Without even realizing it, we all present ourselves carefully when in the presence of any reflective surface.
Me, I’m thick. When you look at me face-on, you think – meh. Whatever. But if I turn sideways, the reaction is “I hope I’m on a plane with THAT lady when it crashes in the Andes – we could live off her for a long time.”
So naturally I don’t look very hard when the mirror is to my side. (Who wants to look like long pork?!) Instead I face a mirror and pull up as tall as possible, so the bulk is stretched a little longer.
The exception is when I’m sitting in Stretch Class, which happens at Body Dynamics (in Falls Church, VA) on Thursdays at 11. (It’s really “Stretch and Roll” class because we use these tormentful, awesome, addictive foam rollers to torture and delight our muscles.)
I sit on my little mat and do my best to bend in willowy fashion, holding stretches while the starch in my muscles creaks and groans and eventually gives up the ghost…
…and then I sit up again and find I’m confronting myself in the mirror in my best Winnie-the-Pru pose of solidity and I realize that facing the mirror is NOT HELPING my self-confidence!
It’s those legs stuck out in front, looking all stubby and adorable. It’s the expanse of waist, the generosity of flesh. I look so STOLID.
And I get to giggling. There I am in a class with women (and occasionally a lone man) of all shapes and sizes, all of us attempting to be willowy or at the very least maintain whatever bendability we have, and I’m hooting like an owl. Trying to be quiet as I snigger at my own reflection. I go to the gym to look and, most important, feel better and instead I’m looking like Sweaty Buddha.
HOWEVER I’m Sweaty Buddha with a little bit more flexibility. So I keep going. Because looking good in the gym is desirable – but looking good OUTSIDE the gym is better.
When I took art history several centuries ago, we learned about a painting from the Renaissance. It was just after people had figured out perspective, and one artist conceived the unbearably radical idea of painting Christ (after he was taken from the cross) FROM THE FOOT OF THE BED, which makes Jesus look stubby and short. This was not how he’d been portrayed in every other painting ever ever ever and people were OUTRAGED.
The painting (by Andrea Mantegna) (that’s not Joe Mantegna, the actor, nor is it Joe Montana, the quarterback, although I’m sure they’re both excellent painters) is actually called “The Lamentation of Christ,” but it’s so commonly known as “The Foreshortened Christ” that I found the image on Google just by using the incorrect title. Cool image, huh?
The takeaway is – the perspective you have on a scene affects what you see. Ragged holes in hands and feet in one case – determination masked in plumpness in the other. I guess my point is – maybe you’ve been seeing the wrong thing when you look in the mirror. Instead of focusing on the parts of you that you hate, why not look at the larger whole? At the strength and compassion and humor and goodness that create a far more complete picture of who you really are?
Let us all giggle – for we do not have ragged holes in our hands and feet. At least, I don’t.
(Upon re-reading, I feel I need to make a point: I am NOT drawing a parallel between me and the person upon whom a huge religion has been built. I AM drawing a parallel between the perspective in the Stretch and Roll mirror and the rebel artist Mantegna. I intend no disrespect to any faith.) (Or work of art, natch.)