The mirror is no longer an abusive lover. Now, I present myself to it with a chin lifted in defiance. I disrobe before it without coyness or fear. I hold its dissecting and critical gaze for as long as it dares hold mine. There is nothing furtive or insecure between us. It’s been a long war; we are battle-weary, shrapnel-bearing, bloodied.
We are equals.
I give the mirror the sandy routes that wind along my abdomen, drawn not during the nine months I carried my daughter, but in the 19 hours she twisted and shifted and bore herself down. I give it what’s left of my hair, shorn to three inches after weeks of foot-long strands trailing and slipping from my scalp like comet tails. I give it my yellowing eyes with their half-moons of weariness arced underneath.
These days, it rarely wagers an insult. There are no backhanded compliments, no “you’d be prettier if”s, no “it’ll grow back…”s, no “all you need is rest”s. I am no longer the withering girl, who daily averted her eyes at the prospect of confrontation, who brushed her teeth and applied makeup without so much as a glance in her mirror’s direction. I square my shoulders at wrinkles, set my jaw at the sight of cellulite, blankly regard the puff of flesh under my chin and I say to the self looking back at me, “I own you.”
My self, six months post-partum, is spectacularly feral, is a creature with a paw half-gnawed to freedom.