Looking in the Mirror

girl in a mirror

Frederick Carl Frieseke,
Femme qui se Mire

Early in the morning, and she’s already been up for half an hour, writing. Her eyes show it: glazed light blue icing, or are they dazed? Slightly bloodshot, with puffy fleshy bags underneath her lower lids.

She remembers when the bags underneath her eyes, rare and only after long bouts of studying or handling petulant babies, were smooth. But now, lines are etched at the bottom of the puffiness. They won’t be as visible after she washes her face with cold water and walks briskly in the fall air, but still, they’re always there now.

Woman Before Mirror, Frans van Mieris, 1670

Woman Before Mirror, Frans van Mieris

She counts about ten light freckles on each side of her face and smiles. Her daughter’s nickname at camp had been Freckles. She turns her head from side to side, wondering why she still has them at this age. But it’s a warm New England October, and her skin is rosy from a sunny weekend. Maybe freckles just pop out during sunlight, like flowers on a spring morning.

Nahshon (detail): Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1511-1512, fresco, Cappella Sistina, Vatican

Nahshon (detail): Michelangelo Buonarroti

Her eyebrows rise as she scrutinizes the rest of her face. The arches are nicely shaped, but losing color; they used to be a dark brunette, now she even has to pluck an errant gray eyebrow hair from time to time.

Her lips press together in annoyance. They’re puffy too, and her mouth is punctuated on either side with a short deep line, like a long comma or no, better yet, like the sides of a parenthesis. Do they have a name, those sides? Probably. But it doesn’t matter.

For some perverse reason, she likes the idea that what comes out of her mouth is always parenthetical.


woman in mirror

(Like this – what do YOU see when you look in your mirror?)



Pablo Picasso, Girl Before Mirror

Pablo Picasso, Girl Before Mirror







59 thoughts on “Looking in the Mirror

  1. When I look in the mirror I see my Dad’s eyes, my Mum’s skin and a smile and cheekiness that is all my own…and I see humanity, impermanence, yearning and something beyond the eyes that doesn’t show up in the mirror. A charming piece Pam, and I love all the images you’ve used to illustrate it…including the one of you of course! Hugs, H xxx


  2. It is what it is. Wrinkles, bags, puffiness, dark spots are all signs that we’ve made it this far, but not unscathed! One of my aunts years ago had a facelift “go wrong” and she looks scary to this day! I would rather accept my “imperfections” as just part of aging graciously.


  3. A lovely, reflective piece on your reflection. : ) In this past year I’ve had my share of sessions such as this in front of the mirror, and those first pangs of wishing to turn back the clock. A certain amount of aging is fine and taken in stride, but then a threshold is passed…. In my better moments the experience brings to mind this line from Disiderata: “Take kindly the council of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.” Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this post, Pam.


  4. Oh Pam, another great post …. I love it. I had to look in the mirror several times before commenting . I like what I see in the mirror , a well aged face with lots of imperfections, but it is my face. The feeling that comes to my mind is ….. lots of experience, having lived a good life, make the best of what you have left and put on a good night creme.


    • But don’t we ever wonder why it’s supposed to be so good to ‘not look our age’? Perhaps that’s why we’re always so afraid to look in the mirror. Perhaps at some point in our society we will value age and wisdom instead of denigrating it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, these days I see a stranger who resembles my grandmother quite a bit. The person inside the reflection feels, thinks, and acts just like the one who was looking back at me 30 or more years ago. But, I like my current reflection, and who I have become. So, regardless of the youth culture’s standard, I am grateful for this face in the mirror, although I do prefer a kinder, gentler, dimmer lightbulb than in days gone by. Oh, and those parentheses lines on the sides of the mouth? They are called Marionette mouth lines. So not what I would have named them!


    • Interesting name for those facial lines. I’m going to have to research and see why they got that name. I think it’s neat how you see part of your grandmother in your face now. As I spend time with my six-year-old granddaughter, I’m going to be chuckling to myself-hoping that she’ll see me reflected in her mirror in 50 years


      • I dislike that term so much, but not nearly as much as I dislike the term Buffalo Hump for that fatty hump women get on their backs. Someday, I would like to know who came up with those names.


  6. A few years ago I reconnected with a college friend. We exchanged pictures of ourselves and our families but his face was always in the shadow or otherwise hard to see. When I mentioned it, he told me there was an old man at his house. He only saw him in the morning when he shaved and combed what was left of his hair and again at night when he brushed his teeth and put the old man to bed.

    You have lots of company, Pam.


    • Oh boy, this gave me the shivers. I just spent the weekend with college friends-some who I have not seen in 30 years. Yes-in someways we are faded reflections of what we were. But as we get to know each other better at this age, the younger faces are what were unformed. Now we have character, we decided. 🙂


  7. When I look in the mirror I see a trace of the teenager I once was and a bit of my mother. I’m 57 now, and my mother died at age 59, so I often wonder what she was thinking at this age while she was looking in the mirror and fighting breast cancer. And then I see a plain Jane – I loved “Jane Eyre” – and then move on to seeing a wise crone and wind up feeling at peace in the moment with who is here now.


    • Beautifully said!!! I think it’s a gift to see part of our mothers within our face, and by doing so to actually feel that we know them maybe a little better. I salute what you see in your mirror. She is absolutely lovely.


  8. What I see in the mirror is a face that’s older than the brain behind it. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes not so good. I also see my father’s harder features blended with my mom’s softer curves of her face. The determination that was definitely Dad and the compassion that was Mom. What other people see is none of my concern; it’s taken a lifetime to reach that state of mind.


    • Oh you’re so smart- “what other people see in my face is none of my concern.” You are a wise man-and, by the way, a very handsome one, probably because of the combination of that determination and compassion. xo


  9. Superb post and the comments were wonderful as well. I think I liked bes the line that you rather like the idea of your words coming out of ‘parentheticals’ – clever, thoughtful line. 🙂 I felt as thought you were writing about me – I could very much identify!


  10. Smiling at another one of your great stories. You now have me wondering if I have “puffy” parts on this face, too. Oh no, Pam, what have you done? There have probably been puffy parts all along and only today will it sink in!!


  11. I see me! The light in my eyes. And I feel so full of love. (I wrote a post about this earlier this summer, because I noticed that I was full of love, finally, and I was so delighted.)


  12. You’ve done it again, Pam, wrote a brilliant thought provoking piece. MP has a piece in the works of a similar nature. It needs work but after reading this, we see that you’ve raised the bar. Thank you for being so inspiring. xo LMA


  13. I swear I woke up a few months ago, looked in the mirror and realized I’d managed to age 10 years overnight. I have bags that don’t go away and my skin isn’t as taught–I can actually feel the skin on my cheeks started to hang. Oh, and I’m developing paranthesis as well. Luckily, if I smile you don’t tend to notice. So, I’ll just have to walk around very happy all the time!

    And I love the line, “For some perverse reason, she likes the idea that what comes out of her mouth is always parenthetical.”


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