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Mirror Mirror

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pleats

I have never thought much of myself physically, and so for this reason I never spent the day in search of mirrored surfaces in which to check the way I look. I already know what I look like and have somewhat made my peace with the fact that this cannot be changed. I will never look like Angela Jolie and that is that. Brains, smarts, I never questioned. I had enough empirical evidence of all that. But that beauty that could accompany it? Never. I would even have settled for any euphemism, cute, pretty, and so on. None would ever be forthcoming from my family – not until recently. Only in the past five years did my mother regard me and say, You’re a beautiful woman. Nice, but a bit late. I give her credit, but still … I wish it had come earlier, that’s all.

This past holiday, we were with relatives and some friends who were looking over my wallet photos in which there is one of me in Paris. My God, exclaimed on of the guests, you look just like what’s-her-name. I dreaded the next part; would she says Selma from Scooby Doo, who I always identified with my glasses and knees socks. All I ever wanted to be was the svelte blonde one who got all the attention. I was certain she would say Selma or someone equally disturbing to me.

But she didn’t. She said, in fact, You look like a young Ingrid Bergman or Isabella Rossellini. Now this was new to me. I had been told I look like Juliette Binoche before, and could see that in the shape of the face, the mouth, and was many times honored, but that didn’t mean that for a second I bought it. Much as I would have liked, and no matter how sincere her comment, I just couldn’t see it.

I am also convinced that I am a size or two bigger than I actually am – an eight or so (which is still small or good for my height). It does not hold true to reality where I’m a size four or a six, not through dieting but because this is simply my natural weight and equilibrium. They call this inability to see yourself as you are Dysmorphia and lots of young girls with eating disorders have it and thus cannot see themselves as they really are. Hence begins the cycle of binging and purging, dieting all the time and in some case, anorexia,

Admittedly, I am none of those things. I am just a sloth of a dysmorphic, one who would lie about thinking what difference did it matter were I dressed or did not dress, whether I did make up or no make up, shaved my legs every other day or not. Who would notice or care. I could become a human vegetable, sorry for herself, box of tissues within reach (in case of self-pity and endless bouts of crying), I could try on new clothes that would swim on me because they were too big and then convince myself that I must have lost a few (like 20) pounds, That I should keep said clothes for when I return to “my real size.”

Oddly, while I overestimated my body size, I underestimated my breast size pinning myself at 34B and certain this was correct even if I had lines that cut into me at the end of the day. You see, if you are dysmorphic, the world need not make sense. It is all about perception and if you perceive that your breasts are too small, then you will make them such in your head, whether they are or are not. Likewise if large, you may do the exact opposite. Dysmorphia is a contrary state of being. It was my husband who sussed out the bra thing and returned home one day with a box of lingerie all in a size 36C and lo! each bra fit. He also buys me dresses, skirts etc, for presents and they always seem to fit. Though I may be dysmorphic, my husband clearly sees better than I do.

A few years ago, some graduate students approached me as I was reading a book in the park. They asked if I would ever consider modeling and gave me the phone number for the museum school. This was legit. I thought about this a great deal and decided that I would sit in on a class first and then decide,

The model arrived and put on a kimono-like gown. Then she waked up to a platform and let the robe drop, so simply it fluttered to the wood floor. She struck various poses, holding each for about a half hour, and the students, all very serious and studious, drew what they saw. And they saw what I saw: a beautiful young woman, nude and unabashedly so,

Despite a few hesitations, I spoke with my husband and we decided it was a go. I still remember that first class. How nervous I was. How afraid I would get that giveaway nervous red mottling I sometimes got on my chest. But I didn’t. I simply undressed, put on my robe, and stepped up to the platform. The room was silent save for the scratch of pencils and conte crayon on paper. The class was three hours long and holding each pose was incredibly hard work and coming up with a pose even harder. Yet still there was a confidence born of being the only nude person in the room. These students had to look at me, had to draw me, and I reassured myself with this fact over and over again. I alone held the cards: if I was tired, we would break, and so on. Anyone who tells you modeling is “easy”, don’t you believe it. It remains some of the hardest physical work I have ever done in my life.

