Avatar: An icon or figure representing a particular person in a video game, Internet forum, etc.
I’ve never had an avatar. In fact, I only recently discovered that’s the name for the cutesy cartoon depictions that people create for an online presence.
My blogging buddy Waking Up on the Wrong Side of 50 added an avatar to her site several months ago. Though it’s not her actual picture, it gives a glimpse into her general appearance.
People are naturally curious about what writers look like, or what lurks behind the keyboard. After reading several chapters of “The Yellow House” by Sarah Broom (by the way, one of the best books I’ve read in years), I Googled Ms. Broom to get a sense of what she looks like.
I did the same thing after finishing a piece by New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake, who questioned why she was following an artsy-fartsy hippie family on Instagram. After Flake described herself as dumpy https://longreads.com/tag/emily-flake/, I decided to Google her, reasoning “I’ll be the judge of that.”
(Like many women, Flake is much too hard on herself. I don’t know why women do this, but the self-flagellation has got to stop.)
But back to avatars. Waking recently wrote about being hit upon by a man after he liked one of her Instagram photos, and she liked his. She was incredulous that this guy, whom she has since blocked, hit on her based on her avatar and the fact that she liked his photo.
I wrote saying I’d never had this problem, but some guys look for any opening, even one that doesn’t exist.
But now my curiosity was piqued. I’ve wanted an avatar since my hip neighbor Ken, who works in advertising and is always on the cutting edge of everything, debuted his avatar several years ago. Waking’s post reminded me that like a lot of things, I never got around to doing it.
I went on a free online avatar site and began building a virtual self-portrait. But I quickly moved on to Avachara http://avachara.com because the first had limited expressions that didn’t capture any of my moods, and lacked shoulder length hair with an off-center part.
As I see it, there must be truth in avatarsing, or at least some semblance of it. But as I built my image with hair, eyes, eyebrows, nose and lips, I wondered whether I was building an image of what I want to look like, or an accurate depiction of me.
The good news is that avatar faces don’t have wrinkles, sagging jowls or dark spots requiring nightly No. 7 correcting cream. The eyes are devoid of crepy eyelids, under-eye circles, crow’s feet and bags that make you tempted to take the Plexiderm challenge.
For me, the toughest part was the nose and eyebrows. I initially selected a turned up nose that I’ve always wanted, but wasn’t at all like my Irish/Italian schnoz. I had the feeling that my sisters and friends would think, “Is she kidding?” when seeing it, so I returned to the noses and selected a more realistic one.
The other hitch was the eyebrows, making me realize how important eyebrow shape and grooming is to our appearance. I tried out several different eyebrows and none of them came close to my natural brows, which I’ve always tried to tame myself with a tweezer.
I finally chose what I thought was close to mine, but who knows? That may be wishful thinking too.
I had most fun dressing my avatar. It reminded me of when I was a little girl home sick from school. My mother would always buy me Colorforms or paper dolls to keep me happy when I was sick, the only upside to feeling punk.
I loved dressing up the paper and Colorform dolls, making my avatar styling like a walk back in time. I chose a white blouse, black blazer and dark washed jeans, but there were more wild choices, including a French maid outfit. I have no idea who would pick that.
Once built, I showed the Curmudgeon my avatar.
“Does this look anything like me?” I asked.
“She is awfully slim,” he said.
So I got to work on his avatar, which looks a bit like he did 30 years ago. In his younger days, people used to say he resembled Christopher Reeve during his Superman days. (I never really saw that, but he seemed to enjoy the comparison.) Last year, he was mistaken on Hilton Head Island for the golfer Jim Furyk.
I guess time and gravity have a way of catching up with all of us.