I have several little items I keep near my deskish area. My rabbit cartoon, a Valentine the nurses made us, which bears Simone’s not-quite-a-week-old footprints, a purple ribbon a friend gave me (in college?), which reads “HOMEWORK CHAMP,” a paper-clipped stack of miniature index cards, which once hung on my Crazy Person’s Bulletin Board—you know, the usual. Precious detritus.
I also have a few photographs, and one of them is of me at five or so. It is singularly unflattering, but it is Very Alexa. It’s what I keep around as an antidote, should I begin to take myself too seriously. I am going to show it to you now. Ready?
That, right there, is the author of this website. No artfully composed self-portrait could capture me half as truthfully. The setting, I believe, is my grandparents’ house in Minot, North Dakota. I am not thinking about how I will look in the picture, which means I lack the slightly frightened, frozen visage that has become the hallmark of Alexa on Film, the expression that says “the person holding the camera has taken me hostage, and I am smiling in order to appease him and hopefully escape with my life.” No, in this picture I am fairly shimmering with enthusiasm and manic, chipmunk-y glee, mostly because of the nightgown, which I remember very well. It came with a matching miniature version for my Cabbage Patch Kid, but that isn’t the source of my giddiness. Mostly, I am intoxicated with my own wit: First Class FEmail! “First class,” like postage, but also like EXCELLENT! Fe-MAIL—like letters! It could mean FABULOUS, UNSTOPPABLE GIRL, or a really important postcard! Why aren’t you laughing yet?
As a youth I was a big fan of clothing based upon wordplay of any kind, and my favorite shirt at that age was a turtleneck covered with pictures of cats, dogs, and umbrellas. (GET IT??) I’d take a break from a subtraction worksheet, look down at my chest or sleeve, and oh how I would chuckle. Another favorite I am just now remembering was a pair of underwear with Garfield on the front, wearing Groucho glasses. The caption, ala Garbo, was “I VANT TO BE LEFT ALONE.”
(Typing this out, I am realizing that a pair of little girl underwear with “I VANT TO BE LEFT ALONE” printed across the pubis is maybe a tad questionable, but there you are.)
My brother’s boyfriend, a devastatingly handsome Brazilian for whom Simone has conceived a hopeless passion, is in medical school. For a while, it looked like he might choose dermatology as a specialty, and this excited me terribly, because I would finally have someone for whom to make my “Dermatologists Do It With The Largest Organ” T-shirt (remember?) But then he had to go and change his mind again for the trillionth time, and now he is looking at Peds, and my “Pediatricians Do It With Children” shirt idea was not nearly as well-received, for whatever reason. The point is, I am still that girl. That nerdy, excited, easily amused girl in the picture, even if sometimes it’s hidden under anxiety or self-consciousness or curmudgeonly grumbling. Most of the time, looking at that picture is enough to remind me to be delighted—that being delighted is my natural state, whether that delight is the byproduct of an unintentionally hilarious sign or a balcony in the bathroom or the really fascinating book I’m reading, about the bubonic plague.
Do you have a picture of yourself that is especially, quintessentially you? I don’t mean this to sound like some cheesy “inner-child” exercise (though all children DO need exercise, even the inner ones), but for whatever reason it does seem that these are usually photos from childhood. If you have one, and have a place to post it, I would love to see. Or you can just tell me about it. Or tell me anything at all. I’ve learned how to respond right in the comment section now, so I think I am going to do more of that. We can talk! Like our own cozy little parlor! Or a literary salon, but with less “literary” and more bad puns.