After climbing over 200 lbs., I stopped worrying so much about my reflection in the mirror. Over 250 lbs., I avoided mirrors altogether, cutting my own hair to avoid salons, backing into restrooms to avoid looking up and seeing myself. I certainly never stood in front of a mirror and studied my reflection. A quick check to make sure I hadnít tucked the back of my tunic into my stretch pants was about all the consideration I gave my look. Accessorizing wasnít a big deal. I was neat and clean and well-groomed, but disinterested in my appearance. I had better things to think about.
Now that Iíve reached a healthy weight, Iím as obsessed with the mirror as any pre-teen. Iíve grown hyper critical of every bulge, poof and crease. It takes me four times longer to dress these days. I choose the outfit easily enough, but then have to spend far too much time considering whether I can be seen in public in it. Does it fit the way itís supposed to? Is it too young, too old? Iím unhappy with proportions. This waistband cuts in too much, my shoulders are too broad there. The color is all wrong. I look tired. I look washed out. I look old. Do I look like an old person trying to look young? My butt. My butt. My butt.
I fuss with my hair now, and fuss with my makeup. I consider jewelry, belts, socks, shoes, the length and hang and color of my trousers. I have trousers that are not black and which hang. This makes life a great deal more complicated.
The complexity is overwhelming some days. I sort of miss the time when I had a closetful of tunics, making decisions easy. My old body was imperfect and ignored. My new body is imperfect and obsessed over. I need a saner middle ground.
I thought I would find it by seeking out the advice of friends who seem to be comfortable with their looks. And what Iíve discovered is rather startling: They arenít. That is, Iíve not discovered a single woman or man who isnít quite self conscious and riddled with self doubt about how they present themselves. Bringing up the subject is something thatís hard to do gracefully and doesnít end well.
Me: ďHey, Miguel. How do you manage to feel so confident about your looks?Ē
Miguel: ďWhat the hell is that supposed to mean?Ē
Me: ďNo, Itís a compliment. I mean, you never give off the impression that you give a lot of thought to how you look.Ē
Miguel: ďItís this shirt, isnít it? Itís too short, right? I hate this shirt. I look stupid. I knew it. I knew it!Ē
Do any of us ever get to stop fretting?
I donít know. I donít know. But Iím going to try something else this week. For a week Iím going to try looking myself in the eyes first and last when I encounter a mirror. Itís just a reminder to myself that no one I have met recently studies my body when they meet me.
We see faces. We study expressions. And yes, if someone has a body that is remarkable in some way, weíll notice that too, but for the most part, weíre far more interested in discovering a personís personality, intention, mood, intelligence by reading all of that from their eyes, from their smiles and frowns, and through the content of their conversation. Aren’t we?
Or at least, that’s the world I’d like to live in.
Join me, and with luck, this little exercise may help us find the middle ground, somewhere between the land of complete neglect and the land of physical obsession. I donít know whether such ground actually exists, but Iím willing to look.
I will if you will.