Marilyn never let people take pictures of her—not since she was a teenager with shaggy bangs and rounded cheeks. The easy way was to volunteer to take the photo, but if that didn’t work, she’d refuse outright. The ones she couldn’t get out of—as in big family photos—she stood in the back row so that only a pinprick of her head showed. She wore sunglasses and hats, baggy shirts and pants that enveloped her. Now that cameras were everywhere, hiding was a constant concern.
She scrolled through her Instagram feed. She was sitting on her toilet in the bathroom she’d remodeled two years ago. She was forty-nine, and every day as many as twenty or thirty times, she opened the app and looked.
Throwback Thursday came first, then Flashback Friday. But after a while, the women she followed—many who she knew personally from years as a real estate agent and her daughter’s schools—posted pictures from the past more freely. Motivation Monday could justify a picture from the past (“My first SoulCycle class five years ago today!”). Wednesday Wisdom (“A beach day is good for the soul <3.” Their smooth skin and plump lips. No one had ever told her lips would shrivel.
Cynthia was the worst with it. She was a vet tech with a fiancé who would become her third husband. Marilyn politely liked the photos, the disingenuous heart popping. But then she’d show them to Marnie, her daughter. “Can you believe this?” And Marnie would shrug and say, “She’s feeling herself. Good for her.”
The lady doth protest too much. Marilyn envied the woman’s heavily filtered selfies and pictures from the days of spaghetti strap tank tops. When Marnie gave her nothing, she’d show the photos to Hank, and say, “Look. What kind of woman our age is posting things like this?”
Hank never responded. And after a few attempts to engage his indignation, she began to fear that his nonresponse was a silent wish for her to behave in that way. For her to post edited photos from ten years ago when she wore a full piece bathing suit to their trip to Cape Cod. The suit had cost nearly $300 and promised a refined old timey movie star silhouette. Her thighs still bulged, and she hadn’t allowed any photos then. Now, she’d kill for them.
She flushed the toilet and put her phone on the counter. It was gross. Since when had she become a person who used their phone on the toilet? She should wash her hands more and disinfect the screen more. She should delete Instagram. She lathered with extra soap and hot water, glancing at her face in the mirror. Where was that little chin? She had never even noticed her chin when she was in her thirties.
Today would someday be a flashback Friday, she thought. She would look back and wish that she had photographed this face. Getting old was so strange—she felt the same inside, but her body morphed around. She swiped her screen open and stepped back to fit herself into the frame. She wouldn’t post it, of course. Just one mirror selfie.