My Love / Hate Relationship with Mirrors

3 days to 50.

There as a time when I loved looking in the mirror. My sister used to tell potential boyfriends that I could take half an hour putting on red lipstick. Red lipstick, you see, has to be perfectly applied. I ended up becoming a fashion designer so it makes sense that I would spend hours trying on outfits, twisting left and right to see how a certain angle could change the look of the clothes.

Somewhere in the last 5 or 10 years that all changed. Now I catch a glimpse of myself in a store window or somewhere else where I am utterly unprepared to see myself and I’m usually taken aback. The Laura in the mirror just doesn’t match the Laura in my head. So I do my best to make that image match the image in my head. I’ll lift my chin, twist a little to the right, shift my hips up or down to try to find the Laura I’ve always known. As if moving my head or my body could really make me look different to the world. I have this assumption that if I change my immediate perception that everything will be OK. I am still young and beautiful, if only for a fleeting second with every part of my body in exact alignment.

When I go to Bikram yoga I tend to stand in the front row because it’s easier to hold balancing poses when people aren’t falling in front of me. Here again, instead of really looking at myself I focus on certain parts on myself. My right eye only, or my collar bones when I’m trying to balance. I refuse to see the whole of physically who I am. I just see myself in little bits.

Part of this journey, this Forty Days to Fifty project that I am doing was designed to make me come to terms with the way I really look. People always tell me that I look fantastic when I come out of Bikram yoga with no make-up on. Surely part of this is being flushed from the heat. I do, however take this as a sign that using the same make-up routine I’ve been using since my twenties isn’t serving me anymore. I came up with the idea of getting a make-over somewhere in the middle of this process.

I decided I couldn’t turn fifty with half broken eye shadow palettes so I went to Beverly Center last weekend with the intention of actually talking to someone who could help me. I went into Sephora and bought brand new versions of everything I already own and left. Plus I was seduced by a small roll-on version of the perfume I wore when I was twenty and clueless. I’m wearing it now. It smells like hope and optimism.

Then I went to the Mac department in Macy’s and a really nice make-up artist helped me find a substitute eyeliner as the one I’ve used for years is finally out of stock. She works at Mac. She had a full apron with dozens of brushes and expertly applied mascara. She was nice to me. The store was empty; I could have had her undivided attention. But I couldn’t find the courage to ask her to help me change. Because to do that I would have had to admit that I’ve been using the same make-up routine for thirty years. How could I ask a 20-something to help me come to terms with becoming a 50-something?

I left the mall disappointed in myself because I had the opportunity to achieve one of the goals I set for myself this month and I let it slip away because I was afraid of being vulnerable to a stranger. I understand now why those make-over shows are so popular. I think every woman struggles with change in this regard. It would be so great if Oprah’s people would just take care of everything for me.

Maybe I should set that as an intention?

The real issue, however, is how I can come to terms with the way I really look now at almost 50. I need to learn how to stop expecting my twenty or thirty something reflection to greet me in the mirror. It’s been suggested that since I love figure drawing more than anything else on the face of the earth that I should draw myself. That would force me to really look at myself, to really see myself. I have yet to find the courage or the initiative to do this.

But isn’t this part of the process? Accepting myself for the way I look RIGHT NOW is part of accepting the whole truth of myself, of finding the authentic core of my being.

My relationship with mirrors seems to just further emphasize that I still have a lot of work to do.

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