A World without Mirrors

I have always hated looking in the mirror, even as a child. The image of me in my head has never matched the one I see in the reflection. I’m always surprised. And the older I get, the more that surprise turns to shock. If it weren’t for bad hair days and a penchant for getting spinach in my teeth, I’d remove every single mirror from my house.

I wonder what a world without mirrors would be like? Would we be less vain and self-absorbed? Would we spend more time caring about others and less time focused on ourselves? Would our priorities change? Or would we just take even more selfies?

Driving would become a bigger challenge, that’s for sure. I would be a lot more hesitant to change lanes on the interstate. But I think I’d be willing to take that risk in exchange for a little less self-criticism.

There was a time when mirrors didn’t exist. But even then, people tended to gaze into pools of water. Thanks to Narcissus, though, too much of that was considered, well, narcissistic.

And yet, we couldn’t leave well enough alone. According to Wikipedia, people have been struggling to come up with a decent mirror for centuries. They made them out of polished stones in Turkey starting around 6000 BC, and from polished copper in Mesopotamia 2000 years after that. These mirrors were quite precious and most likely only used by the very rich.

From the beginning, the biggest challenge with mirrors was obtaining a flat surface. Without that, the images would become warped. And if there were bubbles or impurities, the image was cloudy. Depending on the substance you used, the image wouldn’t reflect colors accurately, either. It makes you realize where the term, “through the glass, darkly” came from in the Bible.

In the 16th century, the people of Venice, long known to be experts in all things glass, perfected mirror making. But it was no mean feat. These mirrors were still considered luxuries. So much so that, again according to Wikipedia, “in the late seventeenth century, the Countess de Fiesque was reported to have traded an entire wheat farm for a mirror, considering it a bargain.”

Nowadays, and pretty much since the industrial revolution, mirrors are mass produced. Everybody’s got ‘em. Most of us have them in just about every room in our house. It was a several-thousand-year struggle to get to this point, but here we are.

And here I am, still wishing that the darned things didn’t exist. Maybe I’d feel differently if I were the fairest of them all, or if, at the very least, I looked like I think I do.

Disney Magic Mirror

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Don’t Compare. Contrast!

A lot of women in America (and, I’m sure, in other places as well) are trained from practically birth to compare themselves to others and find themselves wanting. We can’t live up to those photoshopped models in the fashion magazines. How many of us look in the mirror and are unsatisfied with what we see? I know I am. My thighs are bigger than your thighs. Trust me. I know.

This “training” is such a big part of our culture that I suspect many of us don’t realize we’re doing it. I’m sure, for example, my mother didn’t do it intentionally. But those times that she said she wouldn’t “be seen in public” with me “looking like that” sent me a message, loud and clear. There’s some unwritten standard, and I do not meet it. And I got that message at school, on TV, in magazines, in music, from every man and boy who crossed my path, ad nauseum.

If you ask women to name someone they know who is thinner, or smarter, or prettier, or more popular, or taller, or shorter, or better in any way than they are, those women, if typical, will be able to answer you with very little hesitation. It’s sad that we all carry that baggage around with us. It’s tragic. There’s a reason that 90 percent of all people with anorexia or bulimia are female.

There’s also a reason why this culture persists. It’s convenient for retailers. It keeps us buying shoes and clothes and make up and shampoo. And it’s convenient for men. If we weren’t weighed down with all this comparison foolishness, our confidence would soar and we’d rule the world. We can’t have that, now, can we? Oh my goodness, no.

Let’s all concede that no two people are alike. Everyone will be more or less of this or that than the person standing next to them. Personally, I’m thrilled at the diversity in the world. I think we need to start thinking of contrasts instead of comparisons. It would be ever so much healthier if we got into the habit of acknowledging each other’s strengths and capitalizing on them.

For example, I have one friend that I go to for advice on publishing books, and another who is my style guru. A third can tell me everything I need to know about home remodeling and repair, and a fourth is an expert on the environment. And these people, I’m sure, come to me when they need input about matters that are more in my field of expertise. Together we are a formidable, amazing force in this world. And no two of us look alike. No two of us are alike.

As the meme below indicates, we may not all be identical, but we’re all awesome!

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Infantilization

Okay. Just three words. Rompers for men.

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Who in God’s name thinks that this is a good idea? I mean… come on. Some things are just  really, really ill-conceived. For example, I know darned well my miniskirt days are over. But I’m okay with that.

I’m sure several of my regular readers are going to argue that people should have a right to wear what they darned well please. I agree. And heaven knows I’m not exactly an arbiter of good taste. But sometimes you have to accept that what you wear sends a message.

