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Mirror, Mirror, Why Are You So Mean?

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I am five years old and when I see myself in the mirror, I always dance and jump. I like the way my dress flies up and down.

I am eight years old. I don't like mirrors anymore, because my Mom and my sister tell me I am chubby and the mirror tells me that too.

I am twelve years old and I wish I looked like my best friend. She is tall and skinny. I am fat and much shorter than her. When we stand in front of a mirror we look like cartoon people, because we are so opposite. She doesn't like how she looks either.

I am fifteen and I am on a diet. It's not my first one. My Mom thought I should see a diet doctor. He gave me pills to kill my appetite. They make me feel nervous but I don't eat. I become quite skinny which is amazing but I throw the pills away because my hands keep twitching and I can't sleep. My fat comes back almost immediately.

I am twenty and I have long hair and nice eyes, and a not bad set of boobs. I only look at my face in the mirror. People tell me, I have a great smile. Maybe I do.

Everyone I know is on a diet. I feel guilty when I eat anything, so I try not to eat at all but when I do, I never eat in front of my parents or my friends. I'm hungry all the time. Sometimes I can't help myself and then I eat and eat but I hide the evidence, so that no one knows. But they do know, because I'm still bigger than everyone else. I hate seeing my self in pictures or in any shiny surface.

I am thirty. I'm happily married to a man who tells me I'm beautiful. I believe he's lying. But I just go about my business and hope to avoid catching my reflection. It's been years since I have stopped to take a look at what I look like from the neck down, I can't take the disappointment. When photographs are taken, I have mastered the art of standing almost hidden behind who ever is in the foreground.

When I hit my forties, for the first time in my life, I see the woman I am meant to be; radiant with confidence and a kind of who cares if I'm not thin attitude. I have come to know I'm pretty damn good just as I am.

I am fifty something when I find myself pouring over old pictures of me as a young woman in my twenties. I want to weep. I was beautiful. Fresh faced, full of hope and yes, I was a little bit overweight but nothing like the monster my mirror showed me to be.

Time has flown by and my son is married and off on his journey. My husband and I have settled into a very comfortable routine. Somehow sixty happened. I step out of the shower and make a decision. I'm naked as I stand before the mirror and I'm not just humbled but in shock! My breasts, which were once among my proudest assets -- so much so that I showed as much of them as was considered just decent enough to avoid arrest -- those glorious orbs that once stood at attention now appear more like the beginning of deflated party balloons. I flash back to a recent encounter with a girlfriend that I hadn't seen in twenty years. She reminded me that for her 21st birthday, she had a dove tattooed on the pale fleshy upper part of her breast, but says she can no longer find it as it has flown south. I return to my navel gazing -- more like crater gazing.

My waist, excuse me while I guffaw, is indistinguishable from my upper torso, just a thick trunk of soft flesh. My upper arms flap as if caught in a wind tunnel. I want bath towel -- STAT! I'm Canadian. We don't believe in the right to bare arms, well certainly not after a certain age, unless you are one of those genetic marvels. I once again refuse to look any further down. I know what my ass looks like. There 's enough horror to take in above the waist. I do yoga for God's sake! It hurts. I am a warrior woman. I walk nearly every day. I have stairs in my house and I use them. Shouldn't there be some mercy shown? Apparently not... Oh my God, I just caught my profile. What is that flap of flesh where my jaw used to be? I take a breath and turn to look at my face straight on. I feel as if I am in the Witness Protection Program. This cannot be me. I see my mother, and not at her best. She seems entwined with a floppy basset hound. Together they have stolen my face. I suddenly have puppet-mouth: long lines that bracket what was once my 'great' smile. I was right -- mirrors are mean! They don't reflect the quality of who I am and what I'm about.

I yank off my glasses and everything immediately softens as if behind a scrim of gauze. I reach for a bold red lipstick and paint my mouth -- at least I hope I have painted my mouth, not some smear off to the side. I shake out my forever-tinted blonde (if a bit thinner) hair and head toward the door, smiling brightly as I go, a smile being far less invasive and far cheaper than a facelift, as well as a total mood elevator. Come what may, I'm good. I have a rich and juicy life.

I catch my reflection in a store window and laugh. Gravity does what gravity does. But I'm still happier now than I ever have been. I'm sorry my younger self didn't know how to celebrate what she had when she had it! But I do now!