What’s wrong with me? What am I doing clutching my 2-year-old in this chokehold as I attempt to aim my phone at our two duck-lipped faces? Can’t he have a normal “mirror” phase like any other pre-Kardashian child? Profound parental – no, human – guilt confronts me. I know this is wrong, base, tacky. But I need Hank to stare into my smart phone and smile. Smile! C’mon, smile!
Instead, he flails and sobs uncontrollably. He wants his freedom. Not for one second do I lack sympathy for the kid, but Mom wants a photo of us – and, Dude, we are going to get this selfie if it kills me.
I’m sure plenty has been written about this oft-maligned millennial phenomenon we call the selfie, though I don’t have time to read any of it. I need to post this photo of younger son Leo in his Dodgers onesie on Instagram.
Other parents and friends post selfies with their children without filters or scruples. I’ve seen everything from the baby at the tattoo parlor to the beret-wearing toddler at the Eiffel Tower (at Paris Las Vegas). And when I look at these photos on Facebook or Instagram, I’m rarely fooled, muttering to myself, “They’re trying too hard.” Staging is essential to the baby-selfie. Viewing the social media feeds of my friends in New York, you’d think it was sunny every day and that all these parents do is gadabout town sipping negronis. And in Chicago, somehow it’s never cold and the Cubs play in February.
In L.A., you can create an ideal baby-selfie all year. Woohoo! But there are pitfalls to having an abundance of sun and renowned landmarks at your camera-phone’s thumb-tips. So allow me to guide your selfie shooting and help you avoid any baby missteps.
First, avoid the obvious and the mundane. Let your cousin from Waukesha, Wisc., snap that photo with the Hollywood sign behind him. Also refrain from the baby-selfie on the bed with the black-and-white filter. It’s simultaneously boring and creepy.
Consider, instead, a hike. A panoramic view of our lovely city from above makes for the perfect backdrop. It also will make your friends (or cousin in Waukesha) decidedly jealous if that is your aim (and that is the law of the selfie). Avoid Runyun Canyon. You will get the views, but you will also have to spend time nervously scanning the trails for feral pit bulls. Not a good place for your baby or toddler. Instead, try taking the Los Liones Trail to Parker Mesa. At the end of this moderately strenuous hike in Topanga State Park, there is a lovely bench on a ridge that seems to stretch out over Santa Monica Bay. Imagine your little one smiling with hundreds of blue rippling currents behind him, the Pier’s Ferris wheel spinning in the background. On a clear day, you can see San Jacinto, San Nicolas Island and the booming cranes of Long Beach harbor. If your child can’t stand the carrier (ours can’t, unfortunately), don’t fret. Most of the trail is wide fire road, which is ideal for your jauntiest stroller. Be sure to don the sunscreen.
Assuring that your followers fully understand the scope of your SoCal savviness is paramount, so feel free to step outside the bounds of L.A. County. Sometimes, it’s best to model your baby in varying landscapes and ecosystems. For example, Joshua Tree National Park, while not literally in our back yard, is close enough and will give your baby-selfie an added sun-swept luster. For a stone-age look (and to elicit comparisons between your baby and Bamm-Bamm of “Flintstones” fame), take the kiddo to Hidden Valley. Those mammoth mounds of limestone make for an otherworldly scene. Just look out for rattlers – and the three-hour drive back.
Closer to home, the famed junction of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue that flanks the Miracle Mile presents an array of selfie opportunities. No doubt the tar pit lake will perk your narcissistic impulses as you and your child peer at your murky reflections. Hank and I did manage to get some great photos. We pretended to be stuck in black goo (“ewww,” he kept repeating). Also, there’s LACMA’s nostalgic streetlight installation. A selfie here is prerequisite to holding a ZIP code that begins with 9-0. Hank also enjoyed the giant boulder known as “Levitated Mass.”
“Look at that big rock right there,” he kept saying. I knew that piece had a demographic.
Isaac Parfrey is a writer, composer and L.A. native who enjoys roaming Southern California with his wife, Kate, and sons, Hank and Leo. Follow him on Twitter @IsaacParfrey.