In our old house we had few mirrors and some of the dimmest lighting I had ever experienced, resulting in my never looking too closely at what I actually looked like. And lacking a full length mirror, it had been years since I saw a full view of my body. And surprisingly enough, I was quite happy with all of this. But then I saw what I really looked like. During our recent stay in an uber modern hotel filled with bright lights and numerous mirrors I had the occasion to really look at my image and I can't say that I really liked what I saw.
Obviously, as my lack of mirrors can attest to, I'm not a particularly vain person. In my younger years I considered myself pretty enough; by no means gorgeous but not ugly. I always wished I was taller but somewhere in the middle of high school I realized that wasn't going to happen so I learned to accept that I was petite and would spend a lifetime getting my clothing altered. I've been told that I have nice eyes and when I used to wear my hair long I regularly received compliments. But all of that feels like so long ago. Peering into the mirror I saw that my hair is thinner than it used to be and even regular bouts with deep conditioner hasn't prevented it from looking dull and flat. And despite regular sessions with a hairdresser, those pesky grays keep making a reappearance with growing frequency. In the bright lights of the bathroom I realized that I have not just one but a series of fine lines around the corners of my eyes. I remember my grandmother calling them crow's feet and as a little girl I thought they only appeared on old ladies. Now I see them in my own image being reflected back at me. I can also see that not only have I not lost all of my "baby weight" from four years ago but my body shape has shifted and it now sags in places it never did before. I guess this is all a part of growing old. And I am older than I was the last time I really looked in a mirror and all of the heavy duty skin creams can't do anything to change that.
As I pondered my appearance my four year old stared in amazement at his own in the same full length mirror. He alternately smiled, made faces, and posed all while gazing in amazement at the image being reflected back at him. He repeatedly requested "Mamma look at me" and marveled at what he saw. His reactions were in complete contrast to mine and despite my grim feelings about my own reflection I couldn't help but smile at his enjoyment. Soon I found myself hamming it up right along side him. And then he told me to smile again and I did and momentarily forgot about my own initial displeasure at what I saw. For that brief moment I looked and felt years younger, smiling at my reflection and realizing that my reflection was just that; a reflection. When I smiled I had a happy image, when I frowned a sad one. With the smile the fine lines around my eyes appeared finer, I focused less on my hair and body and I felt younger than I had in a long time. The bouncing child beside me reminded me that yes, image is just that and that when looking in the mirror you see what you want to see. Mirrors really don't lie, they just reflect reality.