When we took a break, I asked a few students if I could view their work so far. I was truly amazed at what I saw. I didn’t see a fat girl or Selma. I saw a young woman with her long hair in a bun and a long, sensuous curve in her spine. She was fine-boned, petite, but all in proportion. She was an illustration in a magazine, yet she was me. It was hard to see me but not me. Intellectually I knew this was me, but really believing it was another thing entirely. One student was so kind as to give me one of his drawings.

I still have that drawing; it rests in a frame in my study. These days, the model self and the dysmorphic self have made their peace. I modeled off and on for fine art schools for two years and over the course of those two years, I learned more about who I was and what I looked like than I ever would have in any psychiatrists’ office. I realized, for the first time perhaps, my own real physical worth and I saw myself through the eyes of others and I was not disappointed. I was, to be honest, flattered, knowing that the students had to draw what they saw, not some fantasy but that which is actual. This is not arrogance, it is a simple matter of being honest with yourself, of taking stock and seeing yourself as you are.

I have modeled here and there occasionally for fine art professors and painters, the occasional photographer who is gifted (read: no pornography) and I like the results now. . . for the most part. I’m still making peace with some other bits here and there – stupid things really like the fact that I wear glasses, and so on, but that is just vanity.

If this would work for someone else I’d say try it. Find a reputable school near you and volunteer (you will also be paid for your efforts and can make quite a bit of money; I was and remain very picky about who I model for and would advise you do the same. There are too many creeps which is why I suggest either a same sex artist or a fine arts school which is where I began.

I now buy my clothes in the correct size (okay, well mostly I do), I even buy bras that fit (hallelujah no more lines and painful digging) and when I look in the mirror, still not often but more than before, I am able to see, at times, what those others saw in those classes and while no doubt not everyone will see me that way, when do more than twelve people agree on anything and besides, self confidence must come from within, not from some other’s projection of impression of you. Sure, that all helps, but ultimately, you have to make your peace with yourself so that you can be comfortable in the moment, never wasting a minute questioning what to everyone else seems blatantly obvious.

Thanks for listening,

sadi ranson-polizzotti

About Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti

  • http://jeliel3.blogspot.com JELIEL³

    Great article

    Your blog is fantastic (been added to my favorites)

    and as a amateur photographer, your buddy has a great eye and the cam I want :D

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com sadi ranson-polizzotti

    thanks Jeliel _ i appreciate both comments – and if i can add your blog in return, let me know…

    be well, and thanks again

  • http://expatriatephotos.blogspot.com alpha

    Sadie. You worry too much. Obviously you are beautiful because you sound beautiful. I used to work with models for my stock photography (non-pornographic and non-sexual) and the best times and pictures came from those who I liked, respected and cared about.

    When you have truly made peace with yourself you will use a more informative picture brazenly since we are now piqued with interest in your real self. I think I will post a new self-portrait on my photoblog to remind myself it is as alright to be old and grey as it is to be attractive and female.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com sadi ranson-polizzotti

    top line should read “in mirrored SURFACES” not “services.” My apologies to all readers…. this must have been a spellcheck error i don’t know, but anyway, there you have it. SURFACES..,itmakes more sense now,

    s.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com sadi ranson-polizzotti

    Hi Alpha:

    I used to worry more. The older i get, the wiser i get (pray pray) and the more i realized that although it was all well and fine to have a good exterior, even an appreciated one (by artists) that what really counted was what is inside and that is the thing that counts the most. I think to be really, truly beautiful (and the beautiful women of the world bear this out), you need to do good deeds, be selfless when need be, just generally be a good person whether that’s working as an emmissary to the UN or working at your local soup kitchen.

    For my part, modelling really helped me get over my issue, but that was years ago now and something i would recommend to others as well, but you have to get over any initial shyness or inhibitions (which i had to do as well) to do this.

