The #selfie experiment… What it was, how it changed, what it meant

What started out after one of those office conversations that must have started about something Serious and Journalistic and then turned out into a rant about why-do-people-who-just-post-selfies-get-so-many-extra-Instagram-followers, my “#selfie” experiment was intended as purely by-the-numbers game.

My intention was to post a selfie a day to my Instagram account for thirty days, and count the mundane things like likes and new followers.

And then I realised something pretty fundamental for the #selfie movement: I really, really, really do not like the way that I look.

This is not a fishing for compliments post. There are people that think I’m pretty/attractive/sexy/whatever. Most of the time, I just don’t happen to be one of them. (I’m also well aware that there are people who find me equally unattractive etc etc).

But that is still not the point of this post. It’s about how much I dislike feeling vulnerable. Or judged. (Which, if I ever get the courage to post The Post, will be explained shortly). And so, for me, the biggest discovery about my #selfie experiment was not my physical insecurities, but rather my emotional ones.

Three things, though, to kick you off: I didn’t get a single negative comment on my Instagram feed. Not a one.

Most of my selfies were taken at home – any of the ones I took in public were snapped very surreptiously. As in, look, I’m pretending to take a photo of the scenery etc. Because I was that embarrassed. And that convinced I was likely to be judged by a passer-by. Heck, even my friends.

And as soon as I realised how insecure I felt about posting, I started posting the “anti-selfie”. The idea? Selfies of me as natural and as vulnerable as possible.

When we think of the selfie, we generally think of young women, layered in make-up, cleavage out, in a totally-nonchalant-but-absolutely-sexy pose. Even the not-teeny-bopper selfies are still carefully constructed to show the person in the best light as possible – artfully done make-up, gorgeous hair, hipster-esque shots, oh-look-at-me-being-all-nonchalant (again).

Yeah, I tried. That’s not even a little bit me. And so as soon as I realised this, I started posting pictures of myself in my most insecure moments.

I didn’t make 30 days. There was no way I could. I’m not a selfie person (unless it’s for a very memorable event). But I learned a lot about myself – and the world – in the 15 days I did take them.

I think there are maybe two in which I’m wearing make-up, perhaps? (One of them was for a 90s dress-up – I’ll leave you to spot which one). But there’s me with mussy hair, me on a bus midway through a 14-hour trip, me on the way back (red-faced and exhausted after my hike home), me dying of my cold, in bed, in my dressing gown, soaked to the skin and very grumpy after standing in the pouring rain waiting for a lift back to my car at Smits. And yes, one hipster one thrown in for good measure.

And so, a “real” snapshot of my life, perhaps. Although, of course, all of the selfies are constructed in some way – every photo is.

And, interestingly enough, it was those photos of me looking like – well, myself – that garnered the most likes. Not the ones where I’m dressed up to the nines, or the ones that I thought were the most “selfie-ish” of all of them.

Surprisingly enough, in a world where physical beauty is held up as such a great standard and even the most beautiful men and women alive are Photoshopped to remove a mole or a scar – any defining feature, really – we’re slowly learning to appreciate reality and honesty more.

At least, I hope so.

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A return, a pixie cut, and finding one’s feet

Greetings and salutations, fellow travellers. Welcome to a kinda-sorta-little-bit redesigned version of Down the Rabbit Hole.

After a terribly long hiatus (the longest since I’ve started this here blog) in which so much went down that I don’t actually know where to begin (okay, actually I do know where to begin, I should just probably really think about how to start it all off), I’m back. I think. You know how it goes.

There have been half a million changes – and changes back, and changes-that-aren’t-really-changes-because-let’s-be-honest-what-did-I-expect – and things that have happened, but this week’s biggest (possibly only by a little, it’s been a weird ten or so days) is this…

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Yup, after quite literally a year of threatening to do so, I finally took the plunge, embraced my inner Jennifer Lawrence (and Miley Cyrus and Pink) and cut it all off.

*Warning: This post contains an obscene amount of selfies.

It’s the first time ever that I’ve ever gone to a hair salon with Something in Mind. Normally I’m just like “Erm, make it pretty?” and end up with variations of the same haircut I’ve had since school. No more. Bryony went and her locks chopped off on Friday and made me make an appointment – which I did, for Saturday morning – I went armed with a red carpet photo of Jennifer Lawrence and a mission.

