Thursday, December 10, 2009

Don't look at this one!

Why is it so difficult to look at our own faces in the mirror? For me it's not so much about aging -- a few wrinkles and sags seem a small price to pay for the pleasure of still being alive -- but more about the discomfort of seeing my mother's face.

That mouth -- in this picture, anyway -- is completely and irrevocably hers, and this particular expression of it is one I associate 100% with her own peculiar blend of longing for acceptance mixed with insecurity.

But wait, don't we all have that blend in us? And don't I find it endearing in everyone else? So why is it so unacceptable in her, and therefore so unappealing in me? Perhaps because in her it manifested as a stiffness, and an innate tendency to criticism: unable to love herself, she found it equally hard to love others, including me, and was therefore always watching with a critical eye, waiting to condemn for some imagined slight or imperfection.

And so, when I see that face, I cringe, waiting for the next critical comment to fall. And even though it doesn't, I tend to turn away. Perhaps I need to look instead at the eyes, the windows to the soul, and see instead the joy that lives in there...

I asked my husband what he saw. His responses were pretty amusing. "Gums!" "You look really happy, and very comfortable with yourself." "It's the lipstick that makes the mouth look like your mom's... and the makeup accentuates the bags under your eyes." But the funniest response of all? "Good thing I married you when you were young and beautiful!" (I got a hug with that one).

7 comments:

Maureen said...

Oh, that husband of your has his way with words!

(P.S. I think you and I must be sisters. I identified completely with your third paragraph. Lived it all my life.)

Joyce Wycoff said...

Diane ... you did it again ... my mom was a waiter-and-watcher-for-something-done-wrong. (Will our similarities never end?) Just today I'm realizing again how much that "being judged and found lacking" part of me colors everything.

BTW ... you look like you're having way too much fun! ;-)

drw@bainbridge.net said...

Thank you both for understanding that I'm not whining or excusing, just exploring...

... and what does that tell us about how all three of us got to this curious place?

HMMM...

KimQuiltz said...

Who who WHO is this woman??!! I hardly recognize you here. Amazing. I see a woman playing a role and playing it to the HILT. Brava! What fun! What joy! What a character!

drw@bainbridge.net said...

Ah, Kim -- everything I know about being a great redhead I learned from you!

Katherine W. said...

Holy crap, you're totally right! Your mouth does look like Nana's. You have to know, as soon as I saw that I kind of squawked, and Martin asked what was up so I tried to show him, and what I tried to describe came out as something like "okay, so look at this half of her face, and then cut off the top part and make it smaller with... teeny eyes". I didn't explicate it very well, but I guess in my memory your mum has an egg shaped head with small, unsmiling, not sparkly eyes. Her smile there is kind of false. Your smile here is kind of false too, because you are expressing the grin of your character- but it's not false entirely, just not yours, I think. In any case, your eyes betray the actual happiness of the smile. They wrinkle at the corners like happy people and are sparkly and big.

I like the way my mom smiles, it's always nice, even if she's smiling to be someone else =) Love you mommy!

KimQuiltz said...

*taking a bow* I don't believe you, but I will take it, wear it and warm myself in its flame. ;)