Friday, 9 June 2006
Looking in the Mirror
Topic: Body Image
I've never been much of a one for looking at myself in mirrors. Back in my REALLY neurotic days (I'm much better now...honest), I avoided mirrors out of a secret fear that someday I'd look and there'd be no one there. I got over that about 30 years ago, but then I just never developed the mirror habit. I'd look in the mirror when I brushed my hair and that was about it. On those rare occasions when I wanted to check my outfit in the full-length mirror, I usually had to remove the clutter that tends to accumulate in unused corners of my life, before I could get to it.
It's not from a problem with self-image. My self-image has always been pretty darned good. Even at my highest weight, I pictured myself as fat, but I didn't think there was anything unpleasant about my looks; more like roly-poly and dimpled. On the contrary, when I did look in a mirror, it was often an unpleasant surprise, because my self-image was generally better that my mirror image. Occasionally when I was out shopping or something, I had the experience of seeing a pleasant-looking, fat, middle-aged woman come walking toward me, and then realizing with a shock that it was a mirror.
Anyway, it was never much of an issue for me. That is, I never felt a pressing need to develop the habit of looking in mirrors.
Which is why I find it strange that lately I've developed an impulse to look at myself in the mirror. Often. More than once a day. And in all stages of dress. Now, I can honestly say it isn't vanity. It's not that I'm admiring my now-thinner figure (okay, maybe just a little). It's more that I've lost my self-image. I really don't know what I look like now. I sometimes look at other women and wonder "Is that what my figure looks like?" I don't know. So I keep looking in the mirror.
It's still a surprise, although not unpleasant. The person I see in the mirror is older and droopier-looking than I expect. Also thinner. Often more dour-looking than I feel. I feel a private delight in some of the details: "Oh, look, RIBS." "Hmm, only one chin." It's when I'm dressed that I'm most pleased with what I see. Not bad. Pretty much...normal looking.
But the thinness is a recurring surprise. I think one reason I feel drawn to mirrors is a need to check that the fat hasn't snuck back on when I wasn't looking, because the thinness doesn't seem real. I expect it to disappear like Cinderella's ball gown at midnight. After I bought a bunch of size Small tee-shirts, even though I had tried on each of them in the store, when I put them on at home I knew, KNEW, that they would be tight on me. I could hardly believe it when they slipped right on and looked fine. There's this loose cloth where the tee-shirt hangs down from the bust, where I expect the belly-bulge to be.
So maybe there is an element of vanity. Looking in mirrors is more fun than it used to be. But mostly it's surprise and puzzlement. Who IS that woman?
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