The result… (Obligatory before-and-after)

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My hairstylist – after looking at me for a minute with that Are-you-sure-like-really-sure look – grabbed my ponytail and attacked it with scissors, then unceremoniously dumped it aside. No going back from that point on.

And I feel liberated. More like myself than I have in a long, long time. Fierce, even.

Of course, until I wash it and attempt to let it air dry naturally.

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The result? Having a “hair-care routine” that went from this…

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… To this. Thankfully styling short hair is actually infinitely quicker. And SO MUCH MORE FUN.

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We’re still learning, still playing around – it’s like having somebody else’s hair on my head, really, which is awesome. I call this the “I saw a tip on YouTube about spraying hairspray in your wet hair before bed” look.  

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So far my favourite look (in all, like, four days of having a pixie cut) is my Miley Cyrus-inspired look. Who knew my hair could do such things?

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But really, it is true. Having short hair is so completely liberating. And it’s also made me feel surprisingly more confident, which – with the last few months in mind – is a pretty big achievement.

Egg donation #6: Getting the ball rolling

So I’ve already completed the first few days of my Gonal F injections – 225, 225, 150, 150, 150… And another 150 tomorrow morning before my first scan at Vincent Pallotti. I’m still not 100% sure who my doctor is this time round, but the formidable Sister and I are all over this one so far, so I’m not worried about who’s officially in charge. Just taking this one as it comes, and only letting my Inner Control Freak out to play for small amounts at a time and letting her set up her medication the night before so that we’re good to go at the crack of dawn during injection time.

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I’m always SO nervous before the first scan – I’m always concerned that my ovaries aren’t doing their thing and that everybody’s time, money and emotional energy has been wasted. So fingers crossed that everything is looking good inside.

I also managed to – after what amounts to probably something stupid like around 60 self-injections – give myself a nasty bruise on my stomach on Sunday morning. SUCH a rookie error, I tell you. I was in a hurry, trying to get through work so that I could join Bryony and co on a trail run in Constantia Nek, and I managed to get a little overenthusiastic with my pen. Fun. But I wear my poky little bruise with pride.

On Friday night, while celebrating a friend’s birthday, I ended up holding an impromptu Q&A session about donating eggs in South Africa. There was a room full of older women – mothers, aunts, a few girls, and three boys. Once we got to the “How are they extracted” conversation, two of the boys jumped up and ran away. But my 22-year-old brother, bless his socks, said something along the lines of “I’ve heard this all before” and stayed. He’s been one of the biggest heroes during my egg donation journey: Fetching me hot-water bottles on retrieval days, running down to the shops for biltong and Energade, and listening to probably-not-so-funny-to-him stories about missing ovaries and internal ultrasounds.

I was asked questions about the process, about how many times, about how many births, the legal issues, do I know my recipients, the egg retrieval procedure and the like. One of the women there knew somebody who had given birth to twins with the help of an egg donor, and wanted immediately to know if my natural hair colour was red. (It’s not. Though I did dye it red shorty after I broke up with The Geologist. And am actually thinking about going red again. Or brown, perhaps.)

I love answering the questions that people have, although I’m still so uncomfortable with people’s praise. I talk about egg donation not so that people will pat me on the head and tell me what a good girl I am, but because I am so desperately passionate about breaking down any stigmas, myths and concerns surrounding egg donation. And hopefully I can encourage other women to donate, if they feel prepared to. I want to show that egg donation can be a wonderful, fulfilling journey for the donor. That it’s nothing to be “ashamed” of, nothing people feel they should have to keep a secret.

I talk about it because I’m so damn proud to be associated with the wonderful men and women that I have come into contact with over the past two years – the doctors, nurses, IVF co-ordinators, donor liaisons, matchmakers, admin staff and theatre sisters. And, of course, the donors themselves.

One last time: Egg donation number six

I’ve been meaning to catch up for a while, but you all know how I am. Work and Life has been particularly stressful of late – much more than I’m used to, and for a while, more than I thought I could deal with. It culminated last week with J attempting to teach a VERY anxious me how to *sigh* and release tension (I’m totally claiming that I was very worked up by World War Z, which we had just been to see). Anyway… 

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flickr.com / Brenda Gottsabend

So here we are. My sixth and final egg donation with the wonderful women at Nurture. I first started this journey in earnest two years ago – but truly, it feels like just last month. At the same time, the women at Nurture – Melany, Tertia and Lee in particular – have become like a family to me over the years, and I shall miss them ever so much.

