How We Talk About That Actress’s Face
So you don’t normally check out that gossipy website—well, maybe you do, but, generally speaking, you try to avoid it because you’d rather your media diet be cooked up somewhere with more white space and aspirational pretense, rather than dredged from the filthy fryer of some asinine gossip’s dirty grease trap of a blog.
But sometimes, well, you fucking love fries—even the burned, nasty ones—and sometimes you fucking love that site, even if you know it’s bad for your soul or digestion or both. Or whatever. And some mornings, like this morning, all your friends on Twitter were forwarding around pictures of that actress: The one who looks…different? (That’s not the right word; you haven’t figured out how to say it aloud yet.) And you just couldn’t help yourself, could you? I mean, maybe you could. But.
Okay, you definitely could have. But now it’s too late. You saw the pictures. And the desire to talk about them is burning inside you. You don’t have any new context to offer. You don’t have anything to add. But you saw it too. You just have to let it out. But how?
What do we make of this? How do we talk about it? What can we say? What should we say?
“THIS.” You type on your iPhone, as you consider forwarding the side-by-side photo collage of the actress when she was young and lovable and the photo of her now when she’s—what? You catch yourself. The adjective you were about to use—okay, the first five you considered—would make you, beyond a doubt, a superficial asshole. Maybe worse. She’s not that word. She’s “THIS.”
“THIS.” That might be okay. You’re not saying anything, really. You’re just pointing it out. You’re just forwarding it. It’s not like you were the first person to point it out. You’re not throwing stones, exactly. You’re the person pointing at the person being hit with the stones, saying “THIS.” Oh. You don’t like that image of yourself.
You delete “THIS.”
But how do you talk about the actress’s obvious plastic surgery that you just noticed on that site you don’t normally check without being one of those monstrous people who pass around their iPhones saying “Look. Look. Look.” How do you talk about an actress’s plastic surgery without being: A mean girl. A douchebag. A gossip. A jerk. A vain asshole who buries assholery in some sort of sophisticated meta-critique about The Way We See The Way We Live Now.
You are stuck.
This photo—or is it your act of looking at this photo—is triggering all of these emotions. Some of these emotions—okay, so many feels—feel fine and healthy (like curiosity or concern), but, let’s face it, most of the others (beginning with self-righteousness and revulsion and diminishing to the pathetic urge to craft a retweetable punchline) are wretched and small-minded feels you’re trying to pretend that you’re not feeling, even as they burble inside you like black zombie vomit. Clearly, the only acceptable reaction is to ignore the photos and the complicated feels they trigger and express disgust at everyone else’s reactions, instead. That’s easier.
Maybe, you think: “THIS?”
You delete the period and add a question mark. Somehow, it feels like that squiggle offers a bit of protection. You’re not judging. You’re asking: What do we make of this? How do we talk about it? What can we say? What should we say? But you delete that one too.
The question mark is a dodge. The question mark is like that meta-essay that’s about that actress’s plastic surgery, that draws more attention to her face, that riffs without knowing a single thing about her life or how she got there; that shames, knowingly clueless, with a galling fuzzy patina of pseudo-intellectual explanation—when all it’s really saying is: I looked. You looked. We all looked. THIS.
Logan Hill is a journalist who has contributed to The New York Times, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, GQ “This American Life,” and others. You can follow him on Twitter at @loganhill33.