As I walk down the street I am very careful not to look for my reflection in store windows. Or bus shelters. Or car mirrors.
I often see women, I see them all the time actually, check themselves in any object that will reflect their image. The bold ones will make no bones about staring at themselves. Others will act like the head, of its own will, turned on the neck, putting the visage before them.
Some are young girls who look at themselves without shame but always with some regret. As these young women are often not alone, they will remark to the other, see the fat, see the awful hair, see, see, see.
I resist looking because I am afraid of what I will find there. Yet, the pull to look, to see, is so strong I feel like I have won some as yet unnamed but significant battle when I can walk past without acknowledging myself.
What am I winning?
The battle appears to be, in my case, to not need a body and therefore be spared the torment of not having the right kind. I have spoken to enough women to understand that, almost to a woman, they too do not inhabit the correct body.
It is hard to live without a body. I cannot locate myself in this world. And the women who can find themselves can only have the body worth having: the thin body, the youthful body, the yielding body. Any sign of resistance to any of these can only result in, at the least confusion, at the worst desolation.
I feel alone when I try to find myself through my female body. Writing leaves me words on a page, and my body could be anything, anywhere, or nothing at all. The body at this point does not matter, and it is here that I have found myself. But I still struggle not to see.
What is it we are searching for in the windows and mirrors?
Of course we, I, am looking for the “self” the me. But further, I am looking for what tells me to whom I belong, where I belong. It is about connection. I belong to the tribe of woman; they have breasts and wombs. That should be enough, but alas.
I refuse to belong to the tribe of women as viewed by the other. Ah, there it is! The rub.
We need, I need, desire, the other. The one to whom I can show my self and be seen. It is in the other’s eyes I find the woman, find her body, her self. And as I rush toward this other, this reflection of the good, the admirable, the lovable in me, I am stopped short by my body. I renege. I turn and stare into the glass, scared of what I might not find.