"Mirror mirror on the wall who's the fairest of them all?" We all know this line from the story of Snow White. We've said it over and over again while playing dress up as little girls and maybe even little boys. Someone plays the evil witch casting spells to send Snow White to a fate of death because of her beauty. Someone else plays the beautiful and innocent Snow White who is pure, free from the envy and cruelty which engulfs the evil queen leading, the queen, to her own demise and death. A fairy tale with a magic mirror which seemingly fuels feelings of anger and resentment. A mirror which embitters an insecure evil queen leading down a path of destruction and death. I fail to see the magic or the fairy in this tale.
We grow up reading or being read too, stories about princesses and their beauty. The princesses being young, carefree and beautiful. Desired by every prince and man in the various kingdoms of fairy tale lands. But also the source of envy and hate by the evil queens and stepmothers. Of course, the obvious correlation is the princesses are always young while the queens and stepmothers are always older. When you think about it, after a childhood of hearing and reading these stories no wonder we as women grow up with these subjective unconscious biases about ourselves, youth and beauty. We have been absorbing the messages of fairy tale beauty since day one. Beauty being the possession of the young and innocent princesses while the old queens and stepmothers are evil, envious, haggard and withered. Oh and let's not forget within those messages never a king or prince knocking on their doors with glass slippers or kisses to wake them from a poisoned deep sleep.
So what happens to us after spending our childhood acting out and hearing these fairy tale stories? As years pass and we get older are we still playing parts in the fairy-tales? Do we continue to look into our magic mirrors and perceive it is telling us we are no longer the fairest of them all? Do we believe it? I mean it's just a mirror, right? An inanimate object which only functions to reflect what stands in front of it. A mirror doesn't talk because it cannot speak. A mirror cannot judge because it doesn't possess opinions or the ability to think. A mirror has no power or real magic to cast us out of the kingdom. So what is the message of the magic mirror in the fairy tale? Do we buy into it? If so, why?
I thought about this while making myself a cup of coffee one early morning this week. The thought being, why is it, as we become older, we begin to look into that magic mirror and believe all the faults it's telling us we now possess. Or listen as it points out the attributes we no longer held onto? The thoughts regarding this subject began late one night as I watched in playback one of my favorite British reality blind date shows. It's a show which sets up a variety of people from multiple backgrounds and age groups on blind dates at a London restaurant. Sometimes the dates work and sometimes they do not. But I'm not here to talk about dating - although dating is a subject worth exploring but another day and time.
Scene! In walks a woman of a particular age (69 to be exact) that is stunning. She sauntered into the restaurant with such confidence, style and allure. The host asked if she was drinking from a fountain of youth to which she replied: "Yes, I think so!" She spoke about being a Playboy bunny in the Playboy club here in London. Living in the Playboy Mansion and dating a few very desirable celebrities. When she spoke about her adventures as a younger woman you could see and imagine her during that time very easily. She has the looks that remind me of Jacqueline Bisset. A brunette beauty with dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin. She has a girlish quality about her which she hadn't lost. By "girlish quality" I mean the way a woman laughs, blushes and smiles that still has an easiness and softness. The innocence and lightheartedness that hasn't been stolen or given away due to some of the harsh realities and heartaches caused in life. She maintained a sparkling wit, flirtatious smile and that optimism we sometimes forget to hold on to. A woman still full of spunk, glamour and a laugh revealing a zest for life and adventure. But then the moment happened when that glimmer faded for a few moments and the cracks she saw in the mirror began to be revealed.
Her conversation went from being full of spunk to that of a woman who no longer saw herself in the moment, but thought of herself from the mirrors in the past. She said things like, "God you were lovely" "Losing face and losing looks" and then something that revealed a slight sadness to me. "I want someone that's going to make me oblivious to this (using her hands to push back the skin on her face) To not care about that. That's pretty big. That's asking a lot from someone." As I listened to her words in that moment the light dimmed and the sparks dampened. Now sat a woman that seemed to not see the beauty I saw she still possessed but still longed for the beauty of her youth. I saw a woman that feels finding someone to love her in her current state is "asking a lot from someone."
On the one hand, her words were spoken as a woman brimming with a sense of self and confidence. Her natural beauty, which has remained untouched by fillers or the knife, spoke volumes of her confidence in self, her beauty and the art of aging gracefully. But even with that confidence, there is the sadness of, I am no longer what I once was. This made me wonder why so many women and maybe myself, feel this way about how we age? I see many women and men that are still gorgeous and stunning at 50, 60, 70, 80 and beyond. And it's not all about looks in terms of what we are told is beauty. It's about how we carry ourselves, the attitude we project and the confidence we possess. Sometimes it takes aging to attain these attributes of confidence and strength. But in exchange for aging and becoming stronger and more confident, we sometimes seem to lose another part. We continue to look at our reflections from the mirrors of the past and we listen as the mirrors tell us we are no longer the fairest of them all. The mirror reflection telling us it would be "a lot to ask" for the Kings and Princes to give us slippers and kisses.
I've said before and I will continue to say as long as I can say it or write it. Aging is better than the alternative. Not that I'm completely free from those moments of asking the magic mirror "WHAT IS HAPPENING!!??" But I try my best to make sure those are moments that last no more than a few seconds. I think as women, and men, particularly as we age, we need to look into those magic mirrors appreciating everything about ourselves and loving ourselves as we are in our current states. It's great to remember the reflections of our past because that past is part of what stands before us today. The past helped to shape who we are with experience and reflection. I would not be the woman I am today without having lived the life I lead yesterday. But I also cannot dwell on yesterday because it prevents me from enjoying today, tomorrow and the next days ahead.
The thing I think I realized is the Queen had to ask the questions to the mirror. The mirror didn't ask her if she thought she was the fairest of them all. The mirror didn't ask her anything. The power was in the questions and not in the answers. Not "who is beautiful?" But "Am I beautiful?" YES! Because we all have beauty within us. "Am I the fairest?" YES! Because it is me in my mirror and I am my kingdom. In asking the questions the Queen handed over her power for the mirror to decide how she felt about her beauty which eventually decided her fate. But it really can only be us asking the questions and providing our own answers.
So as we look at our 50, 60 and 70+ reflections in the magic mirrors we need to tell the mirror what we want to be reflected. The magic mirror can only show what stands before it. So if you want to see light you have to be light. If you want to see the beauty you have to be beautiful. If you want to see an image of someone to be loved you yourself have to love. But maybe that's the message of the fairy tale. The message being if you believe the negative things told to you by a magic mirror maybe it's because you're asking how you compare to others. Maybe you are asking the wrong questions which can only lead to a fate which is that of tragedy. We have to look at ourselves and find happiness and embrace all the flaws bestowed upon us. And those Kings and Princes'? We shouldn't need someone to help us accept or forget the physical state which we are in. The thought it's asking a lot for someone to accept and love us as we are, as we are in our current state? Means we are still asking the wrong questions? Frankly, we need not ask anything but to be loved as we are. We are going to look into those magic mirrors and unapologetically love and embrace the reflections from the past, present and future. And any King, Prince or magic mirror that says otherwise or attempts to make us believe otherwise shall be banished from our kingdoms forever! THE END!