Mirror Mirror on the Wall

First of all, I have to give a shout-out to John Cole, proprietor of Balloon Juice, and his merry band of co-front pagers.  They have been working diligently on amassing the Balloon Juice vernacular and putting them in one place, known as the Balloon Juice Lexicon (link for the letters a – h).  The definitions are informative, snarky, thorough, and just plain fun–especially if you hang out at BJ.  I am inordinately proud of the fact that my spur-of-the-moment definition of meme was included under the term Internet Meme:  an idea that gets circulated, distorted, eaten, vomited back up again, reshaped, recirculated, re-distorted, eaten up again, and regurgitated yet again until eventually, it eats itself (cf commentor Asiangrrrl).  Ooh, and they even gave me credit for it, kind of, as my username is asiangrrlMN, but I will answer to any variation of asiangrrl.  Anyway, that was my crowning accomplishment for the week.

Now.  On with the post.

I hate mirrors with a passion.  I avoid them whenever possible.  I have never liked the way I look, since I was a little girl and realized that the Mecca of flaxen locks and sky-blue eyes was beyond my reach.  I was a fat kid with no sense of style.  I permed my hair and wore the ugliest glasses ever.  I wore pastels–which, believe you me, did nothing for my sallow complexion.  I got teased on a daily basis for being fat, smart, Asian, and for having breasts earlier than the other girls.  I had greasy hair and a greasy face.  I had to have braces.  I was a mess, and I didn’t have the first clue how to fix it.

TLC’s Unpretty.  I couldn’t embed the original video, so here’s the link.

In college, I changed my image dramatically.  I lost lots of weight, started wearing makeup, chopped my hair in a funky fashion, and dressed even funkier.  I still avoided the mirror, though.  Why?  For one thing, I still thought I was grotesquely fat.  That was the start of my eating disorder, and it has gripped me throughout my life.  I weighed myself twice a day to make sure I didn’t slip up, and I castigated myself endlessly when I would give in and eat.   And eat.  And eat.  Then, I would throw up.  Actually, one of the few times I looked in the mirror was after purging so I could assess the damage.

After college, I gained weight again, and lost it again, and gained it again.  I quit looking in the mirror for good.  I can brush my hair, brush my teeth, wash my face, and do whatever morning rituals I need to do without once looking into the mirror.  That’s partly because I don’t wear makeup any more.  Oh, I can also braid my hair without looking in the mirror.  French-braid, even.  Before, when I looked in the mirror, it would be to tick off all the things I hated about my body and face.

For the most part, I still avoid the mirror because I don’t like the way my body looks right now.  I am in a fat stage, and I can feel it weighting down my self-confidence.  When I am forced to look into the mirror, I can note a few things I like–including my eyes, my mouth, my hair, my tats, and now, my new specs–but they are far outnumbered by the things I would change.

The funny thing is, that as I am in my sexual peak, I more sexual  and more sensual than ever, but I don’t feel sexy.  I know that sounds like semantics, but it’s not.  It’s been a lifelong struggle that I feel sexier when I’m thinner, but more sexual when I’m heavier.

The good news is that I’m slowly becoming more accepting of my body as it is.  I may not love it, and I may wish there were considerably less of it, but I no longer hate it or abuse it as I once did.  In this matter, baby steps are what count.

Fun house mirrors are no fun, either–at least not for me.  Since I rarely look in mirrors in the first place, looking into eleven billionty* of them at the same time as they distort what I look like is not a really good idea.  However, they do provide an interesting metaphor for what it’s like to live with an eating disorder and/or body dysmorphia.  An eating disorder distorts what you see in the mirror.  No matter how thin I got in real life (and I got really thin), I still thought I was a walking tub of lard.

This segues neatly into the real topic at hand (and yes, it took me eight hundred words to get there–deal with it):  the mirror that distorts how I look at my soul.  Yes, it’s a fucking metaphor–deal with that, too.

For most of my life, I have carefully hidden who I really am–for various reasons.  When I was a kid, it wasn’t safe to let the real Minna come out and play.  There were so many strictures around who I should be, what I should say, and how I should behave, it was simply easier just to pretend.   Pretend to be like everyone else.  Pretend to be who everyone else wanted me to be.  The irony was, of course, that no matter how hard I tried, there was no way to cram my squareness into that damned round hole.  I had way too many things poking out of me that just didn’t fit in any preconceived notion of who I should be.

