The girls disappeared for a couple of hours after church today. I admit I didn't notice right away because they were in Vanessa's car and besides, I was preparing dinner. I've found that working in the kitchen is the surest method of guaranteeing that I'll have some quality "alone" time; no one else in my house risks coming within 20 feet of an unpeeled potato.
So it wasn't until we were actually sitting down to eat that I realized my daughters weren't home. Using our Ronco "Pocket Divining Rod" we located Jacob (hiding in the coat closet to avoid setting the table) and he informed us that the girls were off in the desert taking pictures.
And not for the first time, I reflected that we are raising an astonishingly narcissistic generation.
You remember Narcissus, don't you? He was the Greek god of Digital Cameras, who fell in love with his own profile picture and wound up marrying a cardboard cutout of himself.
Between cell phones and laptops, not to mention actual photographic equipment, there is no limit to the degree to which folks can celebrate their love of their own image.
I find this completely and unutterably bewildering. The only night of the school year when I went to bed with fear gnawing at the pit of my stomach was the one before picture day. And after enduring it I gladly rejoiced in the assurance that I would not see another photo of myself until the next year's travesty.
SATs? Slept like a baby. Opening night of the musical? Cake walk.
Having the chance to irrefutably declare to the universe that I had, in fact, attended the seventh grade? Valium, please. Stat.
It wasn't that my family didn't take pictures. We took gazillions of them. Roll after roll of film, filled to overflowing with documentation of vacations and birthdays, graduations and reunions.
And then, like every other red-blooded American family who understood the heartache that awaited us if we actually saw what we had recorded, we failed to develop any of the photos.
There was great wisdom in this.
Who could endure the agonizing frustration of learning, weeks or months after the fact, that you spent three days at the beach sporting a wedgie in your new 'boy cut' swim suit? You'd take one look at that 3x3-inch piece of cardboard and scream, "Pull it out, you idiot!" knowing that the poor fool was beyond help. Until the pictures were developed, that trip had been the time of your life. Now you'd need medication just to read a Coppertone ad.
Seriously, who'd go looking for that kind of grief?
My kids would. And they're not alone. Have you seen some of these Facebook "albums"? My daughter has a couple of pals who - I'm not kidding - have more than 500 pictures of themselves, all of which could be titled "Wistful Gazing, Volume I'.
"Here I am, gazing wistfully at the ocean."
"This is me, gazing wistfully at a rock."
"Me again, gazing wistfully at my Facebook page."
And that's another point: Take a good look at those pictures. What are the subjects doing in them? I'll tell you what they're doing...
Not a blessed thing!
These aren't pictures of once-in-a-lifetime humanitarian expeditions. They aren't photos of wild animals or exotic scenery or even the crazy neighbor who takes his trash cans to the curb wearing nothing but tube socks and a barbecue apron. It's just the kid, her digital camera, and the throngs of adoring fans living inside her head.
Eventually the girls blew in, exhausted but aglow from their desert photo shoot. Vanessa spent the next six hours editing the pictures and uploading them onto her profile page, where they now can be viewed by all her 'friends'.
And that's a good thing. What with a full schedule of status updates, tweets, and wistful gazing, who has time for actual relationships?
Besides, last I heard, all the kids her age were dating cardboard cutouts of themselves.
I just love a happy ending, don't you?