Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Some days it seems like an awfully long time ago that I was nearly a teenager.

There are things I remember well.  Boys I liked, a heart broken and broken again, internal tensions and battles as I struggled to figure out who to align myself with, and who I was.

I felt things deeply then, just as I do now.
(And for the record, I'm still trying to figure out who I am.)

One thing I do remember is the mirror which hung above the dresser in my bedroom.
I spent hours looking into that mirror.
Studying my reflection and imperfection.
Brushing my hair again and again and again... it just never looked right.
Studying my side profile to see if my nose was as crooked as I thought it was.
Staring at my freckled arms and chest and wondering why I couldn't just have skin like everybody else.
Turning to the side to catch a glimpse of my profile - wanting to be thinner, even though I was thinner than most.  It just wasn't enough.

When I was in grade seven I started wearing make-up.
The mirror took on a new fascination.
I could look to critique - but now I could do something about it.
I was no longer powerless.

Concealer.  Cover-up.  Powder.
Seek and destroy the imperfection.
Chase the ugliness away.

This all comes back to me now as I see Hannah's reflection in her mirror.
She's nearly 12 now.  On the cusp of her own venture into adolescence.
And don't I know it.

I know it from the stomps and slams.
The tears in one moment followed by laughter in the next.
The closed door.
The harsh words followed by "I don't know why I just said that".

Most of all I know if from the mirror.
She is becoming more familiar with that reflection all of the time.
She lingers there - in the morning.  Her hair must be right.  Her accessories perfect.  Her clothes fit.
She lingers there - in the afternoon.  "Do I still look ok?"
She lingers there - in the evening.  Washing her face, drying and brushing her washed hair.
One more look before bed.

And I say, "You're beautiful."
                 "You're perfect."
                 "Your hair is shiny and smooth."

But my accolades are not the ones she is looking for.
She is looking for the ones from the reflection she sees in the mirror.

This struck me, the other morning, as I was getting ready for my day.
I rolled out of bed.  Walked to the bathroom.  Washed my face and studied my reflection.
Dark lines under my eyes.  Wrinkles and lines where laughter and scowls have taken up residence.
Pimples and scars, freckles and birthmarks.
Long hair with roots and split ends.
Signs of age and life.

I dried my face.
Threw my hair into a ponytail.
I didn't even reach for my make-up.
I usually don't, you know.

Most days I've made peace with my reflection.
What you see is what you get.
I don't want to hide.

But some days I still do.
I want to cover up the rough spots and create something better than what I see.
That voice in the mirror from my adolescence still visits me.

I can't quiet the voice for Hannah.
She has to make peace for herself.
I can only show her my face as it is.  Weathered.  Tired.  Living.  Living.  Living.
Not hiding or concealed.  Covered up or powdered over.

In living she will make her peace.


  1. Great words....I needed to hear this. I spent many hours in front of my mirror as a teen, still do...ugh...keep up the positive words and she will never forget them!

  2. dampened eyes- such a beautiful expose on the truth of it all- no longer controlled by our obsessions, but certainly visited by them. And for some of us, the welcome has entirely worn off. It's embarrassing to me at times that my daughters appear to be more evolved in this than I am at 44. I am grateful for this- insanely grateful. But I wonder if I am wrong, and they struggle unbeknownst to me. I now not only worry about myself- (Will I ever grow up? will I ever change the punishing voices in my head? Will I ever......) and now worry about my daughters and their daughters and hope I've done all right by them. At least they have the pluck to tell me to smarten up when my mouth bleeds out the dysfunctions of my mind. And so I apologize. But worry.
    Thanks Karla. This took some guts, and I hear and love and admire your heart.

  3. resonates with me too. must be scary, painful, incredible, breath-taking, and lovey (all wrapped up into one..)to see your daughter grow into woman-hood. keep telling her she's perfect and beautiful...even if she doesn't rely on you for her acceptance of herself. without your words, your actions, she'd be clinging to that mirror even more.