TIME AND OTHER NONSENSE
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Why can’t I look
Like I did when I was 16?
We women prefer the mirror of the past, I was told today by a friend on Facebook. We become insecure as we grow older. Men age gracefully. Or, we accept that men grow older. Their seasoned faces show signs of character. We women show wrinkles and sagging skin. We are jowly old crones over time, maturing into bosomy, flabby, ample fullness.
The person who commented that we women prefer the mirror of the past was not being unkind. He was trying to tell me that there is no need to hide behind a profile picture taken when I was 16. He thinks I look better now in photos of my mature fullness than in those of my girlhood. At least that’s what he said. He’s a person of great depth, so I have to believe that he means what he says.
What do I think? Am I better now – me, fully ripened fruit? I look at my photo here, taken when I was 16. How could I possibly believe that I have improved? I, who am hurtling frantically and relentlessly toward old age.
I look again, and remember. I remember the truth. Back then, I believed I was hideous. I was a mess, a nightmare of insecurity. I wasn’t tall enough; my thighs were too fat, my hair was frizzy; I wanted a model’s cheekbones and found none at all in my face. My lips were too thin, my mouth too small, my upper arms bulgy, my nose enormous, my waist too large, my calves manlike, my limbs too short. I am not making up any of this. These are the thoughts that I had about myself then, at age 16. These are the thoughts that I have about myself now, only amplified over more than 40 additional years and many more pounds.
I remember thinking back then – why can’t I look like anyone else, anyone but me? Why can’t I be anyone but me?
No, I haven’t improved. My perception of myself hasn’t changed. I will forever dislike the present that is me. I think my friend is correct in one regard though. I do prefer the mirror of the past, because the alternative, this real aging woman, is so difficult to face. Whether all women feel the same, I can’t say. I am aware of a few who are more confident about themselves than I’ve ever been. But I would guess that most of us look to our pasts when thinking of our beauty. Perhaps there are even some men who wish the reflection in their own mirrors could record an earlier, more fit time. Perhaps we would all readily hide in the shadows of our past.