This is for middle-aged women ONLY. If you do not qualify, look away, please! Are you gentlemen and youngsters gone? O.K. Ladies, here goes:
Do you ever see yourself unexpectedly in a mirror, perhaps in a department store, and not realize that it's you? Have you ever been strolling by a large, glass windowpane and think that your hairstyle suddenly is terribly wrong? Do you find yourself preferring to face the wall in a yoga or exercise class instead of the mirrors that are there to observe your body's movement? Do you avoid peeking at yourself in the rear view mirror knowing you will be disappointed? Does the light in your bathroom magnify all the flaws that have appeared on your face over the last several years?
I have experienced all of these uncomfortable moments in my recent past. Looking in a mirror used to be an enjoyable, at least easy, thing to do. There would be a reflection looking back at me that was pleasing, that matched my self-image. Vanity, I believed, was something every woman needed to tend to for the purpose of being presentable, to enhance her attributes, to feel good about herself. It used to be fun! That, of course, was prior to the onset of middle age. Now, it is a puzzlement catching a glimpse of that mature woman looking back at me in the mirror. Who is she, and what did she do with my younger, prettier self?
Middle age is strange and sneaky with all its unexpected body and image changes. It's one thing to watch your parents, older family members, senior friends, mature neighbors getting older. Seeing it actually happen to the person looking back in the mirror is another thing completely. Seeing the changes happening to my own body, my own face, my own image is rather mind-boggling. Why? Because inside my head and inside this body, I still have the idea and the feeling that I am the younger version of myself from years ago. I forget my real age because I feel the same as I did about 10 years ago, when none of this aging was noticeable quite yet. My imagination and my reality no longer mirror one another (no pun intended). Can you relate?
I think mirrors and shiny windowpanes should be banned from stores and yoga/exercise rooms. I prefer to keep the image of my younger self in my mind's eye and not be shocked out of my dream world where I still look really good. I want to wear the cute clothes that I see my daughter don and not have to remember to dress more for my aging body. There is nothing worse than a middle-aged woman who makes it obvious to the world that she is in denial by wearing inappropriate styles. I prefer to keep my denial private, thank you. I want to look as good doing exercise and yoga as I imagine in my mind. I don't care to see the unfamiliar older me, who is no longer lithe and graceful like the me in my memory used to look.
Unrealistic, vain, and unhealthy, I know. In reality, I know that I must learn to adjust to my new look. The aging process must be accepted and embraced. It is an unavoidable fact of life, and I should be grateful to be alive and fit for the experience of this phase. I am still me — just more mature and, hopefully, better. I must, in my mind, find a way to integrate my younger self with my middle-aged self, and become comfortable with the me of today. Life prior to middle age is what makes us who we are when we arrive in middle age. This can and should be a smooth transition, just another passage along the path of life.
Fine, but let's do it sans mirrors. I am all for self acceptance, adjusting to the odd body changes over which I have little control, appreciating life in middle age, giving up the ego, growing old gracefully. Do I need mirrors to be able to do this successfully? Let me just enjoy the image in my mind of my younger self; it helps me to feel younger. When I feel younger, I look younger. When I look younger, I want to look into the mirror more often. When I look in the mirror, it ruins the whole illusion. I rest my case.