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I’m a woman of a certain age who used to think that selfies are extremely narcissistic. I mean, how many times do we need to see you posing in a bathroom or in your car? Could you not get someone to take a photo of you? Or were you so irresistible to yourself that you thought we would agree?  And don’t get me started on the “candid” selfie pictures.  Please raise your hand if you agree that selfies are for narcissistic people.

I was the Queen of Selfie Shaming.  That is until I found myself traveling abroad,  solo.  I quickly tired of asking strangers to take my photo, hoping that the result would be a winner.  And really, if I asked someone to take my photo more than twice because they didn’t get it right, wasn’t that being a bit obnoxious?  It was either learn how to take my own picture, or forever lose out on documenting me in the moment surrounded by gorgeous scenery.  The road to Selfie Freedom was neither short nor painless.

I was the Queen of Selfie Shaming.  That is until I found myself traveling abroad, solo.

The first sign of trouble was at the Royal Naval Observatory in Greenwich, London.  Although I wasn’t technically solo on that trip, I still occasionally needed someone to take a picture of my daughter and me together.

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Acceptable picture taken at the Prime Meridian Greenwich, London.

She and I stood in line for ten minutes to have our picture taken at the Prime Meridian — the line that divides the eastern and western hemispheres.  As Americans often do, I offered to take a picture for the woman in front of me if she returned the favor.  I am positive that the photo I took of her was great.  You know why?  Because I tried.  The photo she took of me and my daughter?  A head shot!  This was obviously not the picture we were aiming for when we asked her to take our photo.  By the time we really looked at the photo, we had lost out spot.  So, my daughter and I got back into line.

We had better luck the second time.  The father of two in line behind us patiently endured my nicely barked orders and took several careful photographs of us.  And guess what?  His photos showed the Prime Meridian and us straddling the line!  Eureka!  I realized then that relying on others to take quality photographs of me might be a problem.

Ish got real the next year in Italy. I enjoyed the time I spent away from our travel group more than I enjoyed time with them. I got “lost” a lot and completely enjoyed my own company.  Being a loner on tour naturally means that you’re left to your own devices when it comes to capturing pictures of yourself in the moment.

I attempted my first true selfies on St. Mark’s Square in Venice.  Since I was using an actual camera, I learned to view my reflection in the lens before snapping the pic.  The first few photos were comical.  Do my pores look fat to you?

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Finally, I achieved something akin to okayness.  As the trip progressed, I practiced here and there and gained the confidence to at least swat away the selfie hatred emanating from passers-by and take a few self photos.

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The dude in the gray shirt is COMPLETELY judging me.  And, too much of my gums are showing.  #Retake ~ St. Mark’s Square, Venice.

In the words of Tupac Shakur, only God can judge me — and my selfie motivations.  All you other muthasuckas?  Get out my business.

The day my selfie cherry completely disappeared was a sweaty, thigh killing, and almost heart stopping glorious day spent climbing the streets of Positano on the Amalfi Coast, trying to get back from the beach to a roadside cafe with a killer view that I had seen on the bus drive in from our hotel in Maori. The scene was impossibly beautiful — the Mediterranean Sea shaded from teal to glittering blue, yachts bobbed serenely in the harbor far below, sun worshipers adorned the small, rocky beach, and the houses and buildings of the town cascaded from dizzy heights to the Bay of Naples far below.

In the words of Tupac Shakur, only God can judge me — and my selfie motivations. All you other muthasuckas? Get out my business.

Once I huffed and puffed up to the top of Mount Crumpet, I spied the cafe and scored a seat right by the railing.  After I ordered my survival meal — bruschetta and a glass of vino — I became determined to take photos of myself.  A group of Italians seated at the table in front of me noticed my efforts.  I understood not a lick of what they were saying.  I did, however, understand the word “selfie” and the disapproving chuckles.  Seriously, is there no Italian word for selfie?  If you’re going to shame me, at least coin your own Italian phrase to do so.

Undaunted, I tried several times until I got this result.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  Except for that railing in the background.  Oh well.  Early days.

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Earnest selfie effort at Caffe Positano on the Amalfi Coast.

By the time the tour entered the last city on the itinerary, Rome, I was hitting the dregs of my budgeted money.  A sista had to prioritize her ends at the end, so I ignored the newfangled thing called the selfie stick that I saw every Roman street vendor and souvenir shop salesperson hawking.  However, for MONTHS afterwards I kicked myself that I didn’t buy a selfie stick near the Spanish Steps for 10€, or look for one earlier on the trip.  I became convinced that a selfie stick would have set my feeble first selfie photos off right.  I could have made the Cafe Positano picture that much better by using the selfie stick and posing to avoid the railing.

I didn’t think much more about selfies, or selfie sticks, until I took my next trip across

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Buying my first selfie stick on Montjuic in Barcelona, Spain.

the pond.  I scoffed at the $25-plus price tag that airports asked for a selfie stick, and hoped I could find another 10€ holla.  It wasn’t until my fourth day in Barcelona that I made the trip to see the city spread below me from the heights of Montjuic.  An Indian gentleman was selling selfie sticks, and I almost pushed other tourists aside to get to him.

I had my choice of black, purple, blue, or red.  I chose black because, after all, I wasn’t trying to draw that much attention to myself beyond the usual selfie shaming that I knew would go on every time I used it.  My salesman took a candid picture of us as he showed me how to work it.  I was officially in solo travel heaven.

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I was doing tricks with my selfie stick, like…

I switched between my regular camera and my cellphone.  I would videorecord with one, and snap pictures with the other.  I became the Annie Oakley of the selfie stick as I quickly assembled it and stuck my cellphone into it, always ready to catch a special shot that could only be taken from the extended arm of the selfie stick.  You would have thought that I was a soldier cleaning my weapon the way I disassembled the cellphone and selfie stick and stowed them away, all in five seconds flat.  My photography graduated to an entirely new level.  For the first time ever, I could politely refuse strangers’ offers to take pictures of me because I could take them myself and have them turn out exactly the way that I wanted.  #SelfieFreedom

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One of my greatly improved pictures.  Avila, Spain.

Did a few of the people on my tour scoff at me because I had a selfie stick?  Of course they did.  However, by the end of the trip, they were asking me how it worked and wished that they had purchased one, too.

The problem with buying a selfie stick at the top of Montjuic from an enterprising young man is that it eventually stops working.  I noticed that the button I would press to activate the shutter on the cellphone began to migrate to the side, right around the time we made it to Salamanca.  And it didn’t migrate back.  I used the selfie stick faithfully all throughout my trip, and it lasted about two days into my week-long Caribbean vacation two months later.  The button on the stick stopped working and I had to call the time of death.

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I will never forget how it served me well all over Spain, and somewhat in Aruba.  I will be forever grateful to it for helping me to fully embrace the freedom to take the pictures I wanted, when I wanted.

The next time you see a single person taking a selfie or using a selfie stick, don’t judge them.  That’s God’s job.  True, they might be a narcisstic jerk.  Or, they just might have achieved a Tupacian sense of Selfie Freedom and want you, muthasucka, to get out of their business.