I Know the Mirrors
Janice Townley Moore
I know the mirrors
that are friends,
the ones in semi-darkness that hide
the hard crease of jowl,
or the ones with the correct distance
to fade the barbed wire fence
above the lips. But skin breaks
like dry river beds.
Rooms must become darker,
I grope for a solution,
knowing that no woman
ever looked better with a beard.
We were going to use false lashes to make her look more cartoonish but, not being familiar with such fanciful accessories, I neglected to buy adhesive. “Hold still,” I told her when applying the mascara we decided on as a last minute alternative, but she squirmed and grimaced anyway. “I’m never wearing this stuff when I get older,” said my daughter. “Good,” I replied. “You don’t need it.”
She is young and bright and taut and smooth. Youth is kind to our complexions, but a little draining on the emotions. I remember like yesterday when the lines snaking like tributaries around my face were nonexistent. I felt immune to the physical wear and tear of speeding through one day, one month, one year to the next, but so very vulnerable to the sting of rejection.
Presently, staring down my fortieth year on this earth, I am satisfied with my place and identity. “What are you dressing up as?” My kids asked me in the car this morning. “Your mom,” I answered. “See the dark scary circles under my eyes and the kitschy sequined spider web t-shirt I’ll be wearing to your classroom parties?” And we laughed – laughed at ourselves and each other. I laughed because my oldest was totally pulling off this retro look in the passenger seat next to me:
While I’ve embraced with open arms who I’ve become: a wife and mother. I wish I could tell you in all sincerity that I’ve also risen above the vanity that every once in a great while still hits me upside the head with an:
Oh My Gosh, what happened to you? When did your gut, your neck, your thighs start to sag so?
Sometimes it feels like a costume I can’t unzip and remove, this middle-aged body of mine. And for my daughters’ sake, I have to internally fight back hard against the B.S. societal assertion that femininity equals a one-size-fits-all formulaic desirability.
What is beautiful, my darling? Approachability, ears that listen, hands that hold and create, arms that hug, a mind in awe of Mystery, a soul being purified, an infectious smile. Dress-up in joy, generosity, kindness, contentment and above all else, peace. I will redouble my efforts to exemplify this kind of healing beauty for you. Let us free ourselves together from the stifling upkeep of competitiveness and affectation.