With apologies to Dr. Seuss…
Oh Mirror, Mirror on the wall …
this can’t be fucking right at all!
Yes, the who I see in there is me.
Yet can this be – that I see three?
The one is me – there on the right.
But left’s a fright I do not like!
And center she, the middle one …
Oh, woe is me! She is me Mum!
There is something wrong with my mirror. There’s an old woman inside it. I don’t know who she is. But the bitch needs to go! The odd thing is . . . sometimes she does. She disappears, and all’s right with my world — ’cause I know the countenance there. Yet sometimes when she vanishes, there’s a worse version of her staring back at me. What the Hell! It’s like a fun house mirror–without the fun!
Now upon further contemplation and reflection (no pun intended), the problem may be that it is a 3-sided mirror. 3 sides = 3 images. Voila! Mystery solved. Or not? Because the issue of who the woman is remains. But really . . . not. As much as it pains me to admit it (and believe me, IT DOES!) . . . the who in there is me. Yep . . . the 3 faces of me . . . but are any of the three I see the real me?
I KNOW the image on the right is not right. She’s the image of how I still feel. Sassy, sexy, flirty, fun. Granted, I’m not quite sure what age this woman is–but it sure as fuck is NOT “senior citizen!” Alas, reality and my driver’s license say different–and my middle mirror reflects the same. Inasmuch as “inside” me might feel unchanged by time, “outside” me didn’t get the memo. BTW, I’ve read this “unchanged by time” version is the one a woman’s long-time lover still sees. Really?! (Well, they do say love is blind . . .) Still, I wouldn’t know how love’s prism works. I don’t have one of those, nor a “long-time” lover. My long-timers are all males filed under “family.” Certainly, my adult sons don’t comment on my sexual allure, nor my appearance in general–except to occasionally say, “You’re still hot for your age.” Question: Does anyone else hate that expression “for your age?” My father used to call such compliments “shit-filled Twinkies.” But I digress . . .
As far as the other males in my life who profess to love me, aka my grandsons . . . yeah, no filter of any sort there! “Baba, how come you’re old?” is not exactly what one might call a “viewed through the eyes of love” affirmation. Happily, however (misery loves company, you know), I am not alone. A Facebook friend in Australia, Jan Clifton, tells this story . . . “I walked in from work and my grandson said, “Hi, Grandma, my bunny died today, he was old like you.” From the mouths of babes . . . ouch. (FYI, in addition to her fabulous accent and a kick-ass sense of style, Jan has a wonderful Facebook site for mature women very appropriately called “Doing Curves in Style.” She talks fashion tips, best looks for different body types, budget styling and much more. Check her out.)
So back to me and my multiple mes. Mirror #1 reflects the remembered vision version of me. She is NOT the 61-year-old who stares back from the center pane. Nope. Ms. In-the-Middle is bags and sags, age spots, wrinkles, a thinning hairline . . . and what the fuck! Is that seriously a half-inch hair on her chinny-chin double-ass chin?? Damn! And lord, if she doesn’t look familiar . . . oh, wait! I know! She’s my mother! Now how the eff did THAT happen? But as depressing as middle me can be, she’s Miss freakin’ America compared to the hag on the left.
And oh yeah, she on the left . . . she’s me alright and it’s NOT alright! She’s the me I see reflected through the eyes of rejection. Ala the blind-date who said I “wasn’t exactly thin below the waist”. . . the bar encounter who told me I was fascinating to talk to, but he “only dates young and beautiful women” . . . the 40-year-old I actually did date–who dumped me for a 21-year-old . . . and the 53-year-old I’m still “seeing” who confessed to being in love with a 28-year-old (don’t ask!). Talk about ouch! (Betcha can’t beat THAT one, Jan!) We’re talking rejection on a whole ‘nother pane–I mean plane. And leave it to the psychologists to attach a label to it . . .
Seeing ourselves in another’s devaluing light is called “projection through rejection.” A 2013 Psychology Today article explains it so: “Projections of others become absorbed becoming introjections, [in other word} how we come to define ourselves.” For example, the woman “teased” by her husband for the 20 lbs of baby weight she hasn’t lost will not fail to see herself as “fat.” In fact, any physical “flaw” pointed out by others or perceived by ourselves can become a fixation, not only in ourselves, but in others. Even an oops, not meant as an insult, but just slipped out, offhanded comment such as ” I never noticed before you’re a bit bow-legged” can leave an indelible impression. And trust me, that woman will for the rest of her days look at other women’s legs. BTW, I never noticed other women’s eyebrows–til I lost mine.
