Mirror, Mirror, Please Give Me Some Good News
When you wake up in the morning and first look into the mirror, is the first thing you think at your reflection: “Oh, how I love you. My goodness, what an amazing, lovely light you bring to this world!”?
My guess is that, especially if you are a woman, your answer is no. It’s not what I think either. Instead, the background, unconscious litany begins. The List of Things That Are Wrong With Me. It goes something like this: Picasso face; should I color my hair? I should probably color my hair. It’s gray. Ugly. Thin. I wonder if I should get extensions, maybe they’d make it thicker. Blonde is better.; my eyes do not have an actual color; my teeth. Dude.; Is that an age spot?; what should I wear today? will it be comfortable and will it look okay? Do I have a style? It’s frumpy style, I have a style and it’s Frumpy Style. I should create a Pinterest board for women who want to look frumpy.
And the list goes on. And on. And on. Ad infinitum. Seriously, there is no end. I am a 52 year old woman living in the USA in 2016. How could there ever be an end?
I don’t know how to approach this wounding, though for years I’ve been circling around it, looking at it, prodding it to see if it hisses or growls. I’ve lately been simply taking note, within myself, of all of the times every day when I judge myself. Worse than that, I’ve been taking note of all of the times every day when I judge another woman.
For example, today my daughter and I went to the movies. As we waited to purchase bottles of water and a popcorn, another mother-daughter pair walked by. My first thought was, “Aw.” My second thought, however, was, “Her poor daughter is fat and unattractive, probably stupid, too. My own svelte, gorgeous child is far superior to that one.” May I pick apart the fucked up programming behind this thought?
1. My 1st, 2nd thought was completely based on this young woman’s appearance. Who taught me that THAT is the basis for value in a human being? (Rhetorical.)
2. My 2nd, 2nd thought was that intellect is somehow hinged on physical appearance in a woman. (This doesn’t really bubble in when I look at men.)
3. I then one-upped myself on the pair as if we were in an unacknowledged competition and I had won the Better Mother prize and my daughter, completely unaware of the inner workings of my sick and twisted brain (until now), had won the More Attractive and Therefore Also Smarter prize.
I learned at my mother’s knee that: women should be pretty, very, very pretty. I learned that pretty is most important and that smart girls are also pretty. Ugly girls are not only unattractive but also stupid. I learned that women are in competition with one another and that even though it’s not something we often discuss, there is a definite tally system and I need to know *at all times* where I stand, so that I know whether I’m winning or not. WTF? I mean, really. What. The. Fuck. This is what the world teaches us and I’m a very, very good student.
Contrast this American version of womanhood against Leah. Leah is a character from a play. She is a a 74 year old African Masai woman.
I forgot. You’re American. 90210. What kind of place is it? In Africa, we are desperate for food, we have so little; in America, where you have all the food, you either eat too much or not at all. Your bodies are just pictures to you. Here we live in our bodies, they serve us, they do our work.” From The Good Body, by Eve Ensler
When did we unlearn that we are part and parcel? That our bodies are us and not some separate thing to be hated or mastered?
Perhaps it rode in on the same wave as open season on our bodies, on uninvited commentary about our bodies, as it being cool to be handsy without the consent of the person you’re groping. That wave.
Have you ever gotten really quiet with yourself and listened to the things that rattle around inside? Are you able to be that quiet? For me, this is the level of quiet I have attained: I can hear the copious self-judgements rolling round in there like trash in the back of my pickup truck, and it’s time to clean it out.
From now on, every morning when I wake up and look into the mirror the first thing I’m going to do, yes, even before I brush my teeth, the first thing I’m going to do is tell myself this,”Oh, how I love you. My goodness, what an amazing, lovely light you bring to this world! Good morning!” and then I’m going to give myself a big ole morning breath smile and start my day.