And then I went to check the photos of other friends who’d been at the party. “Oh God,” Saffy sighed.
In every shot I was in, it was the same. “How is that possible?” I groaned.
“You’re not smizing!” Amanda cried. “You’re squinting! You’re only supposed to slant the eyes a little bit! Like this!” And here, she proceeded to smize and, in spite of the growing horror at my own social faux pas, I found it in myself to admit that she looked like a Vogue cover. “That’s how you smize! But you…you look like…you look like you’re trying to hold back a huge fart!”
I buried my face in my hands and moaned. “Oh God, I could just die!”