I have many faces—each one an aspect of me. I am not just two-faced; I am poly-facial. Some faces I create for myself—applying them like make-up. There is the polite smile that glosses my lips in uncomfortable situations. There is my foundation for feigned interest. I have shades for false confidence and insincere humility. I can change the outline of my eyes to show compassion or alarm—distaste or amusement—confusion or hostility. I have prefabricated faces that I wear for people I find unnerving, disarming, or boring. Each face has a purpose and a meaning.
These faces speak for me when I am speechless. These faces shield me. Some faces hide my feelings, and some expose me. I can appear calm when I’m full of fear. I can look accepting when I’m being judgmental. I can feign gratitude, hope, ambivalence, and indignation—or I can genuinely emote them.
Some faces come and go as they please without my knowledge or authorization. They cloak my visage in between mirror glances or while I’m sleeping. Then, for better or worse, I’ll look at my reflection and find a foreign face looking back at me. The individual components are always familiar: I recognize the shape of my lips, the brown of my eyes, the contours of my nose, the slope of my forehead, my chin, my cheeks. However, the parts form an altogether different whole. I look in the mirror and only vaguely recognize the woman looking back at me. She’s changed, but she’s familiar. It’s someone else, but it’s me.
Some days I look in the mirror and don’t see who I want to be. On those days I find my reflection disappointing. I struggle to love what I see. Only my missteps, failures, and deferments are reflected back at me. My eyes grow unforgiving. The flaws become all I can see. Suddenly every pimple and scar is highlighted. Every asymmetrical feature is apocalyptic. My eyebrows look angry, my nose is too big (or two small), my forehead is altogether too prominent, or the gap between my two front teeth appears to have grown.
Then there are days I can look in the mirror and be pleased. I perceive the flaws and quirks of my face, but they don’t discourage me. There are no surprises. I accept my reflection generously. I see myself and I seem myself. I feel pretty.
Every time I look in the mirror, I’m not sure which face I’ll see. But regardless of which face I’m faced with, I can face the fact that it’s me.