Yes, that's me in the mirror
The idea is to reinstate self-care as an important element of the day, so you're taking time out to check in with your body and its emotions. Try it out, if you haven't. You won't regret it, I promise
There is a spot on the left side of the bridge of my nose that I only recently discovered. It has the precision of a birth mark, like the more visible one I have above my right eyebrow. But it could also be the pocked remains of a period pimple. I don't know for sure. I'd have to revisit photographs of my self for proof. My takeaway from the revelation is that I have been too conscious and cautious when it comes to spending time in front of mirrors; given my congenital fear of my own judgement. Because I inadvertently internalised all the negative criticism I'd been exposed to, from as early on as childhood, about my appearance, about the darkness of my complexion, I didn't feel entitled to feeling beautiful. Compliments made me uncomfortable. I was always sceptical about hidden agendas. I was aware that men could prey on women like me who claimed a precarious self esteem. I have spent most of my life avoiding mirrors. I acknowledge them, but rarely ever look into them for fear of having to confront my feelings of inferiority. There has also often been the fear that the reflection one encounters conflicts with the image you have in your head about your appearance. Lighting is crucial; if it's good enough, the reflection is bearable; if it isn't, then I sometimes want to cringe when I see my skin bleached by white light.
Of late, though, since I went to the Khadi outlet in Khan Market and spent close to 30 minutes before attending the VS Gaitonde Memorial Lecture, and I picked up extremely attractively priced products, like a cucumber toner and a herbal night cream, I've been reconfiguring my conflicted relationships with reflective surfaces. Unlike many more well known brands, the Khadi night cream cost just R270; the cucumber toner less than R200. I filled it into the empty spray container I had which used to house vetiver water by Kama, gifted to me by a writer friend, Bee Rowlatt. This was about two weeks ago. I decided that each night, after I was done brushing my teeth and washing my face, I'd spray the cucumber toner on my face, wipe each pore with a cotton pad, then take a pea-sized bit of night cream and rub it into my face and neck. I do this consciously and attentively in front of the mirror. It compelled me to look at my face more forgivingly. I began to enjoy thinking in front of my reflection. I began to notice my own presence. It began to ground me, in a way. The other day I thought of my girlhood reflection so full of self-doubt and so apologetic about the way I looked, and I felt like hugging her and telling her she was beautiful, no matter what anyone said.
In other words, I have been healing myself through touch; a domain I always felt was reserved for the nurture of others; loved ones or acquaintances you desired in some way. My mother always spoke about touch as a mediatory gesture, but I had never thought to experiment with how, when this skin-communicated action was directed at one's corporeal self; it could have transformational potential. This might sound cliche, or even tacky to those of you who practice or have always incorporated into your day a beauty regimen. But this is not about beauty, this is about how we engage with ourselves, how we converse with the body as an entity; how we look at it not as something that needs to be perfected, needs to be customised to fit some prescribed patriarchal standards of attractiveness; it's about seeing who we are as we are; in whatever state of perfection or imperfection we may embody at the time. I'm beginning to wonder if that is in fact the source of beauty; that relationship with self? Ever since I began this regimen, I've been feeling gorgeous. I am more accepting of my body and all its eccentricities. I am aware that this feeling has evolved because I have chosen to take time out each night to further this engagement. I sleep better, because when I am done with the routine, I don't feel like wasting my time staying awake doing meaningless activities. I take my bedside book, read a couple pages, and allow myself to fall asleep. I have been waking up every day for the last 15 days well before my alarm rings.
I referred to it recently as "The Beauty Shrine". I was telling Mona that she should now appropriate her sister Bhanu's bathroom, and convert it into a site for a nightly beauty routine. Bhanu left for Leicester mid-September as a recipient of the Chevening scholarship. We spoke about the importance of good lighting; and how to keep an array of meaningful though not outrageously priced products. The significance is in the gesture, so it's important not to over-focus on the spread. You could probably use kitchen ingredients, too, if you can't budget for Khadi. The idea is to spend time touching your face as you look in the mirror. The idea is to reinstate self-care as an important element of the day, so you're taking time out to check in with your body and its emotions. Try it out, if you haven't. You won't regret it, I promise.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to email@example.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper
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