As an adult male, I would not want to send the message that I’m really three years old and there ought to be a flap in the back of this get up so I have an easier time going number two. And anyone who has the slightest beer gut is going to walk around looking like one of those tomato pin cushions your mom had in her sewing kit.

All forms of infantilization drive me up a wall. I’ve discussed baby talkers before. I also think grown women in pig tails or with ribbons in their hair, or senior citizens who dress like pre-teens, are rather silly.

Even 75-year-old rock stars who haven’t figured out when to call it quits would not be caught dead in rompers. That’s just a guess, of course. But I think it’s a fairly safe one.

 


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DO Be Silly

I was treating myself to a Chinese buffet the other day, because I had managed to make it through the holidays with my sanity intact. Any excuse will do. Any excuse at all.

I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a mother and her son. He looked to be about fourteen, and he was talking about the kind of things that 14-year-olds talk about. Drama at school, I think.

The mother was trying to talk sense into the kid, and at one point she said, “Don’t be silly.”

My first thought was, “Ah, that’s how it all starts…”

It’s true. At some point in life most of us seem to lose our ability to be silly. We stop jumping on the bed, making snow angels, and having water fights while washing the family car. We start worrying more and more about what other people will think. We place too high a price on our own dignity and reputation. We stop playing.

I think this is tragic. How can one feed one’s spirit without clowning around? How many years do we trim off our lives by depriving ourselves of laughter and joy?

I suppose it’s better that that mother said, “Don’t be silly,” as opposed to “Don’t be an idiot,” but still… I hope she takes a little time to be silly with her son. Because it shouldn’t be such a dying art.

silly

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Why Is This One Different?

I have been hearing a lot of people saying that those of us who didn’t vote for Trump need to “get over it,” “quit our whining,” and “move on”. It’s not the first time my person didn’t win. I mean, I’ve lived through Reagan and both of the Bushes, after all. And I did, in fact, get over it. But this one is very different.

Why is it different? Even I couldn’t answer that for quite some time. I just knew I felt and still feel sick. I feel defeated and depressed and discounted and demoralized. I feel scared and in shock. That was not how I felt after past defeats. At least not to this extent. But I couldn’t put it into words, and that goes against my very nature.

Then I read this article by Phil Shailer in the Sun Sentinel. I strongly encourage you to read it. It’s extremely short and it’s very much to the point.

In a nutshell, this isn’t sour grapes because Trump is about to be president. It isn’t about me rooting for the losing team. No. It’s about what your support of him says about those of you who voted for him, and about us as a nation.

You may not be a racist, but you just supported one. You may not grab pussies, but you just gave the keys to the kingdom to someone who condones that and thinks it’s funny. You gave the go ahead to someone who wants to destroy the lives of immigrants when you yourself are most likely descended from immigrants. You are shouting yes to someone who is striking fear in the hearts of your neighbors, both foreign and domestic, and you just took away our access to health care and free speech and a safe environment.

By voting for him you are telling our children that it’s okay to be a bully, it’s okay to make fun of the disabled, it’s okay to judge women by their weight, it’s okay to encourage violence. By voting for him you give all of his behavior a stamp of approval. And that’s an ugly thing to see.

The truth is, this country is the same as it was a few months ago. It’s just that now the tumors that used to be hidden deep inside are all on the surface, and that’s making it a lot harder to see its beauty. So you’ll just have to forgive me if I feel the need to mourn, and no, I quite likely won’t get over it.

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Post Surgery, You’re Still You

Back in 2013, I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Where are YOU Located?” In it I talked about how I basically think of myself as residing somewhere behind my eyes, and that my body is kind of the vehicle I ride around in. I still think that way the vast majority of the time.

But there are some exceptions. Prior to my hysterectomy, I wondered if I’d still feel like a woman afterward. Would I still be me? Or would I feel as though an important part of who I am was now missing?

This is actually a common anxiety. I’ve heard women express it just before having a mastectomy, too. After all, as women, we are taught to reduce ourselves to the sum of our body parts.

And during that horrible window of anxiety, many of us can’t or won’t discuss these fears with our loved ones, because we feel they wouldn’t understand, or the subject would make them uncomfortable. How could a man get it? Or an adult child?

But believe me, your family is worried about the procedure too. And they will be just as relieved to see you come out the other side. So try to talk to them about it. It will help all concerned.

If you’re needing reassurance, I can tell you that every woman I’ve talked to about this subject agrees that after the fact, much to our relief, we still feel like ourselves. We all learn that “we” are not our body parts. When that pound (or more) of flesh gets removed, we still exist. We still have our personalities, our thought processes, our character. We still live and love and laugh.

“We” survive. We survive. And you will, too. I promise.

