I'm totally hot, right? Do you hate me? Well, don't. For a start, it was taken by a professional (my lovely friend Ian whose arm I sometimes twist into taking photos to illustrate my work). Also, it is airbrushed to buggery. Oh, it's me alright, and it's not a poor representation, but the exhaustion and eye bags have magically been whisked away. It's how a nostalgic ex might remember me when wearing his slightly rose tinted glasses. It is a far cry from the woman who spends Working From Home Wednesday banging out articles whilst eating a Mr Freezey ice pop and wearing a paint splattered Jon Spencer Blues Explosion hoody and PJ bottoms. Nobody wants to see that.
Want to see my house now?
Charming. Utterly charming. Country cottage? Ideal Home exhibit? No. 1950s ex council semi with bits falling off it that generally looks more like this:
The only bit of photoshopping I did on that was the big yellow star to cover up my son's naked bottom. Classy.
So, what's my point? Well, that it's easy to put a picture perfect, airbrushed view of your life on the internet for all to see. I could write a home style/family life blog if I wanted to - you know - all instagrammed cupcakes and charming bashed up painted furniture and barefoot children frolicking in the leaves. Me. And all my ants. (How hard can it be to remove some ants via photoshop?) I just prefer not to because, as nice as those things are to read, they don't half leave you feeling like shit about your life. Because in real life, toddlers draw on cushions with felt tip pens and smear jam down the walls. They have a crust of unwiped food around their mouths and there's plastic V-Tech crap cluttering up every surface. And God, Mummy needs an eyebrow wax and her roots doing.
Now, suppose - just suppose - that the people who write those sort of things don't live like that all the time. Maybe they have a bit of wallpaper held up with Pritt Stick where their child yanked it off too. Maybe there's a stain on their ceiling where the tin of condensed milk exploded when they were turning it into caramel on the stove to make millionaire's shortbread (er, just me?). Because it's incredibly easy to airbrush real life out and only show what you want to these days.
I decided to put this to the ultimate test. Do I have photographic evidence of me looking the worst I've ever looked in my life? Damn right I do. No sleep for 48 hours, 30 hours of serious pain, a heart problem, a chest infestion, losing God knows how many pints of blood all over the delivery room floor, a pair of enormous forceps and what felt like several hundred stitches. Yet still someone took a photo of me a few hours afterwards (and made me hold the baby when all I was capable of doing was dropping it). I wanted to kill them with a stick.
Please don't make me hold the baby. I quite want to die. I am terrified of the baby. I don't think there is any blood left in my body, I am traumatised from the pain, I haven't slept and if I could actually stand up without being in searing agony I would do a runner. Also, you are never comning near me again, partly because I'm traumatised (did I mention that?), partly because I've been sliced open and stitched up where one should never be sliced and stitched and partly because I'm pretty sure something prolapsey is happening down there.
Isn't motherhood beautiful?
Now here's what 10 minutes of novice faffing on www.picmonkey.com did for my post birth self:
Yes, I even airbrushed out my baby's forcep mark. That's how easy it is to fake a perfect birth.
Cut to about 10 days later. I had now barely slept for nearly 2 weeks. I was still seriously anaemic and my face was still a lovely shade of mottled grey. I don't know when I'd last washed my hair or got dressed. Richard took this photo of me when I fell asleep with Rory on our bed after feeding him. I kind of like it because of the cute matching hands on stomachs. What I don't like is my face and how ill I look, oh, and the unmistakeable shape of a crumpled breastfeeding pad under my top. (Please note: The relatively flat, stretchmark free stomach is 100% un-airbrushed. I don't care if you're jealous; I had an awful pregnancy, a barbaric birth and a baby who didn't sleep through the night until he was two and a half. I deserved that post partum stomach).
It's definitely photoshop o'clock.
Much better. Yes, I gave my newborn baby a virtual spray tan. What are you going to do about it?
I can even make myself go from 39 weeks pregnant water retaining barrage balloon to flat stomached virgin holding an invisible beach ball with just a few clicks of the mouse. Look:
I hope that has demonstrated to you how easy it is to fake the perfect house, the perfect skin, the perfect life. Just remember this: If it's that easy to make your photographs put a different message across, it's even easier to lie with words. What you see (and read and even hear) might not be 100% the truth. In fact, there might only be 3% truth in it and a lot of artistic airbrushing of the facts. That style blogger who always looks perfect? She probably slobs around in an ancient pair of gym tracksuit bottoms and her husband's t-shirt like the rest of us. The home educator who seemingly devotes her life to the education of her children? She watched Jeremy Kyle this morning and left the kids in front of CBeebies while she pottered around on Facebook for an hour earlier. Even the perfect mother you see at playgroup every week who never seems to get anything wrong or have a hair out of place might be struggling with PND or an unsupportive partner behind the scenes. So take their ideas, friendship and inspiration, but lets leave the feelings of inadequacy well alone, shall we?
And from now on, this is the only sort of photo editing I want to see: