I walk up to the trendy, expat breakfast cafe on Pokambor Avenue in Siem Reap, and observe what is going on. For the first time that day, but certainly not for the last, my Instagram monologue boots up in my head...
"Well, that table has too much direct light. That is a table for four, so I probably shouldn't occupy it for several hours. Everyone will be able to see what I am doing on my laptop at that table. That table has a 25-year-old girl sitting next to it, she will judge me."
I finally pick a table, grabbing a newspaper from a stack by the entrance. It is all about setting a scene (plus, I love the Phnom Penh Post).
I order my meal and wait. I am seriously anxious. Why? For the moment when my food arrives, and I have to take a picture.
The wait staff delivers my drink first: perfect latte art. Great, now I have to wait for my food to arrive before drink it and mess up the art.
Suddenly, moments before I presume my food is about to arrive, tragedy strikes. The sun pokes out from behind a cloud and shines a single, glaring beam of light right across my table. The inner monologue boots up...
"No no no no... no. Shit. This isn't going to work. It is way too late to move. When my food arrives, I could walk across the restuarant and take a picture at another table? No. I have too much shame for that. I could wait for the sun to move? How long will that take? How fast does the sun move?"
My food is placed in front of me. The shard of sunlight divides the plate in half. Gulp. It appears this will all be for naught.
I wait a few minutes for the sun to pass. It seems to be moving, but not quickly enough. The waitstaff begin to hover around my table because I am yet to touch my food. They ask if there are any issues. I guess it is now or never.
I quickly shoot up, my camera already poised with my finger hovering above the shutter, ready to take the picture, and sit back down. As I go to take the picture, I look down at my food through the camera, and cant help but to laugh out loud. The shard of sunlight has caused my breakfast to look straight out of a film noir. It looks like something someone would consume while smoking a cigarette, finish eating, and then get up and kill their lover (also probably while smoking a cigarette).
It is too funny. I can't help it. I continue to laugh and say, "Wow, how moody!"
Wait... did I just say that out loud?
Everybody in the restuarant (who were already watching, and judging, out of the corner of their eye) turn at the sound of my voice. I look up, a deer in headlights... and proceed to make eye contact with every. single. patron.
And that is how I became the crazy lady talking to her corn fritters, WHILE committing the largest faux pas of 2016: photographing my meal.
I wish I could say this was the first time, but I have basically spent the last year being the pariah of the iPhone community. I will say... y'all spend hours looking at food flat lays and cheese pulls, but the moment you actually see the person taking the picture, you turn on them.
Luckily, after several solo weeks on the road, I have become numb to the judgement white girls with cameras typically receive (from other white girls, none the less). Don't get me wrong, when hold my bowl of noddles in the air, poise my sony camera, and look around to see people nudging their friends, pointing at me, and rolling their eyes, it hurts. I turn away and shrink my head into my neck like Jabba the Hut.
But then I keep on going... because at this point, I have already committed. At the very least, I deserve good picture.
I can remember every time I have been mocked like this. Don't even get me started on locals catching you taking candid pictures.
A quick word to all the Judgey McGees out there - technology is the future. Technology isn't going anywhere. Food and travel photography... one day, that is all we will have.
In 10 years, when current tweens are old enough to afford vacations or fancy meals, do you think they are going to go to the library and check out books on destinations? Or read restuarant reviews? Nope! They are going to look at some pretty pictures and say, "That! I want that!"
Until then, I will continue to travel around Asia with 1 backpack, and 1 severely bruised ego.
My only shred of hope: locals love taking pictures of me because I am white. I have gotten very good at paying it forward and pretending like I don't notice.
The saddest part about Instagram? It actually takes a pathetically large amount of work.
NEXT WEEK: The shame of hashtags.