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Why do you hide?
Why don’t you look me in the eye?
Mirror, mirror, is it me or you that’s lying?
Mirror, mirror, is it me or you that’s crying?
I don’t know, I don’t know
On a good day, while passing the gold-framed mirror hanging on my living room wall, I nod to acknowledge a reflection that’s been looking back at me for the past fifty-seven years. On a not so good day, I simply am at a loss to recognize that person looking back. Taking pause, I’m reminded of the ever constant changing and aging. Some days (normally when cleaning), I’ll pass and find Mom looking back at me. I’ll smile remembering her beautiful orange red hair through that misty haze of Final Net. I will see her reflected from across the room in her mirror. I sometimes imagine Mom holding me as an infant as I’m looking within the frame of my gold mirror. Mom’s looking down at that baby boy, her first born. She smiles before slowly looking back out at the now much older version of her son.
It was Ma-Maw who had the first gold-framed mirror that hung above her and Pa-Paw’s living room sofa. It was as though it had magical powers and as we danced together in front of it. She taught me the true meaning of ‘Tossing Glitter’. In her reflected love, I felt empowered and celebrated. And I learned that shared reflections together in the mirror was a good thing. Watching her tousled hair and arms high above her head, I was breathless with wonderment. Ma-Maw could see beyond my refection. She saw who I really was. And I was able to see her.
However joyful and celebratory those moments were, they did not carry me everywhere. I loved being understood and understanding – being fully revealed and unguarded within the frame holding that mirror. But those moments were fleeting. Those glorious moments with my grandmother were quickly countered with hostility. In the aftermath of outpourings of disapproval from my father, I would find myself staring into the bathroom mirror. Concentrating on the picture in front of me, I would see that picture change and mutate. It would begin to look distorted and hollow – the way most any word loses its meaning when recited over and over. I became repulsed by my own reflection. I decided this was the image my father saw, and this was why my presence sickened him. That’s what shame does. You become buried. You become invisible. You become a mystery to yourself, obscured from your own true reflection.
Several years later, I was staring at my reflection again, through this time through smoky fog under a disco light. Sharing the mirror with boys dancing with boys. Music reverberating, excitement and possibility all around. But I still felt myself wondering…When? When will it all transform and change for me? Are those feelings of authenticity and freedom right here? I was trying to be patient. Trying to find my place in a community I had yet to truly feel a part of.
At the salon. Working on a girl’s hair, transforming her into someone she wanted to be – at least for that night. What’s your story Eddie? Where’s that accent from? Indiana? Really? Really? Tell me a Farm Story! Fastening the cape around her neck and looking at her reflection in the salon mirror, I took a deep breath. It simply had never occurred to me that providing a service would include revealing myself. And as our eyes met in that mirror I began to realize there was safety. The mirror acted like armor, allowing me to feel protected while slowly stepping out of the shadows of invisibility. As my scissors slid through her damp sectioned hair I began my first Farm Story. “In my town of Winslow, in the winter when we would barn the horses….”
Though the reflection in my salon mirror, I discovered that beauty comes in every size, shape, and color. Vanity is easily dismissed until you really listen. And look deep inside that mirror. We all see something different. We all feel something different. We all want to be beautiful – not just in the eyes of others, but in our own as well.
Laughter came easy. Tears opened the heart. Celebrating birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. I listened through divorce, illness, and death. You’ve never witnessed greater grace than when using scissors on a child battling cancer. Cutting away hair that is already falling out. Seeing that palpable symbol of illness suddenly flare into reality. Sharing the mirror with not only her but with both her parents. Fear and courage. Grit and grace. You learn the true meaning of warrior.
I discovered how beautiful diversity was in my mirror. And that no matter how different we are in our beliefs, we are all reaching for the same common goals. There was room for everyone in my mirror. You learn you are not only trusted with hair, but also with secrets.
Now, this isn’t to say there was always magic in the air. I will never forget the first time one of my regulars pulled the hairbrush out of my hand and hurled it across the room. I was stunned and she was quiet. I softly but firmly asked her to accompany me to the water cooler in the back of the salon. There was no mirror behind the cooler and I didn’t seem to require one when pushed to this point. There were strong words and bittersweet goodbyes. But more times than not, that salon mirror provided me not only a career that I’m proud of, but also a lifetime of truly happy memories.
Throughout my adult life I’ve continued to dance with countless girls and guys in front of my gold mirror. Each one special. I feel the same freedom and celebratory spirit that I felt as a boy dancing and Tossing Glitter with my extraordinary grandmother, my Ma-Maw, my own fierce and sweet lady.
So even though I’m never quite sure whom I might encounter in my mirror, I look to see. I imagine that my upcoming, fifty-seventh birthday, I’ll smile along with a much older, joyful version of that little boy. He wanted to be happy, to be loved, and to be authentic. He wanted to be true to himself and to others. He wanted to laugh and he wanted to dance. He wanted to see his true reflection. He wanted to always Toss Glitter. That little boy got his wish.
I wanted to be like other boys. I wanted to be perfect. I could only see myself as a boy. I couldn’t see myself as a man.
Now, I see both the boy and the man. Now, I’m grateful just being me…