If you’ve been online this year, you’ve seen them — your friends, coworkers, acquaintances decked out in Abercrombie shirts and heavy fringes, consumed by the savage flash of a digital camera or flip phone. It started as the #HowHardDidAgeHitYou challenge, which spawned the #10YearChallenge and the #2009vs2019 challenge, all thoroughly unchallenging challenges that have you show off how the passage of time and adoption of a skincare regimen has changed your looks.
But how much have we changed, really? What observations can we make from visual comparisons of our past and current selves? What is a self, anyway? Below, some thoughts.
• In 2009, I mostly wore sparkly Going Out Tops and low-rise bootcut jeans that made me look like a Forever 21 mannequin, and now, I mostly wear blocky sweaters and culottes that make me look like a little throw pillow with legs.
• In 2009, I had heavy, swoopy bangs that said “I listen to My Chemical Romance when I’m sad.” Now, I have slightly shorter bangs that say, “I listen to Fresh Air when I’m sad.”
• In 2009, I was “friends with benefits” with this guy named Chris who wasn’t “looking for anything serious,” and in 2019 I’m “hanging out” with a guy named Chris who is just “taking life one day at a time.”
• In 2009, I wore makeup that made me look like a sad raccoon. In 2019, I wear makeup that makes me look like I swam through a pool of lube.
• In 2009, I used Facebook to post pictures of me partying with captions like “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night.” Now, I use Facebook to try to sell these protein smoothies that I bought in bulk from an herbal supplement company I invested in, and to invite my friends to join me in this exciting opportunity to kick-start their health and embark on a new lifestyle for the new year!!
• In 2009, I wore Von Dutch trucker hats. In 2019, I wear teeny little beanies that perch atop my skull and don’t keep my ears warm.
• In 2009, I liked to look at the camera with an expression that said, “Me? Oh, gosh.” Now, I like to look at the camera with an expression that says, “You’ve disappointed me.”
• In 2009, I wore enormous square sunglasses that consumed my entire face, and now I wear microscopic little sunglasses that barely cover my pupil.
• In 2009, I masturbated to Jon Stewart. In 2019, I masturbate to Jon Stewart, but now he has a beard.
• In 2009, I went out of my way to see a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Now I feel powerless to avoiding information like this.
• In 2009, I called my mom to ask her how to do my taxes. In 2019, I texted my mom to ask her how to do my taxes.
• In 2009, my favorite place to take selfies was on the computer in my family’s carpeted basement, under bright overhead lights. Now, my favorite place to take selfies is in the full-length mirror on the back of my roommate’s door, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
• In 2009, I wore so much self-tanner than it smudged off onto my sheets. In 2019, I wear so much moisturizer that I slip and slide dangerously along the increasingly slick surface of my bed at night, occasionally crashing painfully to the floor, where I struggle to gain purchase with my cocoa-butter smeared hands and feet, before eventually giving up and curling into a small, creamy ball until someone can come and help me and my beautiful, glowing skin up.
• In 2009, I was already pretty hot, but now I’m hotter and I want people to see and give me compliments.