Years ago, I stood in front of the long mirror in my parent’s green bathroom, the bathroom directly across from my childhood bedroom, and stared befuddled at the reflecting image.
A curly wavy wild reddish-haired urchin with glasses stared impassively back.
I stuck my tongue out at her.
She stuck her tongue out at me.
I knew, just knew, absolutely knew, that the girl in the mirror–that strange-looking creature–was not, could not, absolutely could not be me.
Have you ever experienced this?
When you glimpse your reflection are you fairly sure that it’s you, and not some imposter clothed in blue jeans or ratty shirt or wedding gown or bathing suit?
I am almost convinced now, all these years later, that the reflection in the mirror is probably me. It’s probably the woman known as Kathy. The image shifts as the years go by, as skin wrinkles and hair grays, but it probably belongs to that girl who declared long-ago that the mirror lied.
Or perhaps she was switched at birth.
I did not like how I looked in late elementary school.
I was supposed to look like my best friend, Carol. My hair was supposed to be long and blond and straight. I was supposed to look pretty.
The image that stared back was not ugly, but it was not beautiful.
The hair never cooperated.
And what kind of person wore glasses?
To add insult to injury, a shy girl named Shirley ran helter-skelter into the football goal post on our elementary playground in 4th grade and knocked out half of my front tooth.
The dentist refused to crown it nicely in white enamel, saying this couldn’t be accomplished until, hey, maybe age 15. Instead he inserted a yellowish cap in my mouth, thereby insuring that I would not–you couldn’t make me–smile for the next several years.
Already shy and insecure, the image in the mirror gloated back with a single yellow tooth in a sea of white enamel.
I grew quieter still, so quiet that in 7th grade my best friend was Mary Grace, a shy red-head, the shyest of the shy junior high students.
When you can’t reveal yourself to strangers because of their horrified sympathy (at least that’s what you think as you approach puberty and want–oh so want–to be beautiful and desirable and pretty and liked by boys and popular girls who seem to have it all together with their perfect hair and skin and gleaming white teeth and no awkward glasses) you spend more hours in your bedroom, typing on a red manual typewriter, creating story after story after story.
As high school and possible boyfriends approached, the dentist inserted the prized white crown. I wore contacts at age sixteen, discarding glasses. The hair–well, it couldn’t be helped, could it? I tried to brush out the frizzies, taming it into social acceptability.
I still looked at the stranger in the mirror.
Who are you? Where did you come from? Am I supposed to be you?
People took photos over the years and I cursorily glanced at them, usually horrified at some imperfection. What an awful expression, oh no, and looked away.
A few years ago, in mid-life, I glanced at the old photos, those terrible pictures, and gasped in surprise.
The girl who smiled out of the photographs actually looked pretty. Appealing. Happy.
What had I done to that girl?
Why hadn’t I seen her individual beauty, her uniqueness?
Why had I seen only her flaws, instead of her gifts?
I still look in the mirror and don’t really know who the woman is. It isn’t me–not the me that I know from the inside. Yet, I more often pause and smile at the woman reflected in the mirror and remember to say, “I love you, thank you for this body, this perfect imperfect face, blessings to you, sweet one…”
Do you think the reflection in the mirror is you? Have you always liked what reflected back at you? Have you grown to like it?
What are your experiences with the mirror?