I got so good at it, that I completely disappeared for a while.  The person I presented was nowhere near the real me.  Wait a minute.  That’s not exactly right.  The general shape of me was there–feminist, queer, artistic, etc.–but the particulars were kept carefully tucked away.  I was convinced that the real me was disgusting, deviant, unworthy, and most of all, unlovable.  I was like the proverbial onion in that every time someone pulled back a layer, there was another one staring him/her in the face.  An ex of mine said that when he first met me, he couldn’t read anything in my eyes because I kept them so guarded.  I was on constant alert for the danger of someone breaching my security that I never rested.

This has been my way of life until now.  I just assumed that my life was meaningless, and that assumption soon became law.  I didn’t know why anyone would want to be friends with me unless they were just being really nice or because they felt sorry for me.  There were a few exceptions to that rule, but I just dismissed them as outliers.  If anyone were to know the true me, the real me, the ugly, messy, inside me, s/he would flee in horror.  It didn’t help that in the past, I tended to pick partners who reinforced that particularly insidious belief.  I didn’t just believe this of potential romantic partners–I believed it of potential friends, too.   Ten years ago, I knew this wonderful woman who kept making overtures of friendship to me.  I couldn’t fathom why someone as gorgeous (but straight.  Kind of), intelligent, creative, brilliant, kind, and just all-around fabulous as she would want to be friends with me.  Because I couldn’t fathom it, I never reciprocated her gestures of friendship.  Sadly, I’ve done that more than once in my life.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year.  That’s when I started to blog in earnest.  I’d wanted to do it for many years, but I always pulled back at the last moment.  What if my family read it and disowned me?  What if I put all my shit out there and people hated me for it?  I could have just written about politics (my main reason for starting a blog), but that wasn’t what I wanted.  I wanted my blog to be a place where I could write about anything on my mind.  I wanted to write about topics ranging from sex (first and foremost) to politics to pop culture and anything in between.  I didn’t want to have to constantly censor myself, saying, “Oh no, I better not say that.”

In short, I wanted to blog so I could finally let the real Minna come out to play.  See, over the past few years, she’s been really rebelling about being kept under wraps.  She’s been saying, “Uh, Minna?  All this doom and gloom is getting fucking old.  It’s about time to have some fucking fun, damn it!”  Yes, the inner Minna swears like the proverbial sailor.   I call her my inner hedonist because she’s all about the sensual pleasures in life.  The very ones that have me damned to hell.  The very ones that make me immoral in the eyes of many–and for the longest time, in the eyes of…me.   Good girls shouldn’t be so lusty, whether it was in bed or in the buffet line.  Nice girls shouldn’t laugh too loudly or, god forbid, snort.  They should definitely wear panties and bras at all times.  No matter how much of a rebel I thought I actual was, I still had the rules drilled into my head.

That’s the reason it took me so long to start my blog.   What would people think of me?  That’s the thought that ran constantly through my brain as I slowly started blogging.  At first, I didn’t let anyone know because I wanted to blog in secret for a bit.  Then, I let a few friends know.  Then, a few more.  Oh, my brother knew from the start because he’s my tech support, but I knew he’d never read it, so I was safe on that front.

I started to get some positive feedback from friends.  That encouraged me, so I posted my URL in my user name at the political blogs I frequent.  I also added it to my profile on my Facebook page.  To my amazement, people started reading my blog and commenting.  This is a parallel situation that happens with my FB page.  I don’t add people as friends, but I get requests from other people to be added.  Many of them have been friends of friends who’ve liked what I’ve posted–and when I post links to my blog on my friends’ walls, their friends usually have complimentary things to say.

I have gotten a few trolls, sure, but surprisingly few.  For the most part, I have gotten thoughtful, quirky, creative, intelligent, funny, witty people who are willing and able to engage in an erudite discussion on any topic ranging from sex (yes, always first with the sex) to politics to relationships and everything in between.  People followed me from other blogs to my own blog.

