Generation Selfie by Kanak Kapur

Cigarette smoke mixed with a rich perfume lace my crumpled shirt and I’ve never felt more like white trash. I have to wear a string bikini top because bras would mess up my new tattoo. Want to hear a joke? I didn’t have anything less than an A+ on my latest report card. This bikini top has made me realize that my physicality in no way mirrors my intellectual ability. However, I still have accusations of being the “stupid, creative-type” echoing through my dusty room this purple dawn. My mother doesn’t even care that I’ve been taken advantage of or am plagued with an existential crisis every three days– she cares that the black ink on my skin has permanently stained the family name. Whatever will her other rich friends say when they hear that Tanya’s daughter permanently ruined herself. (Note: I say herself and not her skin because let’s face it, my skin is a completely accurate representation of my persona.) She inspires many elongated sighs.

My throat burns, and I know it’ll last a few hours no matter how much tea I swallow. Cigarettes never suited me anyway– I just needed something to hold when the silence got too loud. Plus, all the pretty girls I saw looked an unforgettable shade of elegant when they lowered the white stick from their lips—I guess it was another step towards being one of them. I really irritate myself on nights like tonight. This whole “survival of the fittest” attitude I see in myself is going to serve as a catalyst to my moving to goddamn Kangbashi. We’re always so determined to be the last word or the stronger character that we overlook how weak of a person this relentless competitive spirit makes us. The true survivor will always be the one who worked in harmony and filled his neighbor’s bowl before his own. However, the last line of that sentence is conditioned to make us cringe– so you might as well throw up your hands while my words are still only dotted with cliché ideologies rather than overflowing with them– because I guarantee you’ll be too busy pulling your hair out over the next few paragraphs.

I’m supposed to move literally to the opposite end of the world in a week’s time and through every bruising grip and tear, that inevitable flight waiting for me in August has served as my unconditional cushion. “I’m going to leave this all behind,” I’d say. A New Beginning awaits. But I’m not leaving my mind behind; wherever you go, there you are. His tight grip and that math test I failed are forever imprinted in my memory. I’ll still relive those moments when I’m a dirty shade of orange or can’t figure out how to use my calculator; the only difference would be the moon I’m under. It’s the same script in a new setting– and if that isn’t the most unsatisfying thing you’ve heard then I don’t know what is.

Wherever you go, there your stained memories are.

The predicament, however, is that I am unable to identify the loophole to direct myself back into a life of childish fun and pure motives. The only time I ever do feel that light again is when I talk to Adam. He has this non-exclusive openness about him; he’ll tell you about his mother’s new recipes and his cat’s indigestion all in one breath. The great thing about him is that he doesn’t hold back; he will cry, scream and giggle uncontrollably, and without reservation before he reaches the full stop.

When someone bares their soul to you, no matter who they are or what their grades are, somehow everything they say makes sense. The act of relation itself is so beautiful that it leaves no room for judgment. Instead, all it leaves are the aching bodies of two beings, desperately gnawing at their respective worlds, trying to find something worthwhile– something to help them grow into the number of candles on their birthday cake. These walls that we build around ourselves are in no way beautiful; they’re exactly what they sound like– a destructive barrier. What’s really stunning today is vulnerability; the ability to go en pointe after a dozen fractures. That’s real strength. Not the cold exterior with black nail polish we claim to mirror our souls. We’re not that washed up yet; we can’t be.

Yet, as much as we don’t speak of it, we are. We don’t tell our secrets anymore and we don’t kiss with our eyes closed until we’re sure the other person’s hands aren’t going to venture from our waists. We’re scared and at the same time, we’re consciously doing to others what was done to us. Every grade and kiss is a competition. We, Generation Selfie, are so afraid of feeling anything other than comfortable or sleepy that we’ve begun to turn every interaction into a protection mechanism. We’ve replaced hands with alcohol to protect our hearts and conversations with texts to protect our intellectual property. We are the adults of the emotional world and our parents, the adults of the physical world. They pay debts and protect us from men in the street while we protect ourselves from the hurt that breeds between iMessages and classroom small talk. We forbid our eyes from falling upon smiles we know we would fall in love with, yet we are also the criminals for purposefully aiming those brilliant smiles at the cute boy in History class. We’re a contradiction that we not only despise, but also encourage.

We need to keep jumping rocks in the moonlight and using the word “virginity.” We need to empty our minds out by letting our words into the hands of another; we need to lie naked and afraid again. This reign of apathy can never be a victory lap unless it’s ruthlessly broken by a bruising kiss or goodbye.

As Adam would say, “Screw you and your reservations. Let’s dance.”