Sitting on the fancy bench next to her, I watch her pick up various creams and different colors, applying them so carefully to her skin, looking at her reflection in the mirror. I thought she looked fine without it, but she felt otherwise. I watch as she transforms herself into someone who looks very different from the way she started and it’s almost frightening. I can’t help but wonder why she puts so much effort into this process, she hardly ever speaks to my father, let alone looks at him. With the exception of meals, I cannot even remember the last time I saw them in the same room together and he doesn’t seem to notice or care about her finished product.
She sits at this little table every single morning, taking such care to apply everything just right and I’m not sure why because she never even leaves the house. She doesn’t work and she spends the majority of her day on the couch, in front of the television watching soap operas that seem like they upset her more than entertain her. It confuses me how she can become so engrossed in these make believe worlds while all around her, her own world is in chaos.
I wonder what she sees when she looks in her vanity mirror. I think she sees a magnificent woman, the most beautiful she has ever seen. She thinks she has attributes that are appealing to men and envied by women. I think she looks ridiculous and I wonder if I am destined to follow the same path of falling in love with a reflection that everyone else around me cannot stand to look at. I feel an honest fear and what I do not yet understand to be disgust.
When I become an adolescent I start to become her. I stand in front of my dresser mirror for hours, trying out different colors and techniques even though I have no idea what I’m doing with these products. I lay on the eyeshadow too heavily, the eyeliner is too thick. I smear on lipgloss and straighten my wavy hair. I could do this for hours and hours because I tell myself everyone else around me appreciates my efforts.
In my early adult years I stood in front of the mirror and wonder when was the last time that I even owned any makeup. I wonder how it is that even though my body and soul hurt so dreadfully that I have very few marks to show for them and the ones that I do have to show are always kept covered because he was always smart enough not to leave bruises where anyone else could see them. How would that look, the significant other of a pastor’s son, all bruised and banged up like an old piece of fruit? The thought is almost ridiculous enough to make me laugh out loud but my reflection stops me because while there is a bitter laugh stuck in my throat, there is nothing else but emptiness everywhere else inside. I recognize that others still find me beautiful, I’ve been told enough times of all my physical attributes that are pleasing to the eyes, especially men’s eyes, but in this moment, I don’t see them. I see nothing but nothing. Nothing at all.
Now much later in my life I am finally able to look at myself in the mirror. I don’t feel the urge to avert my eyes, to brush my teeth with the lights off in the early morning hours. I no longer trace the lines of bruises and bumps because they are no longer there and haven’t been for quite some time now. I no longer detest what I see, I am no longer disgusted. I recognize my flaws but regard them as my own uniqueness, we all have something about ourselves we dislike. I look at myself in the mirror and realize that I love myself for who I am, but not like my mother loves herself. I love what I have been blessed with, inside and out and realize that it all could be taken in the blink of an eye.