I’m not sure when I first started avoiding mirrors, but one day, I realized that I was. It’s not that I never look in a mirror – I’m human – I need to see to fix my hair or put on makeup or make sure my clothes aren’t on inside-out or something – which I have failed at twice in the last six months or so (though if it’s dark, I really do avoid them – a leftover fear from my jackhole neighbor boys telling my Mary Worth stories when I was five).
It’s less about avoiding the mirrors, exactly, and more about the way I cringe when I do look in them. I see a face that doesn’t look like me – or like the me I used to be. The me I want to be. I see gray hair and huge pores and bad skin and dark circles. I see tired eyes and sagging boobs. But mostly, I see fat. This isn’t who I want to be – not the fat woman, really (though I don’t want to be her, either), but the woman who hates herself, the woman who hides from mirrors because she hates what she sees.
I try to raise my daughter to never be that person. I never want her to hate herself, hate the way she looks. I never want her to be ashamed of what she looks like instead of proud of who she is. I refrain from talking about how I look in front of her. I teach her about loving yourself and the way you look. I stress to both of my kids that kindness and compassion are important and looks are not. And even though I do all that. I still worry that they will realize how I feel – that I’ll give off some vibe of self-loathing. That’s they’ll be able to read my face; pick up on my looks of disgust in the mirror the way I picked up on the looks of disgust my mom gave me as a teen, even when she wasn’t calling me fat (when I was 104 pounds – a whole other story).
I want to love myself – I really do. Ironically, when I had someone constantly telling me I was fat or trying to force me into unrealistic diets or buying me too-small clothes, I did love myself – it hurt that she said it, but I never believed it. Even after I started gaining weight (and losing and gaining again and again), I still felt strong and confident – I felt better during the “losing” times but during the “gaining” ones, I still had it in my head that I was OK – that I was a good person, that I had something to offer, that I was…well…pretty. But somewhere along the way something changed and I became the tentative, un-confident, self-conscious, self-loathing person that I don’t even recognize anymore – neither by the way I look nor the way I feel. The one who doesn’t show up in photos anymore. The one who wears the same things over and over because she doesn’t feel good in clothes anyway. The one who hides when she sees an old friend – or even worse – an old boyfriend out in public because she is too ashamed (not self-conscious, but ashamed of how she looks. How did I become this person? Where did the real me go?
I took The Girl out for lunch the other day and the wall next to our booth was a mirror and I watched as my beautiful, silly, kind, funny, wonderful daughter spent an hour looking into that mirror. Not looking and sighing in disgust, but looking and loving what she saw. She made silly faces. She posed. She laughed. She waved and kissed and fixed her hair. And she smiled. Something I haven’t done in the mirror in a long time.
I spend a lot of time trying to teach her, but watching her that day made me realize how much she has to teach me.