November 8, 2017
When I placed my wig on its mannequin head the morning of Nov. 1, a mixed bag of lingering Halloween euphoria and end-of-season blues, I was already planning my costumes for next year. I pluralize costume because New Orleans has that fabulous rotating door of costume opps in October from parties to Voodoo to the “Halloweek” that leads up to the big night itself.
Like so many, I get inspiration from social media. Throughout October my feed is crammed with the cleverness of my “friends.” And I often find myself feeling like a sort of voyeur because I can’t help but think that some of the characters they portray are a window into their deepest desires. I’m not talking Wilma Flintstone, I’m talking the statement looks—lavish wigs, corsets, cat eyes, skin, and legs for days. Or even the nod to politics and social justice.
I know I’ve hinted at private aspirations in plenty of posts. Just this year at one party I went as salt, as part of a trio going as tequila, salt, and lime (sadly, our worm bailed.) But rather than be cutesy fun salt, I decided to go for it and be “salty,” a white tee shirt cut cold shoulder, worn as a super short mini dress with silver sequin booty shorts, and head to toe ice white glitter. Clearly, I was living some fantasy, pretending for a night that I was a salty hottie. I had no qualms posting pictures of myself because, after all, I was in character. If anyone thought I was being extra, I could just say, “It’s the salt talking.”
By the light of day, I’m not sexy salt. And you’re probably not a dominatrix. I’m yoga pants and high bun, and while I’m not shy, I’m definitely self-conscious. But here’s the thing about that salt picture, it totally meets my "Insta brand." We all have an Insta brand—that sales pitch to the nether world about what we want you to believe we are. I would describe mine as whimsical with a champagne flute perpetually half full. My brand doesn’t take life too seriously. It’s loose like salt and is an aesthetic I’ve built over years. If a captured moment doesn’t pair well, it doesn’t get posted. And last week I realized, as I scrolled through my page, my Instagram is another costume. Even in the middle of March on the dead of Tuesday, it’s just that, a fantasy character that I play, a place to be who I wish I was.
One of the biggest criticisms of social media is the lies it tells. How often have you scrolled to see a “friend” posed, her lines on point, tan, a drink in hand (clearly a prop), and about five filters giving her a Kardashian glow. And you’re like, “I literally just saw you at PJ’s and you looked like shit.” Instantly the jig is up. Said girl is written off as a poser as you toast your own fabulousness. But here’s my question. What’s the real lie? The Insta-game we play or real life? Just as a drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts, an Instagram is an insecurity’s hiding place.
Should I finally get a reservation at Saffron, would I dine dressed like salt? Well, no. But why can’t I stroll in, embodying salt’s assurance? Why is my brand only two dimensional? Do successful businesses have strong branding online but lackluster face-to-face representation? No. So why should I and why should you? What if our Instagram wasn’t a costume after all, and what if we took that game to the streets?
With each post, pin, and share, there is an element of truth into who we want to free from behind the shadow of our own insecurities. I’ve always wanted to be that "It Girl" who lights up rooms. I’m enamored with the book nook I pinned four years ago because I want a home that is recalled as cozy, and dammit, I really want to cook that garlic shrimp dish that I’ve shared about fifteen freaking times because Ina Garten is a hostess goddess and I think I can be too.
So what’s the hold up? The obvious answer is that my two dimensional world doesn’t get hit with the blows of real life—oversleeping, clutter, practices that run long. But I think more telling is that it doesn’t have to defend itself. I know enough to know that we shrink just as fast as we blossom the instant we feel questioned.
But it’s moments like that when we have to step off of the page and into the light, grounded in who we are, and say with conviction, “It’s not the salt talking; it’s me.”
Originally published in New Orleans Magazine online.