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The Stranger in the Mirror

October 21, 2012

Snow White Magic Mirror‘Magic mirror on the wall
Who is the fairest one of all?’

You’re probably familiar with this question – posed by the Wicked Queen in the 1937 Disney classic animated film, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’.  You likely also know that the Mirror disappointed the Queen by telling her that she wasn’t it (Snow White, of course, was the ‘fairest one of all’).

My Magic MirrorTo be honest, I’ve never suffered from delusions of grandeur in the beauty department, or desired to be ‘the fairest one of all’ (although my husband tells me I am, which probably just goes to show that there ARE some benefits to age-related eyesight loss).  For the most part, I have always accepted that I look the way I look when I look in the mirror because of genetics and my own choices related to hairstyle, wardrobe, makeup, etc., and I decided early on that there wasn’t a whole lot I could (or was willing to) do about it.

Now? I’m not so sure – because the person looking back at me from my own ‘magic mirror’ is a stranger!

I have quite a few photos that visually record the changes in my appearance over the past 55+ years. The very first picture of me was taken the day my mother brought me home from the hospital; I was four days old. When I was one, my mother took me to a professional photographer to have pictures taken; she took me back again when I was two and half (a 20 x 24” blow up of the ‘best’ of those photos remained in the shop’s downtown display window for over ten years; it now hangs in my bedroom).

Four Days Old One Year Old Two And A Half
Four Days Old One Year Old Two and a Half

At five, I had my photo on the front page of the local newspaper with Pepito the clown (the circus was in town).  There were also the obligatory birthday and Christmas pictures taken each year, and the annual ‘visit with Santa’ (at Eaton’s in downtown Toronto) photo.  Up until about the age of 11, I was PDC (pretty damn cute), if I do say so myself.

Five Years Old At Eight With Santa Tenth Birthday
Five Years Old At Eight w/Santa Tenth Birthday

Grade 12 School Photo

I was a somewhat gawky, geeky teenager and there aren’t a lot of pictures of me during this period of my life that I particularly like looking at (my Grade 12 school photo being one of the few exceptions).  I’m not especially fond of how I looked during the 70s either (too-short and/or Afro-permed hair + huge glasses + shoulder pads = BLEH; I suppose it was a good thing we ALL looked that bad during that particular decade!)

New Mom Looking GoodThere were a couple of years in the early 80s (shortly after son #1 was born) when I thought I looked pretty good. I’d let my hair grow longer, and enhanced it with big curls, I was at a good weight for my height, and I had lots and lots of energy!  For many (20+) years afterwards, this is how I ‘saw’ myself in my mind’s eye. (My husband has a photo of me from that era – even though we hadn’t yet met – on the desktop of his computer [since I have a photo of him from 1982 on mine] and I’m often ‘surprised’ [read: disappointed] when I realize that I don’t actually look like that anymore.)

While I have hundreds of photos taken during the 1980s and 1990s, there aren’t very many of me – I was generally the one behind the camera (which is probably a good thing because the few pictures I do have of me aren’t very flattering; this may explain why I hung on to the image of me at just-about-thirty for so many years).

Wedding DayFast forward to the twenty-first century and a new ‘life’ and a new ‘me’.  I’d put on a few pounds but gotten ‘fitter’, learned what hairstyle suits me best, and discovered how to select glasses and clothes that flatter (rather than just cover) me.  I met a man who was attracted to me for who I was (rather than what I could do for him) and by the time we were married in 2003, I honestly believed that old adage: “I’m not getting older, I’m getting better”.  In the nine years since, I’ve pictured myself as I was on my wedding day (looking good, feeling strong, smiling like I mean it).  Now, when (if) someone asks me how old I am, I honestly have to stop and think about it.

I like the idea that everyone has two ‘ages’: the one they count in years, and the one that reflects how they ‘feel’ (physical age vs. mental age).  I’ve heard the question posed many times: How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? (I’d say 32 – ignoring, of course, the fact that I have a son who’s 31 and another who’s 26).  It’s my mental’ age persona that I expect to see in the mirror.

