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Saturday, December 30, 2006

"The Woman in the Mirror"


By Leslie Larsen

Her eyes flit, always in motion, checking hair, skin, eye makeup, lips. Never resting long in one place. Never long enough to really see what's reflected. I know her secret: if you stay in front of the mirror long enough, people will think you are actually looking at yourself.

They don't realize that this partitioning off allows one to put a presentable face forward without really seeing it. Things might have been different, I suppose, if she were able to fit solidly into one category, be it beautiful, plain, or even something else.

Instead, she landed right on the cusp; you'd probably never call her plain, exactly, but there is something -- some unknown yet missing quality -- that keeps her from being truly beautiful. Perhaps it's simply that, with dark hair, light brows and lashes and oddly-colored eyes that defy any specific term, she simply never fit the ideal. Perhaps because her coloring is more like a fair redhead than the brunette she is, or that she has a dimple on her chin instead of hiding in her cheek, or that as she's aged she's begun to develop wrinkles on her forehead instead of crinkles near her eyes from laughter. In any case, there she is.

It's not the worst place to be. At times, it's downright beneficial, as when faced with the possibility of a sudden, unwelcome meeting. At these times she can simply shut down and become invisible. It's been commented on by friends who've watched as exes and salespeople both just walk right by, "They simply don't see you."

She's heard this more than once. Of course, there is an equal possibility that the only thing keeping her from being beautiful is her own opinion. As her eyes slide across the pieces, refusing to see what she's internalized as 'good enough' or 'not bad' somewhere along the line, she simply never questioned these statements and, in the accepting, became them.

At the end of the day, the process is repeated. Eyes checking for stray, leftover makeup, making sure moisturizer is applied evenly, teeth are flossed. And for a split second, before she turns out the light, she steps back as if-this time-to really take it all in at once. But she hears an old echo, 'you'll do,' and instead give a half smile, shrugs, and turns away.

Writer Leslie Larsen lives in Albany, New York. She works for an agency in state government.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read your piece and smiled with a hint of recognition.
I think I saw that same woman in the mirror this morning.