Have you ever looked in a mirror and asked, “Do I really look this old?” Or this ugly? Or this fat? Or anything else that doesn’t spell beautiful in your dictionary. I have.

If you’re like me, you grew up believing being young and beautiful was all-important. And what beauty meant was — and still is for a lot of us — narrowly defined. So, the mirror has the power to exhilarate us or crush us, steal our confidence, and ruin our day.

Mirror, mirror, tell me I don’t look this old.

It’s not fair! So you do things to make the mirror change its mind. You change your hair, try new makeup, get Botox, buy new shoes (not really, but I like to buy shoes), or crash diet. And you avoid selfies altogether because there’s nothing as depressing as a selfie. Or you can try another mirror because each mirror tells a different story.

Have you ever noticed that you look a thousand times better in one mirror than another? Then, for goodness’ sake, trust that one. You get to decide which mirror to trust. I trust the cloudy, antique mirror in my downstairs powder room. And I spend more time than necessary in that tiny space, just being adorable.

The Beloved Mirror

For years, I had the finest mirror of all. a mirror I loved.  My husband, Ron was my mirror. And I was young. And I was gorgeous. “How old do I look?” I’d ask. And with his answer, I’d get younger every time.

Every morning after I dressed and fixed my hair and makeup, I’d come downstairs and swirl into the room like Loretta Young (Remember her? Then you’re old). And I always knew Ron’s eyes were going to light up and reflect just what a vision I was.

Even when I galumphed down the stairs with a cold, shiny clown nose, red watery eyes, and several extra pounds stuffed into a stained bathrobe I was gorgeous.

But Ron died a few months ago and left me with only unromantic, mean-spirited mirrors that tell me I’m old.

Do I really look this old? Yes! 

We all have days when we look in the mirror and hear a resounding YES when we ask, “Do I really look this old?” Then our energy goes into trying to change that yes. But we can stop. We can do something different — something drastic. We can decide all the things we grew up believing were lies. It’s okay to be older. It’s okay that our photos don’t look the way they used to — or the way we thought we looked before we consulted the mirror. We can stand up and say, “I am more than the wrinkles on my face.” (Really? Maybe. Okay, we’re works in progress.)

How do we break the mirror’s hold?

We get to make choices because we’re grownups. We can write our own definitions of beauty and value. And we can stop fighting to please the mirror. Then we will have all that leftover time, energy, and emotion that we can commit to finding new interests and taking on new challenges. There are important jobs that need doing.

In my case there’s, there’s a blog that needs to be written. And there’s a dog that needs to be walked. Maybe you have one too — maybe you should get one. He will keep you young. And reflected in his eyes, you’ll see, you’re gorgeous.

Allergic to dogs? Okay. There’s a committee that needs to be joined, a garden that needs tending, an old cemetery that needs weeding. And you’re the one who can do it.

Or just go for a walk and say good morning to every person you pass — especially the ones who try to avoid eye contact. Enjoy connecting with the people who smile back at you — and I take a perverse pleasure in making the others uncomfortable.

Start now. Get up, dress, fix your hair and makeup (and maybe buy new shoes). Smile at your reflection because you are beautiful (except in selfies). Then get on with it.

Back to the question you asked the mirror, “Do I really look this old?” Or this ugly? Or this fat? Or anything else that doesn’t spell beautiful in your dictionary. Shatter that mirror. Accept that all those things you grew up believing are wrong. Your judge, that old mirror, has no more power than to tell you if your lipstick is crooked.

Isn’t it fun that we get to choose what to believe and where we put our energy? Young is a way of thinking about life. And what I think right now is that I’ll sit in the garden and have a glass of wine.

January 2, 2023