So it comes as a bit of a shock when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror at the mall or actually take the time to study myself in my own bathroom mirror (I use it to brush my hair and apply makeup, but I don’t really study myself in it) and – instead of the thirtyish girl (sans baby) or the not-quite fiftyish blushing bride – there’s a much older version of ‘me’ reflected there!  It’s a little unnerving to find a near-stranger staring back at me!

Aging is a process that starts the moment we’re born. I know that. I also know that how I look and feel as I age is entirely up to me. I accept that (just as I accept – even though the marketers of ‘beauty products’ clearly don’t – that there is no such thing as an ‘anti-aging’ product – there are just any number of very expensive lotions and potions that promise make you LOOK and/or feel younger, provided you keep using them). What I do find hard to accept is just how much faster this whole aging thing progresses once we reach … the other side of 55.

How Old Quote

  1. October 24, 2012 9:43 am

    The 67-year-old me actually feels about 55-years-old physically but, better yet, about 25-years-old mentally. Does that make sense? This is just about the best time of my life! 🙂

    • October 24, 2012 1:31 pm

      Good for you! I believe we should be ‘be’ whatever age we feel (I just wish my body was more ‘in sync’ with my mind!)


  2. October 23, 2012 4:50 am

    Nah, having an age is over-rated… You only need it to collect social security, otherwisde it serves little useful purpose… and nice 10th birthday shot!

    • October 23, 2012 9:13 am

      That’s so true – I hadn’t really thought about it that way!


  3. October 22, 2012 11:49 am

    I’ve accepted that I’m 58 but actually feel more like 44 (most of the time). Gone through a transition these past few years and when I finally saw my latest picture (at my daughter’s wedding) it became my fav picture of all time. I didn’t feel or look 58. I kept joking that I had my funeral portrait–that pic for the obituary and on top of the casket. Morbid maybe but part of life. My older sister was the first one to have a professional photo done last year–for just that reason.

    I have some of those same B&W and weird 70’s haircut pictures too. So keep snapping photos and make sure you are in them!

    • October 22, 2012 1:23 pm

      Someday I know I’m going to have to have a professional photo taken (for my yet-to-be-published first novel) and I’ve decided it will be done after a full-body makeover!


  4. October 22, 2012 10:57 am

    of course it’s faster-downhill is always faster!

  5. October 21, 2012 5:42 pm

    I felt a whole lot better about myself and the way I looked when I was 50, but I’m now in my early sixties and sometimes I feel much younger and a lot of the time I feel much older! The image in the mirror has travelled on ahead!

    • October 21, 2012 5:53 pm

      I think attitude has a lot to do with it – on days when I’m ‘up’, I feel much younger than on the days when I’m ‘down’. I try to be ‘up’ as often as possible!


  6. October 21, 2012 3:55 pm

    I’m 51. It’s SOOOOO hard to type that number or tell people when they ask (which isn’t often) how old I am. I’m actually embarrassed to say the number because I feel like I’m 35 or 40. But I look at my skin and it’s not that of a 35 year old. Or my hair which would be gray if it weren’t for my hairdresser. I think that if I let myself believe that 51 (yikes!) is old, I will become old. Therefore, I keep thinking of myself as a spry 35 year old. I hope it works.

    • October 21, 2012 4:49 pm

      I’m fast approaching 60 and I can hardly believe it – 51 seems like yesterday. Time certainly goes faster as the years go by and its difficult to accept the whole aging thing. Unfortunately, we don’t have much choice!


  7. October 21, 2012 2:06 pm

    I don’t think I really started to “feel my age” until about 50. Since then, it’s been a slow decline as far as strength and stamina. I tire faster. I’ve developed arthritis in my hands and wrists over the last few years, too. But, I’m still able to chase around a house full of kids for up to 12 hours a day, so I suppose it’s all good. Nice post, and I can so relate to it!

    • October 21, 2012 3:38 pm

      Every day seems to bring new challenges (not to mention aches and pains). I have a hard time accepting it sometimes – it seems like only yesterday that I was 35 and rockin’.


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