22 July 2011

a time without mirrors

about a week ago on Twitter, I believe it was Jamie Keiles (for whom I uploaded a pic on Flickr devoted to her Seventeen Magazine project) who mentioned the blog A Year Without Mirrors. its gist is, the woman behind it got so sick of obsessing over her looks while shopping for a wedding dress that, six months before the wedding, she decided to avoid mirrors for a full year. that takes guts regardless of the massive fuss involved with planning a traditional wedding.

at one point she had a poll in the sidebar, asking how often you look at yourself in the mirror: never, rarely, sometimes, or all the time. with sheepishness, I realized I belonged to the last category. despite my lifelong struggles with body image and identity, I check myself out in the mirror at every turn. see, I never used to think I was "hot." I was prepared to wallow in fat obscurity for the rest of my life. then someone I found attractive found me equally attractive. I figured he was the kind of guy who could get any woman he wanted, and he chose me, however temporarily.

it's been downhill ever since. not only am I still not happy with my body, I'm strangely vain about it anyway. I feel okay with finding myself attractive, but if another shares the sentiment, I wonder what's wrong with them, or that it must be a joke. mirrors have helped fuel this narcissism. I dress up, I put on makeup, I strut out the door thinking "damn I look good"...and if no one else seems to feel the same way, I come home crushed and regretful. I'm sick of constantly checking my face for new laugh lines or making sure my cleavage is just so. I'm sick of trying to emulate models or actresses or even tarted-up cartoons. none of those is real, but I am. the two concepts don't jibe.

so I took down the huge mirror screwed to my front hallway wall. if the super complains I'll put it back up, but with curtains covering it. (I hope he doesn't, I found an old painted-over mirror panel behind the hung mirror!) I need to figure out how to cover up my triple-mirrored medicine cabinet doors; fabric scraps should take care of that. the only real problem I see is, I often use myself for reference whilst drawing comics. I think I can handle a utilitarian glimpse now and then in my portable half-length mirror.

I can't help but feel this will be incredibly freeing. I'll still look the same overall, only now I won't be a slave to that fact. I'm also hoping to get in touch with my body, in a way; to feel its inner strength for myself, instead of relying on my eyes. I want to love myself on a level beyond physicality. most of all, I just want to be.

17 July 2011

a long, full life

my grandmother on my mother's side, Marion, passed away this morning. she'd just turned 90 on Thursday. she was the only grandparent I had left. my sister wrote a wonderful post about her on her blog. I considered letting that speak for the both of us, but I had a different experience, different memories, and a different reaction.

my memories of Grandma are, unfortunately, piecemeal. we lived in Michigan when I was born, while my grandma lived in Wisconsin. since it was about a five-hour drive, I didn't get to see her very often.

then in '87, we moved to the Chicago suburbs. with the drive pared down to two hours, I got to see a lot more of Grandma. I remember fussing over me when I was little, which I wasn't used to. mom and dad didn't act that way towards me. but a grandparent, who only had to stand me for a few hours at most, could hug and kiss and give me all the candy she wanted.

I remember her old house very well. I played with Lincoln Logs and old purses in the back room. sleeping in the spare bedroom was kinda creepy; the bed was way too high for me back then. the basement would get loud when lots of company forced the overflow down there. the men would watch sports and drink beer. I'd go back behind the dry bar, but not very often; I got the sense that it was an "adult" thing that I didn't quite get. there was a strange cabinet in the basement that must have been a broom closet or a coverup for pipes or something, a tall wooden thing with a gold mesh screen on top. my young mind imagined there was a killer robot that would come to life and destroy us all one day. a few years ago my sister found the house for sale on a website. now I'll never know for sure what was in that closet.

Grandma struck me as a no-nonsense type, at least according to the stories her children told me. raising four kids (two of them twins!) must have turned her into quite the ballbuster. by the time she got to me she had mellowed considerably, but I could still tell she wasn't to take any guff from my aunt and uncles (and mom, of course). not that there was really any guff to take. we weren't a family of drama, just one that got together from time to time and shot the shit, reminiscing about the old stories again and again.

Grandma moved down to St. Augustine in Florida in the early '90s, so I didn't get to spend that much time with her. I remember visiting a few times, dates unknown. I re-met my younger cousin Laura down there when she was 12; I must have been 15 or 16. even though I was an aloof teenager, she seemed pretty cool for her age. :) Grandma lived in a mobile home and seemed very satisfied with it. she wasn't the type of woman that we had to worry about, even when my grandpa had to be put in a home. she just carried on.

less than a year ago - I don't remember the timing, just that it was a ways from her 90th - I got word that Grandma was in the hospital. I held my breath that she would be all right, and she was, though compromised. due to a stroke, she couldn't take things on by herself anymore. after her 90th birthday party, she got very bad very fast, and passed away this morning.

I'm getting all this information secondhand because I...just don't talk to anyone outside the immediate family. if not for Facebook, I wouldn't have known Grandma was in the ER at all. such is the nature of a low-key family. we may not have knock-down, drag-out fights, but we're also barely connected to each other in some ways. Kim and I always talked about going down there to see her one last time, just to spend some time with her. my memories of her were always pleasant and I think I could have learned a lot from her. now...

I regret feeling uncomfortable talking to her. I held her in the untouchable reverence of the very young. that's what's upsetting me so right now: that I was the one that could have broken through. I knew there was more to find than just a doting memory; there was a woman with a long, full life of which I only saw glimpses.

I'm sorry I never got to know you better, Grandma. I hope you didn't suffer, and that you were surrounded by people who knew how to love you better than I. rest in peace.