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Pattern Recognition

Evolution sometimes has an interesting sense of humor. We have evolved to be good at pattern recognition. It’s important to be able to pick out that tiger lurking in the underbrush or that poisonous snake amongst the leaves. And it’s always a good idea to be able to tell your friends apart from your enemies. This is the stuff of survival.

But in this modern age, we may just be too good at pattern recognition. We see the Virgin Mary in grilled cheese sandwiches. We see conspiracies where none exist. Our prejudices about people’s appearances prevent us from feeling safe and often promote unnecessary violence and war. We’re frequently so intent upon describing criminals to the police that we don’t even come close to being accurate. These days, more often than not, pattern recognition bites us in the butt.

But it is nice to be able to look up at the clouds in the sky and see horses and angels and butterflies. Imagination has “image” in it for a reason. It’s fun to pick out constellations, read palms, and create intricate tattoos. Without pattern recognition, we could never play Candy Crush Saga.

In recent weeks, pattern recognition has been both a blessing and a curse to me. I keep seeing old red Ford F150’s everywhere I go. And I see older men with long hair and beards and baseball caps and sunglasses. All of these things make me hope, for a split second, that my boyfriend isn’t dead after all. My heart leaps. And then drops back down into its state of heartbreak when I realize I’m once again mistaken. How many times will I have to fall for that trick?

But on the brighter side, there’s this tree outside my bathroom window. When the wind isn’t blowing, the branches look exactly like the profile of my boyfriend. I never noticed that before, but now it’s all I see, and it makes me smile. I’ll be really sad when a branch breaks or the tree grows in such a way that the image disappears. But maybe by then I won’t need to see it anymore.

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[Image credit: imgarcade.com]

This is Who I Am

My back is turned to you as I sit on the beach, the mountain cove curling to the north and south of me, as if to sweep me up in an embrace. I’m gazing down at my tanned feet and my painted toe nails encrusted with wet sand. My red dress is buffeted by the warm breeze and my thick black braid is a reassuring weight against my spine. I’m happy, young, thin, self-confident, content. I’m even vegetarian.

Unfortunately, this is not the person who gazes back at me when I look in the mirror. In fact, not one aspect of that description fits me, from the braid to the tan and painted toes. Looking back at me is someone who always comes as a bit of a shock. I don’t look like me. I  never have.

It’s hard to reconcile this dichotomy, this contradiction, this, let’s face it, crashing disappointment. And I’ve felt this way my entire life. My corporeal being cannot compete with me. I never age. I wear red. I feel right.

I feel awkward about this dichotomy, but I really don’t know why. It’s not as if people are aware of it. It’s a rare person who takes the time to see who you really are. People generally make snap judgments based on outward appearances. The older I get, the more invisible I seem to become to those around me. Actually that’s a comfort, because it makes it easier for me to be who I really am.

As long as I don’t look in the mirror.

Bare Feet

[Image Credit: elizabethhubbellstudio.com]

“It’s a Ride Naked on a Tricycle Kind of Day”

A friend of mine sent out a picture of his toddler doing just that the other day, and that was the caption below it. I thought, “I have those kinds of days, but only in my head.”

That reminded me of one of my pet peeves. Why do children get to do things that adults would never dare to do? I want to jump in puddles! I want to make mud pies! I want to go down a slip n’ slide! I want to blow bubbles in my milk! I want to have a tree house!

My mother used to adore merry-go-rounds. I still have an image of her in my head, riding on one in her early 40’s, sitting stiffly upright but looking absolutely delighted. At the time I was so young that I didn’t realize how special that was. It takes a lot for an adult to do something like that. Why is that?

Some people have children or grandchildren and can use them as an excuse to let their inner child come out to play. But for those of us who have no children, or whose children have all grown up, I feel it’s important to remind oneself to remain playful. That’s what I loved about the Cosby Show. Now there was a couple that remained playful with each other. I want to have a relationship, heck, I want to have a life like that.

Somewhere along the line most of us become more reserved. It sneaks up on us gradually. One day we look up and realize we’re no longer someone who gets into snowball fights or does Chinese Fire Drill at stoplights. And that is most definitely our loss.

In college at the dances, a friend of mine used to link hands with me and we’d spin in circles. It was so liberating! Just 3 or 4 short years later I visited her on campus. She now worked there. We happened to find ourselves at a dance and I wanted to spin, for old time’s sake. She wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do it. As a staff member, she had an image to uphold. That made me profoundly sad.

But we don’t have to walk that path if we don’t want to. We can still be responsible adults while tossing the occasional water balloon. So your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to find yourself a puddle and jump in it. I won’t tell.

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