According to the experts, it is when the balance of self-perception and reflected self-perception shifts more toward the reflected that the real damage begins to occur. “The more we allow others to dictate our self-perception and undermine our sense of self,” says life coach and certified counselor Michael Formica, “the more power we give away. In the extreme, [this] begins to chip away at our self-esteem and ego integrity.” It’s a level of dysfunction, he says, “often reflected in dynamics like codependency and boundary issues.” “The key,” Michael says, “to maintaining the balance between self-perception and reflected self-perception is pretty simple. Don’t take it personally.” Easier said than done, Mike! (And try telling that to an acquaintance of mine who was online dating. She arranged a face-to-face with a man she’d been corresponding with for weeks. She was walking on air, thinking the date had gone really, really well–until she received a text message mere minutes after they parted. Stylish and very attractive, she may not be a perfect “10” (NO ONE IS!), but she is by no means the deficit “3” she now sees in the mirror–thanks to this asshole’s “sorry, but you’re just not pretty enough for me to date” post-date text.)
Make no mistake, rejection impacts–and it hurts. According to PhD Gary Winch, it’s a neurological fact. Studies using MRIs have shown that the same areas of the brain are activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. Yes, OUCH! Moreover, questioning yourself is an automatic reaction to rejection in general. Now confidence and self-esteem both take a hit.
But in no aspect of our lives is projection through rejection stronger than in romantic rejection. Typically, we women respond to it by finding the fault in ourselves. We are not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, fun enough, blah blah. And bullshit! We have somehow certainly missed learning it–but the fact of the matter is this: When you get right down to it, most romantic rejection is simply a matter of poor fit, i.e. lack of chemistry or faulty dynamics wherein both don’t want the same thing at the same time. But that’s not how we women see it–or process it. (And trust me. I’m not only at the head of the “I’m Not Enough” blame line, I’ve arranged a permanent place-holder!)
The very worst part of all of this is the picture of how we see ourselves as reflected in other’s eyes can become our reality. It’s all related to the tendency in our human nature make-up to focus on the negative. We don’t think about all the things we’ve done right, but instead dwell on what we did wrong. And believe you me (and the experts). How we see ourselves has major ramifications! It impacts our happiness, our behavior toward others and even our professional success. It’s a circle, sometimes vicious: How others see us is how we see ourselves, and how we see ourselves is how others view us. And around and around and around we go . . .
Now here’s a rather interestingly related aside…. Ladies, would it surprise you to know women rate their own looks lower than strangers do? In 2013 Dove (the soap) ran an ad. It was based upon an experiment wherein Gil Zamora, a FBI forensic artist, sketched women based solely upon the way they described themselves. He then repeated the process, drawing portraits of the same women as others described them. It’s important to note the strangers spent time together, getting acquainted. This interaction hence engendered specifics for the artist, such one woman’s great cheekbones, another’s fabulous hair, a third’s beautiful smile and still another’s mesmerizing eyes . . . you get my drift. When later placed side by side the stranger-described, the self- described portraits were without fail the less attractive. Dove took these results and ran with the tagline: We are all more beautiful than we think.” If you are curious, there is a video online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk
Most of us would agree confidence comes from within. But so, too, beauty. A case in point . . . Cleopatra, arguably one of history’s most famous women and temptresses. Did you know she had a hooked nose and by all contemporary accounts, was not a stunning beauty? And yet history remembers her such. Because by those same contemporary accounts, she was a truly fascinating woman–possessive of an intoxicating sense of style, verve and intelligence–who knew like hell how to play to her strengths. So, except for that unfortunate asp thing, shouldn’t she be an example to emulate? BTW, according to writer Ayesha K. Faines, (“a leading expert on feminine consciousness, sexual politics” and how women acquire and wield power), most of history’s legendary sirens “do not represent the classic ideal of beauty for their day–or any other.” Ms. Faines has actually compiled a list (and yes, Cleo is on it) of 103 of the greatest seductresses of all time. In the accompanying article, she states all were endowed with the same “magic” — their ability “to elevate themselves from the ordinary to the extraordinary.”
So back to mirrors . . . mine, magic and otherwise. Silver-backed glass mirrors weren’t invented until 1835, so Cleo’s would have been polished brass. I’m guessing it wasn’t all that crystal clear of a reflection–which left her latitude for attitude? And they do say beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. So, ladies . . . what say we think brass not glass –and rock some serious Queen of the Nile sass? After all . . . shouldn’t the eye (and the love’s prism) we’re looking through be . . . our own?