Let me repeat that:  People followed me from other blogs to my own blog.  I am gobsmacked to write that.  I am even more gobsmacked to know that there are people who read my blog every day (and sometimes get a wee bit testy if no new entry has surfaced in a couple days) and who are willing to go to the mat for me.

I have been excruciatingly honest on my blog.  I have shown more of the inner me than I ever thought possible, warts and all.  I have had the impulse to take down one post, and I actually took down another.  For the most part, though,  I have let my words speak for themselves.  In the beginning, I did it with my heart in my mouth because I thought for sure I would be rejected.  It is to my continual amazement that I have been supported and bolstered instead.  Indeed, some would say I’ve been egged on (not that I need much prodding), and for that, I am thankful.

Now, I have to take the lesson I’ve learned from the positive response to the freak that I am on my blog and apply it to me in real life.  In the past week, I’ve been told by three people what an amazing woman I am.  Each time, my impulse is to deny, deflect, and divert.  I don’t feel amazing.  I see my flaws and the ways in which I am wasting my life, and I feel…so not amazing.  I still feel awkward and fat and dull at times and a freak.  This gets in the way because then I am gobsmacked when people want to get to know me.  I still can’t see why, really, though I am better at it than before.  I don’t hate myself.  I can acknowledge that I am funny, intelligent, charming–a good dinner companion, as it were.  I am literate, considerate, kind, and sensitive.  I don’t think I’m beautiful, but I at least don’t think I’m ugly any more–nor do I think I’m irredeemable.

I am beginning to see that it’s possible for people to like me, and, yes, to even love me.  I still don’t understand why, but I am at least beginning to accept it’s true.  That’s a start.

*Eleven billionty means a whole bunch.  I am uncertain as to who actually coined the term, but it’s used frequently over at Balloon Juice.

15 Responses to Mirror Mirror on the Wall

  1. Dear whabs, that was really mean. I hate you. (I’m kidding, of course, but I do hope you got that out of your system).

  2. Hahahahaha! Yet another reason why Whabs is one of my heroes.

    Minna, you already know what I think. I can’t change how you see yourself; that has to come from within. But I think that my life has been improved now that you’ve arrived in it. You’re a good influence on me, and on the Kellions too.

    I, for one, cannot wait to hang out and laugh ourselves stupid while we eat baileys cheesecake.

  3. Kel, well, since you were one of the three people who called me amazing this week, yeah, I do know how you feel. And, you know that I thank my stars you decided to friend me on FB. I can’t wait to meet you and your Kellions. Oh, what a time we will have.

  4. Now on to the topic at hand…
    I know the gobsmacked feeling at people reading you and liking what you are saying. You kind of stand there asking if they meant to go to a different blog?
    I think most people who blog, start out tentatively and quietly. Some of my best stuff is gone, gone, gone. I blogged under a different name on Yahoo 360 almost the entire Bush presidency. OK so kinda gone. I saved some of it to my hard drive as I sometimes read my political writing and am amazed that it came out of me. I would troll the adult chat rooms and amidst screams for hard cock and wet pussy, would start political debates, trying desperately to get people to open their mother fucking eyes and care about something other than “me” for a while.
    After President Obama was ELECTED, the hate and fire just went politically out of me as I was able to focus more on The Girl, and live with a little Hope and Change. I like being here, in this state of OK, for now.
    It’s been nice developing my little circle of people I talk to both on and off my page, and it is fun to see new people stop by and post.
    For the record…maybe it’s always “first with the sex”, but we met in a political forum and your words were what sparked me. I love your views and the way you were so in your face with them. You walk the walk and believe that a conviction is only worth having if you stand by it and I feel the same. Water seeks it’s own level. You had me at Prop 8 and Queer rights!
    Outward appearance? So what? All that shit fades, goes away and changes over time, but what’s in your head, heart and, soul stay around. So what if you’re fat. Who gives a shit? You are probably somewhere around average, but see yourself as a house. If you weren’t fat, you’d be obsessing over the same things I do. Not that I want to talk about my tits, but I still hate them. Pregnancy and Graves disease were not kind to me. The Boy can like them alllll he wants, I hate em, have for years, and probably will for more years to come. Unless…I get fat!
    What is amazing, is that you are finally giving yourself permission to be you. It reminds me of a favorite lyric from Mad Season- River of Deceit “My pain is self chosen, at least I believe it to be. I could either drown, or pull of my skin and swim to shore. Now I can grow a beautiful shell for all to see.”
    You can hear it at the youtube if you want to.
    I loves ya Minna! Keep going forward and don’t look back other than to realize how far your have actually moved ahead.