I have come to know – through anonymous emails sent from my recipients through Nurture – six amazingly strong, exceptional women. Even though I’ve never met any of them, I have shared such a profound journey with them and their partners, that I will have that connection for years to come. As I have said on this blog before – my strongest connection is with the recipients – because of the way many of them choose their donors, I see so much of them in myself – and often aspire to be like them, they really have been that amazing – because they see some of themselves in me.

So, number six…

My final donation is back at the Vincent Pallotti, where I did my previous donation earlier this year. I start injections on Thursday – 225 units of Gonal-F, as per usual.

I’ve already had my blood tests – HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C and, this time, Chlamydia, too. Seeing as I hadn’t been tested for that before, I was a little more nervous than usual. I was all like, “What, do I look Chlamydia-ish?” But Chlamydia-ish I am not, you’ll be happy to know. Nor HIV-ish, Syphilis-ish or Hepatitis-ish.

The Sister and I have been frantically exchanging Whatsapps over the past 24 hours as I waited for my period to start – there’s very little room for being embarrassed in Fertility Land, I can tell you that. In fact, I probably now fall firmly into Camp Overshare, really. Menstruation details for everyone!

So that’s pretty much all to report on that front, for now.

A few months ago I did a mini-FAQ, which you can read here.

And if you want to read up some of my other egg donation-related adventures, check out this section here.

As always, if you have any queries, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment and I’ll try to answer it to the best of my abilities.

Take it and leave it

After a hellish few weeks – some of the most stressful that I can remember – I finally managed to sneak in a teeny bit of leave. And I say a teeny bit, because I ended up working a ton around it (yes, I know, I’m an overachiever. you can shout at me later. I almost didn’t take the leave at all – I compromised and took less than I should have.)

Also over the last two weeks in particular, I’ve felt my handle on myself slipping. Nothing dramatic – I just needed to remind myself that gosh darnit, I am awesome. And I needed to hear it from myself, and not from anyone else. You know how it goes. (I’ll stop rambling soon, I promise.)

So I set myself some targets for this week. I had some gift vouchers for a manicure and a facial that I needed to use, so there was that. I wanted to take a trip out of Cape Town – within driving distance, on my own, to go exploring. I wanted to go to a yoga class. I wanted to go to a coffee shop and have a coffee on my own and try not to care. I tried to check my Whatsapp only 15 times a day instead of 50. My email embargo flew out the window, alas. But I tried.

But I did all of this and a decent amount more, I reckon. Who needs Eat Pray Love? I did my own version. With jellybeans, mild road rage and the most kick-ass floral pants. Girl needs her floral pants.

On Tuesday, after rushing into work for a bit, I finally managed to get into my car to head off on my travels. I left later in the day than I had wanted, so I had to cut my trip short. Below, essential solo travel supplies: Jellybeans, neon glasses and kickass floral pants. R50 from Cotton On. Best. Sale. Buy. Everrr.

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Decided to explore Cape Point And Surrounds. The game became this: Whenever you see a little brown touristy sign, go forth and explore. If it was free. Because I forgot to draw cash.

But first photo stop… Just outside Simon’s Town (Missed the Naval Museum, Boulders cost R45. Damnit, I wanted to see some penguins!)

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Should’ve brought a hair tie… Though I kinda like how crazy and wind-whipped my hair is here.

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Scarborough beach. Dodgiest public bathrooms ever (not pictured) and what I’m sure was a drug deal in one of the cars (also not pictured). Pictured: Beach.

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Beachy toes and kickass pants.

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I don’t do selfies very often, as you may have guessed.

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Lighthouse near Kommetjie was closed for maintenance. Laaaaame.

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Also not pictured were the troupe of baboons I came across near Cape Point (R90 entrance! Fuck me!), the ostrich farm (ostriches terrify me), Die Kom, Misty Cliffs and the random Rastafarian on Ou Kaapse Weg.

*Edit: Was asked about the road rage. Truck going pretty much going -15km/h up Ou Kaapse Weg. I never claimed to be patient.

Heading home.

