Hi Gagglites! I haven’t seen you in so long! It’s because I was moving to a new apartment — packing up six years worth of accumulated books and objects and clothes (and probably too many kitchen appliances) and unpacking them, with great attempt at design and organization, in the new space. As we settled in, I noticed two things. First, the new apartment has way more storage space than the last one (“I can breathe!” said my standing mixer) and second, it has way, way better lighting.
Of course we knew about the lighting going in. The big ol’ windows were one of the apartment’s best selling points (or “renting points,” I suppose). The plentitude of windows was so convincing that we gave up having a dishwasher so we could bask in the diffuse mid-day light, a decision I have shockingly not regretted once.
But I did not uncover the real treat of the new apartment windows until after my first shower.Due to not being able to find the towels right away, this happened around sundown on our first day there. The previous tenants had left behind a full-length mirror in the bedroom, so after getting spic-n-span I decided to see how my naked body was looking that day. I do this a lot after showers. I’ve been told this is a very gender-normative thing, but I have also never outgrown a toddler’s fascination with her reflection, so who knows? In any case, my full-body mirror investigations are never what I would call an appreciation. They’re more like a taking stock — how am I doing today? — which more often than not, I’m sorry to report, ends with a slight scowl, a small frown, and a resolution to not care, at which I probably have a 30% success rate. Given the constant bombardment of media messages and social attitudes, 30% success at not caring if my body looks a particular way was probably pretty good, I thought. Not great, but not bad.
HOWEVER, in my new apartment, in early evening, a rich warm light streams in the bedroom window from the setting sun. As I looked in the mirror, it snuck up behind me and gave me a veritable halo. It gilded my skin. I looked…phenomenal! I glowed! Every curve looked sumptuous, every line perfect and golden. Everything I would have scowled at before, thought of as an imperfection, looked now as intentional as if it had been sculpted in stone for the ages. I turned and was beautiful from every angle. I smiled and smiled and smiled.
Now, I guarantee you, my body hadn’t much changed from its last inspection. If anything, given the previous month of packing fueled by beer, pastries, and sandwiches, it had grown a little pudgier. So at first, this brilliant, radiant reflection felt like a miracle, almost as if I had gotten a fresh body with the new apartment. But then I realized with glee — glee I tell you! — that this was THE SAME BODY I ALWAYS HAD! My body had ALWAYS looked this good. I just hadn’t seen it.
My younger self would have condemned this line of thinking. I used to have an almost masochistic theory that the worst light — literally or metaphorically — was the truest light. I also used to think that in order to truly love someone, you had to love their worst, most annoying habits. I abandoned the latter theory as soon as I entered into a real relationship. But the former persisted until this moment of seeing myself in the sunset light.
The golden body is the same body as the horrible flourescent light body (or even just the bad morning-light-over-the-expressway body from my last apartment). It doesn’t change. It is the true body. There is no point in taking stock in the floursescent light body, just as there’s no point in hanging out in a bar you don’t like. You would never think that being in a place filled with assholes makes you, by osmosis, an asshole. So why think bad lighting (or an unfortunate snapshot, or that dress that just isn’t your color) gives you a bad body?
Fuck that, is basically what I think now. I’ve gone from 30% success rate in NOT CARING HOW I LOOK to an 80% success rate at THINKING I LOOK GREAT! I’m not going to pretend it’s 100%. I’m still bombarded by this world we live in and still susceptible to thinking I should look different — “better.” But now all I have to remember is the golden reflection — my best self. My truest self.
Find some good lighting, ladies. Find some GREAT lighting. Find that thing that makes you see how gorgeous and fabulous you are. That’s your true self. Spend as much time there as possible. See it.
Photo from Wikimedia, courtesy of Nicoli Maege.
Georgia Lowe works in Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn with her husband. She always pronounces "husband" with a southern accent because she hasn't gotten used to saying it yet. She is from Minnesota.
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