Mirror, mirror….

I can clearly remember being a young adolescent and seeing women who are the age I am now with hair slightly disheveled, clothes not perfectly pressed and carrying more weight than was wise (or attractive) and thinking to myself with an inner sniff, “Honestly, don’t they care how they look?!”

From about the age of thirteen, no reflective surface was safe from my using it to check myself out, plate glass windows, side view mirrors in the car,the glass in a train window, even toasters…I was drawn to shiny surfaces to an extent that would put the average magpie to shame. My hair was carefully maintained, my clothing just so ,makeup applied and reapplied and in general my appearance vigilantly attended .

To be fair, I grew up in a home where appearance and aesthetics were of the highest value. My dad was an artist (who became an accountant to support us and yet painted his entire life) and my mom had elegant and effortless “taste”. Once I moved from home, each visit back began with a quick evaluative glance, “You look good Chris.” my dad would say and I knew I had once again passed the test.

In my house now, every single room, on each floor, has a mirror, some rooms two….and I’ve found I could go an entire day without seeking my reflection. I still carry a small brush in my purse and could go days, weeks without finding the need to use it. I weigh pounds more than I did in my teens and my twenties and have clothes in the attic that span several sizes.

I convince myself this is a good thing. I am wiser, more balanced and no longer live in the anxious state of checking from moment to moment that I measure up, that I am okay. I am less superficial now and more interested in grooming my soul than my mascara. And yet…

I find the quest to be looking “good” is not wholly in my past.

Last summer I was laid up for most of it with a bicycling mishap that ended in plates and a dozen pins..so I have been squeezing three summers into this one we are now enjoying. I am biking almost everyday for an hour or two and am seeing my body change. I move more easily and confidently, I spring from bed in the morning. My posterior ,which had taken on J-Lo proportions… without the sass… is , like the rest of me, becoming slimmer and more athletic …and I love what is happening to me. I am “shopping” in my attic for sizes that belong to the ghosts of Chris Past and reveling in zippers that zip and buttons that button. I find myself more and more stealing glances at those mirrors and feeling good about what I see.

Maybe personal vanity never really disappears. When my mom lay dying in first the CCU and then in the hospice house, I carefully tended to her hair and gently rubbed lotion on her hands. She was in a non-verbal semi-coma by then but I knew she knew what I was doing and was thanking me for it. I snuck in a pair of tweezers to tweeze the odd growing hair , ah.. aging’s little indignities, knowing full well how crazy that would look to any nurse coming into the room, the woman was dying after all. Mom had long, lovely nails and had had a fresh manicure before admittance to the hospital . A friend of hers came by and said ,”Your mom would be so pleased that her nails look so pretty.”…and while it was such a funny and oddly casual thing to say about a dying woman…I knew Annabelle was right.

The other day, riding my bike, I saw my shadow, the angle of the sun making my frame as long and slender as the adolescent girl who rode her bike everywhere.

It made me smile and I thought to myself, hearing my dad’s voice , “You look good Chris.”

So I finally have an answer to the question asked by an impudent, callow me. “Honestly, don’t they care how they look?!” The answer is “No, they don’t. And yes, they do”.

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13 Responses to Mirror, mirror….

  1. StarStruk says:

    This made me smile. I haven’t found the magic slimming exercise bullet…maybe someday. And that is so accurate…No, I don’t, but yes, I do.

  2. imadirektor says:

    beautifully put girlfriend . . . almost beautiful enough to get me off my duff and do something! If I could figure out a way to start swimming again without having to put on a bathing suit because I can’t stand seeing myself in one, I’d be out there paddling away by now! Love you.

  3. Kimberly says:

    Your blog posts are treasures. This resonates….

  4. Thanks so much Kimberly! I’m so glad πŸ™‚

  5. Well said! At times I think worrying about this takes so much effort, but then again…feeling good everyday I walk out of the gym makes me feel that I am taking care of this body we’re born with!

  6. Jeanne Leonard says:

    Chris,

    Last night I was watching the Olympics and was in awe of all these lovely young people, particularly the gymnasts (I was one once). Then I read your wonderful blog. I marvel at this lovely piece of writing. So, touching, funny, true and honest. You’ve stepped into your attic and found not only the ghosts of Chris Past (I love it); but also the corners of my own thoughts and feelings that lie dormant. Thank you for giving light to them; as well as your tribute to your mother’s last days. You knew her well and she must have felt surrounded by your love and caring.

    Love, Jeanne

    • Dear Jeanne,I’m so glad and thank you! You were a gymnast! I can easily imagine it now that you say it, I’d love to hear more! And the biggest delight by far of writing this blog is learning that others share so many of these feelings and thoughts. Thanks for sharing yours!

  7. Karen Dervin says:

    I have no problem being forgiving of myself at this “advanced age”- especially since I do exercise every day. It is the stares and assumptions of others that tweaks me. If only we were equally forgiving of ourselves AND others lovely quirks πŸ™‚

    I am so glad your activities make you feel so good about yourself!

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