Monday, October 12, 2009

BODY SHOTS

Did the devil make me do it?

No. I blame Jennifer Anison. If she gets to look great at 40 and have it documented for all the world to see on the cover of GQ (below, left), why can't I? That's why, on the day after my 40th birthday, I pulled off my shirt and had my best friend from high school and college take a photo of me (above) and then made it my Facebook profile photo. Despite the occasional early commentary -- usually complimentary, occasionally facetious almost to the point of being annoying -- I haven't thought much about what the photo says about me. Until now.

Recently, I've been reading stories online about how potential employers vet out undesirable job candidates by screening their Facebook profiles, looking for damning information, comments and/or photos. Some bosses are even using this stuff as an excuse to sack current employees. Never mind that this new form of puritanical voyeurism could very well cost businesses valuable talent, it also sounds like an invasion of privacy.

Although I try to refrain from airing my dirty laundry on Facebook (yes, the underwear peek-a-booing over my belt is clean), I can't help but wonder if my profile pic might not be my professional undoing. It's been three years since I worked as a journalist full-time, but it's always given me some comfort to know that, if necessary, I could always return to New York and resume my career.

But would that be easier said than done? Halle Berry might win an Oscar for doffing her duds, but it doesn't quite work that way with journalists, the ranks of which, truth be told, are not filled with hotties. Who do I think I am anyway? Janet Jackson circa 1993? Jennifer Aniston circa last January? Perhaps at this point, I might have better luck finding work as a go-go boy or a male escort.

That is pretty much what the friend of a friend suggested today when he said that my profile pic looks like it should have a phone number scrolling underneath. I laughed because he was kind of right. He also made the interesting point that it is easier for a gay man to get away with something like that than a straight man. I don't completely agree, but I see where he is coming from. Gay men are pretty much expected to be shirtless, but a half-naked straight guy comes across looking kind of like an, um, midnight cowboy -- unless he happens to be Justin Timberlake (left) or Zac Efron (below, left) on the cover of Rolling Stone. So I guess it's good to be gay. And male. Imagine what kind of vicious charges would be levelled at a woman who decided to pull a Janet or a Jennifer on Facebook!

My brother, who is also gay but fully clothed in his Facebook profile pic once commented that the only shirtless Facebook "friends" he has are Helligar men, which might mean that exhibitionism runs in my family. Recently, some other random guy sent me a message asking if I was looking for something. Actually, yes, but in a city like BA which is overflowing with sky-high libidos, I don't need to post a suggestive Facebook profile pic to find it. All I have to do is step outside and let the games begin.

For a while, I decided to practice modesty and posted a new profile pic of just my face with a big old smile. But it felt like such a compromise, a total cop out. One of my best friends once told me about an interview with Tina Turner in which she explained her over-the-hill-but-sexy persona by saying something along the lines of "If you've got it flaunt it, because you won't have it forever."

I'm not saying that I've got it, or that I'm even flaunting it. I just happen to like the photo, and since I hate the beach, and since my Rolling Stone cover invitation must be lost in the mail, my body shot will have to be a little -- okay, a lot -- gratuitous. At least I'm not one of those sickeningly proud parents who use photos of their kids, who are too young to object. Oh, yeah, but I forgot: family values, and being a parent automatically makes you a better person.

Eventually, I'm sure I will take some other photo that screams, "Profile pic!" -- and I'll be fully clothed. But in the meantime, skin is in.
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