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Hardly an epic journey, but it was good for the soul. Good music, pure and total alone time, and around three hours on the road.

I also went to my first ever Bikram yoga class (totally not pictured). I’ve done Vinyasa before, but not for a long while, so there were a few severe learning curves again. I didn’t throw up, and almost only fainted once. Success!

Then, today, I ticked off the facial (my poor skin, so many extractions!), the manicure and the coffee shop. (Note slightly smudged nail and chocolate cookie of deliciousness from the coffee shop. Worst nail polish ever, jeez. Took three hours to dry).

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Also signed on for my sixth and final (sniff) egg donation with the wonderful, inspiring women at Nurture. There will be a decent long post once I’ve nailed down some of the details. But for now, I rest. ‘Cause life, from tomorrow, is going to get wild.

Who needs sleep, anyway?

“Goodbyes are few enough, and we take them where we can”

This line – this entire piece, which is Neil Gaiman’s tribute to Iain Banks on The Guardian – hit me so hard that it actually, physically took my breath away.

Not because I’m a fan of Banks – I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never read one of his novels. I only read the piece because Gaiman rocks my socks off these days. Anyway. It speaks of loss – unexpected loss, although I believe truly all loss is “unexpected” – in a way that really resonated with me.

This passage, in particular:

And then, a week later, with no warning, my friend Bob Morales died, and I was upset that I hadn’t replied to Bob’s last email, from a week or so before. So I replied to Bob’s last email, although I knew he’d never read it. And then I wrote to Iain. I told him how much I’d loved knowing him, how much I’d enjoyed being his friend, even if we only saw each other in the flesh every few years.

Followed shortly by:

And he wrote back and said good, comforting, sensible things. Goodbyes are few enough, and we take them where we can.

*Emotional rant warning: Leave if you’re not good with this sort of thing*

I never got a chance to say a proper goodbye to my father. He pretty much went from Real Dad > Coma Dad in the space of roughly 10 minutes, while I was in res at University, and then from Coma Dad > Dead Dad in the space of 14 months.

And as much as you can talk to Coma Dads, unlike in the movies, they don’t wake up if you ask them to squeeze your hand if they can hear you. And they definitely don’t talk back.

One of my life’s biggest regrets – as stupid as it is, is the fact that I cut short that holiday at home – the very last holiday I would have with my father – for the first time ever, in favour of going to visit a friend in the Eastern Cape.  My next holiday, I was doing a work experience in Cape Town, so I couldn’t have gone home. I know that I couldn’t have known what would have happened. I get all that.

But I thought we would have more time. Years and years more. He was 49 when he had his stroke.

(As a result of this, I have the biggest fear of abandonment/loss/change. But that’s not the point of this column.)

You know, I thought I had a point to all of this. Perhaps it is this: Reply to the email, even if it is a one-liner. Tell people that you love them (God knows I should practice what I preach here, I’m pretty much physically incapable of saying the L-word, even when sober). Hug your friends and mean it.

And fuckit, forgive yourself when something awful happens and you didn’t do all those things, or say goodbye in the way you wanted to.

The day I said goodbye to my father was two months before he died. It was the way I wanted to say goodbye, the way I needed to say goodbye at that particular time, but the movie fan in me kept on hoping his eyelids would flutter open, he would see me, actually see me and he would say my name.

Goodbyes are few enough, and we take them where we can.

Making a comeback… Kinda

I had been in a much better space, when I decided to make my blog comeback a few days ago. I thought I had things (read: my emotions) under control. Thought I’d sorted out a few personal issues. I hadn’t. All it takes is one rogue Facebook activity. So there you go. Feelings, hey. Not for sissies.

Anyway, mercifully I had sort of pre-planned this blog post, so I don’t need to channel too much mental energy into this. Wow, I’m depressing myself even. Enough of this. Pretty pictures.

So my mom moved to Cape Town. Like, for reals. Then I took her to the Bon Jovi concert at the Cape Town Stadium, which was surprisingly fun – even though it was two-and-a-half-hours of Bon Jovi.

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Then, Bryony and I had our hair did by a ghd stylist one random Friday afternoon. It was fun, it looked awesome, but heck, I do not have that amount of time and patience to spend on my hair on a regular basis. Sheeesh.

