I sometimes think about all the mirrors I have faced in this life. There was an old limerick I memorized decades ago that went something like this:
“As a beauty I am not a star
There are others more lovely by far
But my face? I’m behind it
I really don’t mind it
It’s the people in front that I jar.”
I probably made faces at myself in the mirror as a child. My first real memories of staring into mirrors come with adolescence. My hair, my face, the idea of makeup, whether my figure figured for anything at all unless I invented another reality around it…
I do recall one night when I sat in front of the TV at age eight or so, brushing and brushing my hair. It felt so silky as I stroked it with the other hand, so soft. Actually, it felt beautiful. When I just had to gaze upon this wonder, I stood and made my way to the bathroom. My hair stood straight out around my face, a 180 degree halo of electricity still crackling with energy. Since I had pictured long waves lying tamely in some perfect bob, I was shocked beyond my ability to measure.
I have never much cared for pictures of myself. In this I am like my mother who really didn’t like having her photo taken. Actually, in so many ways I am like my mother, who also lived alone at the seashore toward the last part of her life. She cooked. I write.
Recently I stripped down, stood in front of the mirror in soft afternoon light, gathering up the Babylonian garden of adipose I seem to have cultivated to hide the grim seam of my hysterectomy scars. There is more emotion in those scars then I have yet been able to face. My life was cut apart with them, my femininity removed in a most unforgiven way. I was made into a eunuch, spayed like any uncontrolled animal. But it differentiated me in a manner perhaps the mad society of physicians would never have expected or condoned. So I have lived with it, simply padding the scars with layers.
Mirrors used to be kinder to my face. I recall once in a coffee shop as I waited to be cashed out that I looked to the back wall & saw someone who looked a bit familiar. My first thought was, “I’d really like to get to know her.” My second was, “Oh my God, that’s me!”
Mirrors now are magical. They show me a face lined, seamed, wrinkled, creased and squared off around the jaws. They single out the tiny hairs along my upper lip & chin, which have gone salt & pepper in some equal opportunity burst of neopolitik. They are familiar friends & a burst of heightened reality I can barely face. The magic comes because I always think, “this isn’t even what I look like!”
I have achieved an uneasy peace with my mirror. I ask it only to reflect back my good qualities but it is unerring in its nonjudgmental work. It simply is. I simply am to it. Mirrors are all surface; I only think they reflect the depth I try to see in them. Mirrors are always certain of how I look to the world. I am always hoping to regain something forever put aside now.
I may stare occasionally, but I don’t gaze any longer. I may be here now seeing what I see, what is faithfully shown back, but it is just behind my eyes that my truest reflection awaits.