  5. since I was a little girl and realized that the Mecca of flaxen locks and sky-blue eyes was beyond my reach

    One doesn’t have to be Asian (or a girl) to realize that. Being Italian works too. But you know what? Boink the so-called Mecca of flaxen locks and sky-blue eyes. I tend to like dark skin and dark hair, me.

    People followed me from other blogs to my own blog.

    [raises hand]

    And I’m glad I did.

  6. “Hi Everyone. I’m Kel, and I’m a Minna Fan Girl as well.”

    “Hiii Kel!”

    For me, it was UniWatch that did it. Any woman who could take on a locker-room style blog of ball scratchers with egos that size of the Montana sky, and still keep her sense of humor was someone who appealed to me.

    And like Gregory, I’m glad I did too. =)

  7. I must admit, I only recently started reading your blog but I’ve heard about you from my mother for much longer than that. I’ve always thought you were pretty cool and your honesty in your blog is refreshing. And cool.

    I used to have a similar problem worrying about saying anything to other people that revealed the real me. I hope I’ve gotten better about it myself. I slip every once in a while but for the most part I’m pretty comfortable with myself.

    My personal issues aside, I can’t understand you not believing yourself to be lovable and amazing. And surely I’m not the only one with such an opinion.

    And in a vague support group style, I’m glad you’re opening yourself up to our lurve for you!

  8. whabs, I hear ya. Once in awhile, I read a piece I wrote way back and think, “Damn it, that’s good.”

    As for politics, I am just weary.

    Boobs: I don’t like mine, either. They are too big.

    The thing is, my online persona is much bolder than my real life one. I can say shit online that I only think offline. That’s why I’m always afraid that the real me will disappoint. I am starting to get over that as well, but it’s not easy. Right now, I’m feeling the need to retreat again. Damn it. I hope it’s just me being premenstrual.

    The video is cool, isn’t it?

    Gregory, true. There are many reasons to feel not normal in our society. I, too, prefer dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin. Now.

    I’m very glad you commented on my blog, too.

    Kel, oh if you only knew how I agonized over some of the posts I made at UniWatch. I felt like such a bitch at times, and not in a good way. Ultimately, they wore me down. Plus, my interest in sports started waning as well. I’m really happy you’re commenting on my blog as well.

    Jay, does your mama know your reading my blog???? All kidding aside, I’m glad you’re learning to be comfortable with yourself, and at a relatively early age. Make sure to surround yourself with people who will tell you how awesome you are when you’re in doubt.

    Otherwise, you may end up like me. Twenty years down the line, still doubting the love and admiration you respect. If you read through my archives, you’ll see that I lost fifteen years to serious clinical depression. That ended this year. I still struggle with the ramifications of it, though.

    One fucking step at a time.

  9. I suppose that is one thing I love.
    I love that I can speak up and appreciate that at times, my words can carry a shock value. You’re online persona, is very in tune with that and is probably what attracted me to you.
    I don’t really mind when I see that I have shocked someone, I know at the very least they will think, if even for 2/10’s of a second.

  10. whabs, yeah. The difference is, I do worry about offending people. All the damn time. It doesn’t stop me from saying what I think, though. At least online.

  11. I’ve always preferred dark hair over blonde. And butts over boobs 🙂 now THERE’S an image for the day…

    I found your blog from whabbs’ and generally read it every day – I bleep over the political stuff (as I do on whabbs’) ‘cos it just doesn’t interest me at all – never has, and never will.

    As for blogging in general – I have no idea why I started – I’ve had a website of sorts since the late 90’s and it sort of evolved. That’s about it for me today – I’m feeling down ‘cos I have to sort this shit out tonight…

  12. snee, I don’t blame you for skipping over the politics. Were that I could….I hope your shit got sorted with as minimal pain as possible.