    Anyway, thanks for your comment and concern: my worry is more for others than with myself these days. I suppose i’ve just reached that point where as the Amish say (in “witness”) you’re looking “plain”, which means simply, you look good enough… and to me, that’s all i need to know (my husband is shouting i’m beautiful— lol)

    Be careful among the English.

  • A.L.

    Hi,

    You know, I really am beginning to look forward to your posts, Ms Ranson-Polizzotti. I enjoy the artistic in the transparent, and your ability to write unfettered by the contemporary controversies which would make the less courageous (and less expressive?) balk. Thanks again for the refreshing look into that personal place.

    A.L.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com sadi ranson-polizzotti

    hi A.L. – it’s really nice to hear that you look forward to my posts. That is surely reason enough to write.. i try to get a piece every day and i don’t really over-concern myself with anything other than what i want to say on that day; maybe this is what you mean by “unfettered”? — I’m glad you come and comment – all the more reason to keep me writing (which i’d do anyway) but comments are always encouraging… :)

    Cheers to you, and many thanks for the kind words,

    sade

  • Steve

    Interesting article, Sadi, I have heard a number of older women say that they were never satisfied with how they looked when they were young, until they got old, and saw previous, youthful pictures of themselves and realised how pretty they were!!! I find women spend far too much time trying to look good with make-up etc. when most of them, most of the time, look fine without it. I blame the womens’ magazines myself. So much focus on ‘looking good’ can’t be healthy.

    Re. modelling…lol…as an introverted guy, I could hardly think of a more uncomfortable role to play.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com sadi ranson-polizzotti

    hey Steve – you are so right; blame the women’s magazines (where, by god, i used to work) because they have everything to do this this vast and growing insecurity among women and it’s a sad sad thing…

    thanks for chiming in… as ever, s.

  • http://www.questpublishing.ca Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem

    Keeping women focused on how they look, including what they cook, eat, wear and do with their hair is a way to keep them from really thinking. If we took all the time and money spent on the products and advertising of the products used in the pursuit of some image of how we should look to be acceptable and really put it to productive uses just Imagine!

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com sadi ranson-polizzotti

    ….hi Marilyn… a thoughtful comment to be sure… i imagine we would be capable (are) capable of great great things. Reminds me of Plato’s redirect of energy – if it does’t go one place, then it goes into another, perhaps better or more artistic endeavor…. (as i recall it…) … thanks for commenting…and take care…:) s

  • http://blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark gypsyman

    As the husband of a recoverd anorexic I’m familliar with a lot of what you are talking about. Your husband sounds like the perfect person for you and what was your situation.

    When my wife and I got together she had long ago defeated the eating disorder aspect of her illness but still carried the mental baggage of guilt and unworthyness. Unconditional support and love, like what your husband provides you, is the key to helping people get over the idea that they are not deserving of what they have.

    True media plays a role by providing a basis for comparisim, but there is so much more to it than that. Anorexia is a belief that you are not worthy of being nurtured or nutrition. Weight is just a symptom, and media images only serve to add to the lack of self worth.

    Anyway beautiful story, and congratulations on your victory. That’s one more for the good people.

    gypsyman

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com sadi ranson-polizzotti

    dear gypsy man – yes, you’re right about my husband… he is the right man for me…

    I think what you say is true; that it’s not ONLY media reltaed, that it is tied in deeply to how we feel out ourselves at our core and how we were raised and etc etc etc – so many factors play into this and too many to list here and i should have gone into more depth in the articl e(she says re-reading) —

    Your comment is so kind and so thoughtful and i’m grateful for that and likewise, to your partner and to you, kudos for overcoming such an awful condition. If only more of us realized how unnecessary it really is – what a waste of time as Marilyn said — imagine as she said, what we could do if we set our minds to it and not to this nonsense and i couldn’t agree more.

    For me, this all was a long time ago and nowhere near as serious as it gets for some people so i’m lucky but the dysmorphia part is all too real for so many women (and probably men as well) and something we all need to overcome…

    Thanks for reading – as ever,

    s.