What is it about hotel bathrooms? They have MUCH better lighting than my bathroom at home, and more mirror angles. I am quickly met with an image of myself that I don’t normally have to deal with. Last Wednesday, I checked in to my room at the Fairmont San Jose for BlogHer14 and discovered a serious design flaw–the full length mirror on the bathroom door and the shower stall line up perfectly if the door is left open. I had to WATCH myself shower. Good GOD. I hung a towel over the glass shower door so I couldn’t make eye contact with myself while I was so exposed.
The next day, when I was getting dressed for the first day of the conference, I sat at the mirror over the dressing table. My hands shook with anticipation and adrenaline as I powdered away the shine, lined my eyes with black creme, outlined my lips just so. I scrunched my hair only to smoothe it out then scrunch it again. I didn’t want to look like the fat old woman I saw in the mirror. What would people think when they saw me? Would they even bother with me if I looked…wrong?
That night, after an exciting day of meeting new people and sharing with them the beauy of my best self, my generous self, my abundant self, I returned to the room and that same bathroom mirror. This is the surprise I found: a pink heart that told me “You are enough.” I stood in the bathroom and cried. That word I use so much–enough–isn’t a word I associate with mirrors. But there it was-ENOUGH. Friday was The Big Day. The day I gussied up in my new dress to claim my place on stage as one of the Voice of the Year (VOTY) readers. I skipped the afternoon sessions so I would have mirror time before rehearsal. The mirror and I were on better terms, what with that pink heart up there still. I scrunched the hair and left it that way. Put on a little makeup. Gold earrings. The gold bracelet that Big Gay gave me. The necklace made from Richard’s wedding ring. I thought about Spanx but decided to wear my authentic waistline. I slipped into the green dress. Once I finished dressing, I turned to that mirror and liked what I saw. Facebook friends responded with lots of love and encouragement so I strutted down the street to the Convention Center. Look at me, out in the world. Not hiding in black and drab.
Things were going great between me and the woman in the mirror. Until I got to rehearsal.
That’s when I met August MacLaughlin, novelist and award-winning health and sexuality blogger…and stunningly beautiful woman. One look at her and I felt an instant dislike for her. Why? Was she being bitchy? Nope. She was sitting there reading through her notes and fighting nerves, like we all were. She joined in the small talk. She laughed at the right moments, just like an actual human being. She rose from the table and poured herself a plastic cup of water. But she was doing all of this while being everything I’ve always wanted to see in the mirror. Naturally, I didn’t want to be anywhere near her. Which pretty much guaranteed that when we were assigned our places backstage, she and I were seated next to each other. The chairs were jammed together and I was afraid that my ass would lap over my assigned space. At least, I told myself, I got to go first in the lineup and no one would have to look at my tatty self after seeing August. I could say my piece then get off the stage and go back to being plain.
(Pause for a deep authentic breath. I know this is all bullshit. I knew it at the time but I had to process it all in my way, which passes through CrazyTown along the way.)
Once the show began, I got a handle on myself and decided to shut up the nasty voice in my head. Both of us had earned a place in that lineup. I asked August if I could read her story, “My Big Brindle Heart: A Love Story.” I’m not going to tell you what it’s about because you need to click that link and read it in her own words. But I will say that by the time I finished it, I reached over and gave her a side hug. I finally started treating her like a human being. It’s a beautiful story by a great writer, and a great story by a beautiful writer.
The next day, I woke up with a party hangover and dragged myself back to the mirror. I smiled. Scrunchy hair, smeared eyeliner, wine puffs under my eyes. I looked like MYSELF. And that’s when it hit me. I spent so much energy fearing that someone might discount me and not listen to me because of how I look. If I’m not pretty enough or thin enough or nice enough, I don’t get SEEN. And that’s exactly what I was doing to August. I discounted her because of how she looked. Because she was too pretty, too thin, too nice–I wasn’t open to listening to her, to seeing her. My snap judgement of her came from that awful, stingy place that I stumbled into in my anxiety.
On Saturday night, I bumped into August at the Reverend Run party and confessed all this mess that I had projected on to her. She thanked me for being honest with her. And she gave me a hug. Because she is enough and I am enough and I’m so glad I met August this July. Blogging is one way that I am cleaning this poison from my mind and my heart, this idea that people, including myself, have to be judged and measured before they can be heard. And going to events like BlogHer14 is like immersion therapy, where I surround myself with astonishing women of every walk and shape and style–in order to realize that I have a place, too.