As the paparazzi (aka parents and grandparents) attacked the children yesterday---forcing them to freeze mid-bite, smile and pose, interrupting play to reposition the actors for the better video camera angle or asking them to do a scene over again for the camera, demanding cuteness on cue, and clamoring for poses of momentarily false affection---it occurred to me how much of my life is not documented on any sort of media.
And I added a new number one "I'm thankful for..." thing.
I'm thankful that very little of my youth is captured on film.
I'm thankful there is only one photo of me in a lime green polyester "Sunday go to meetin'" two piece suit.
I'm thankful there is no film footage of the great Bicentennial Fourth of July show that I wrote, produced and directed for the parents, using all of the neighborhood kids. I'm especially thankful there are no photos of my outfit from that day: cutoff blue jean shorts and a red bandanna top.
I'm thankful the photos of my gawky years are limited to a few stills. The skinny white legs and Nair-touted short shorts...not a good match.
There's a few embarrassing videos from the mid-80s when my uncle went out on a limb and got a new fangled personal video camera. Used to movie cameras that didn't record sound and couldn't capture movement very well, we all sat still, with only slow waves, and no talking. When it struck us that this camera was like a real camera, we decided to stage a production.
Key phrase from my childhood: stage a production
I genuflect in gratitude for the lack of documentation of this. It's so much better in my head.
However, thanks to a rainy day with four kids trapped inside and my uncle's video camera, we do have one staged production caught on tape. (That would be a big old heavy video camera with a gigantic VHS tape, for you young'uns.) We did spoofs of commercials a la Monty Python, which our cousin Michael had gotten us hooked on a few years previously. Back then we listened to things on records---that's vinyl for you young'uns---and that one Christmas when Michael and his family joined us, he asked if we had a record player to listen to something. My younger boy cousin, trying hard to impress Michael, pulled out his Mickey Mouse Club turntable and put on the Chipmunks Rock album. Even I knew that was Not Cool. Michael was nice, though, and simply pulled out his Monty Python record and put it on. The younger kids laughed but I am sure they didn't quite get it, other than perhaps the bookstore sketch and the bit about A Sale of Two Titties. I think we replayed that part 8000 times and roared every single time.
I'm grateful that's not on a video.
As for the spoofed "commercials" our sense of the ridiculous and admiration of Monty Python spawned a little later, eh, we had a good laugh watching it one year as adults. A single sampling of something we did all the time was plenty. I think the video vanished because it was never seen again (I suspect the boy cousin). So now it's just a memory too.
Luckily the Blue Brothers re-enactments, complete with karaoke-style singing along (with the record, on the turntable) with our favorite, Rubber Biscuit, is merely a wisp caught only in our minds.
I'm glad my junior high orchestra years weren't captured on anything other than a few photographs. In my head, we sound really, really great, and had a lot of fun. Also, I shudder to think what might have been recorded on any of our field trips.
High school is best left as undocumented as it was. I prefer what I have left of it, which is largely sanitized with a happy wash. Although by then the infant stages of the technology we have now had begun, it certainly wasn't common. When my theater class assigned a movie as our final project, we had to all team up because not everyone in the class had access to a video camera. If you read my high school meme two-part series---How I made it out of high school in one piece (remains a mystery not unlike any miracle of life) Part 1 and Part 2---you know the many reasons why lack of filmography is a very good thing.
College. Wow. College could totally have ruled out any future in politics for me had there been cell phones and cameras in said cell phones.
Poor kids of today. They will not be able to get up on any moral high horses and allege "pot smoker" to a President, who would not be able to allege he never inhaled.
It would all be caught on film. And put up on YouTube, to be accessed twenty years later during a local city council race, which would have stopped most current leaders dead before their political careers even got going.
I prefer my dusty, blurry-edged memories. I not only recall things as I want to, but I only recall that which I prefer.
What a lucky choice to make.
No boys snapped cell phone photos of girls in the locker room. Thank goodness.
No friend, only slightly less drunk, thought a quick snap of me worshiping the porcelain god would be FREAKING HILARIOUS to broadcast to every email address stored on her cell phone. Hallelujah.
Nobody filmed that horrible moment when, on stage, for the first time I completely forgot the dance choreography and just winged it. I can imagine, to appease myself, that it wasn't that bad. And without film footage of it, there is no Internet broadcast of the humiliating moment for all the world to laugh at.
Without the access to instant availability of film and camera, we simply lived life, instead of documenting its every minute, and we never had moral quandaries about "to record, or not to record, that is the question," much less, "share or broadcast, or keep private...that is the other question."
I don't think growing up with the technology makes it any easier for people to figure out how to use it instead of abuse it. I see a lot of abuse. Consider, for example, the (true? false?) snippet of a bride losing her marbles over her hair that probably broke records for email forwarding. I confess: I watched, total fascination with the train wreck.
Out there are a lot of snippets of people's lives. Moments they might enjoy having captured by camera, but more than likely, more moments they'd rather forget or simply allow to be rose-tinted by selective memory.
It's these moments that I feel very grateful to have grown up when I did. I'm grateful for the modern conveniences we had then, and grateful, too, for the ones we did not.
***Bonus points and bragging rights (of a dubious nature) to those who get the photo caption.***
Edited to add: I have many photos and a few movies from my past of me, my family, special events, and so forth. I'm glad to have those. I feel like we have a good documentation that I enjoy pulling out to laugh and smile over with my family and friends. So I don't feel like I am missing anything important, as some who lost or lacked photos might. I understand that.
The point I mean to make is two-fold: Back in my youth, I'm glad people weren't armed with cameras all the time everywhere, as they are now, and I'm glad the photos and movies from my past were taken when I expected a camera to be there and by people I knew and trusted.
It's not so these days, in this time when too many people always have a camera and think nothing of snapping a photo of anyone, any time, any place. Further, too many people think little to nothing of sharing that visual with the world at large.
That's the real part---not the joking part---that makes my blood run cold.
With privilege (of technology) comes responsibility. We must use this wisely, with careful consideration, and teach our children the same. As wonderful as it is to have barriers come down for a potentially more unified and inclusive society, the downside is that the easily identified and culturally reinforced natural and reasonable barriers for privacy also come down. Therefore, we must be even more cognizant of respect of self and others, particularly when it comes to privacy.
Also, a photo or movie isn't per se indicative of reality or the whole story.
So, again, I have to say I am very glad that I am able to recall things as I will for many occasions, and there is something to be said about that; plus, the way I remember things is very reflective of what it meant to me, more so than a photo could be.
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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