Edit: My stylist Jennifer may be the most fascinating person I’ve met in a long while. She styles hair as a creative outlet, but she also studied criminology and sociology and regularly lectures on the subjects. She’s also passionate about facilitating reconciliations between victims of crime and the perpetrators by sitting them down and allowing them to ask questions of the prisoner. Utterly fascinating stuff.

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I spent a very inspiring day at NetProphet as well. Although it wasn’t necessarily directly related to my job and line of work, it was still quite fascinating and very inspiring to have a listen to what people are doing with digital start-ups and entrepreneurship in Africa. (And the world.) It’s also made me realise that I’m stuck in a bit of a rut, so there you go.

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Then, the wonderful Timmy and Xanthe finally had their engagement party – with a silly hats theme. And man alive, do I love any excuse to dress up! So I made my hat below. Feather courtesy of The Chaeli Campaign run I did a few months back 🙂

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The party was held at Timmy’s beach cottage in Smits. There was wine, potjie, more wine, delicious food, more wine, some port, a lot of champagne and more food.

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We got drunk and took a selfie on the beach with my phone. Which takes a lot of co-ordination, don’t ya know. Also, have I mentioned I’M A BRIDESMAID???

Yep, I’m one of TWO bridesmaids. We’ve been promised no ugly dresses, so there you go. I cannot freaking wait. Below is the gorgeous bride-to-be, in a hot black wig and a pink fascinator that took a swim in the ocean and I had to go rescue.

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Random dinner at Timmy and Xanthe’s… I was put in charge of mixing the Mint Julep. It was extremely medicinal.

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Hail! That looked like snow! In Cape Town! That is all! Just lots of exclamation marks! This is my street.

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The story of Brobeans

Also, the night before this we rescued an extraordinarily drunk (possibly drugged) random that was dumped outside my house by a possibly deranged taxi driver. When I say dumped, I mean dumped. Drunk dude (christened by my brother as “Brobeans”) even cracked his head on the pavement. He managed to crawl to my garage before the security guard from the hotel across the road charged out to stop someone robbing him and flagged my mom down off the balcony. She managed to rattle up a woman in our building who works with the neighbourhood watch, and between us and George the security guard we managed to get Brobeans out of the rain and into our lobby, where he threw up everywhere.

We managed to get Brobeans to unlock his phone (he couldn’t talk or walk, but thank fuck he knew his pin code) and started dialling random numbers, before finding a friend of his who promised to send someone to pick up Brobeans. Said friends were utterly marvellous -they said in ten years of knowing him they had never seen him like that, and ended up carting poor Brobeans to the Medi-Clinic where they put him on a drip.

That was not the end of Brobeans, though. The dude turned up on our doorstep on Monday morning (after sending the sweetest text to apologise, even though he didn’t need to – we were just so relieved he was okay) with gifts for all three of us ladies in the block, plus George. Warmed the cockles of my usually frosty heart, I’m telling you.

And now, a little something from the blogger. I found this mini questionnaire, thought it would be fun as a little welcome-home-gift to myself. Questions and answers below, obvs.

Year I started my blog: This particular blog (there have been others) kicked off in January 2011.

My first post was called “It’s That Time of Year Again” – and it was a reaction piece to the Academy Awards nominations that year. I had such lofty ideals.

My day job: I’m the Entertainment Editor for iafrica.com and the Social Media Manager for Primedia Online. All the same company – just two portfolios, really.

My favorite post is probably one of my egg donation ones – called “D-Day”, although I love most of them in that category, particularly “On Egg Donation Number Five“. I also kinda love “Cinema Etiquette“.

The celebrity I want to read my blog: Like “celebrity celebrity”, probably Jennifer Lawrence (I’d just have to delete this post first). Or Lena Dunham. Blogger celebrity, Allie Brosh, obviously. Movie celebrity, Joss Whedon. Writer celebrity, well… That’s a long list, how much time do you have?

Best reader comment Probably a comment from a woman who had conceived via egg donation. She didn’t say too much, but I shed a little tear over my keyboard.

Other blogs I read: So many blogs, so let’s keep it local (and two internationals that I read religiously). Indieberries, Raising Men, Midlands Musings, So Close and Hurricane Vanessa are the local ones that I pretty much check into daily.

Internationally, my absolute favourite is Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh is my spirit animal) and Enjoying the Small Things.