It has occurred to me that, in the paraphrased words of Gertrude Stein “there is no there here.” I am a mirror, something that exists only for the purpose of reflecting an image for anyone looking in from the outside. I am a chameleon; I can be anything that is needed, desired or imagined, blending seamlessly into the foliage of someone else’s world. Look closely, and you can actually see me disappear into the underbrush of Another’s hungry imaginings. I am the bright red of an amusing Facebook friend, the soft pink of a sympathetic ear, the ironic black of an aging hipster with a Ramones T-shirt and a battered copy of “On The Road.” When you look away, move on, I am once again dun-colored and invisible.
You like what you see. You think you like “me,” know “me,” have a connection with something deep and warm and substantial. The part you’re missing is the fact that there isn’t anything there, not really. I have overcome my sense of invisibility and insignificance by learning to reflect, to project, to satisfy and fulfill. I do not know, any more, what I like, what I need, or what I want. I make choices, hundreds every day, based on my existence as a projection, a thing that you can see and to which you respond, but which you could easily penetrate with your index finger. Wave your hand in disapproval, criticism, or even apathy and the minute fragments scatter and take with them the image of a whole woman.
One more metaphor, if you’ll indulge me. I am the snake-charmer’s snake, slithering sensuously and gratifyingly out of a brightly colored basket because of your approbation, your applause, and your approval. Without the clapping hands and smiling faces I am the most repellant of reptiles lying in wait in the dark, scaly and cold to the touch. I do not, in my repose, love anybody, least of all myself. I am nothing but a parlor trick, coiled in wait until the moments when I rise, lithe and shining, to make you gasp, and clap, and toss coins.
There are times when I come alive and feel the growth of real soul and sinew and passion. I am caught off guard by the pliant and demanding hand of a baby reaching for a lock of my hair, her huge brown eyes locking on mine and seeing something real; there is then an “oh” of pleasure that shakes me. I am brought to warm, trembling life by conversations with 80-year-old women who see something good in me, something dependable, practical, helpful and loving. They are past looking for a reflection of themselves, and they see something in me that is not exciting, not funny, not pretty, just good. I feel, maybe, like something solid when my husband holds me and reassures me that there is something warm and valuable in his arms. Even then, I am only sure I’m here at all because someone else sees me.
I want to be real. I long to have some sense that there is a “me,” that I exist for some reason other than reflecting, pleasing, and collecting the coins of approbation and reassurance that I am, in fact, worth something as I am. I want to be loved with dirty hair, no eyeliner, a day late, a dollar short, unable to help, not funny, not very interesting. I want to stop wanting to be loved. If I am going to gaze at my navel, it should, after all, be a three dimensional dimple in the soft pale flesh of a living, breathing, woman.