I chose to reflect on Lucy Grealy’s “Mirrorings” for this week’s post because I felt that it was the most powerful essay we read this week, and one of the most powerful essays I have ever read. In “Mirrorings”, Grealy maps out her eighteen year long struggle to deal with her appearance after having part of her jaw removed due to cancer. I found her honesty so complete in this essay, and felt that it was a perfect demonstration of what we are practicing in WRT 303. She seems to really discover and know herself throughout this essay, identifying the negative and positive ways in which she dealt with being disfigured at at a very young age.
Grealy describes the taunting and abuse that she experienced from children in her school, and states that children can be incredibly cruel and purposefully harmful. I think that this is a very true statement, and also a curiosity. Although I have never gone through anything like Grealy went through, I do know what it feels like to be singled out for being unattractive and have your flaws pointed out to you daily. What I felt was so significant about her statements regarding children is that she feared their judgement, even as an adult. I believe that the reason that children are so cruel is that they are exceedingly honest and lack the ability to filter their thoughts when speaking. While an adult may think terrible things, it would be more common for them to choose to be polite and not insult someone else. However, I feel that children merely reflect the attitudes that are universal in our society in an unembarrassed and outright manner. As Grealy mentions throughout the essay, their is a lot of emphasis placed on physical beauty in our culture, and most social interactions revolve around the face. For this reason, I cannot imagine the difficulty that Grealy had when trying to interact with others in everyday conversation. She describes her insecurity and the way that she would try to cover the lower part of her face, and I can feel how much of a burden that must have been for her.
Another point that Grealy makes several times is that women are sexual objects in our culture, and that someone’s value as a woman (moreso to strangers) heavily relies on their own physical attractiveness. She talks about how hard it was for her to call herself a woman when she felt that she lacked any sex appeal or beauty. Moreover, she discussed the torture that she received from men, who openly deprecated her in public due to her appearance. I think that Grealy, as well as many other women (including myself) often take cues from men in order to reinforce their own confidence and self-worth. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to receive such rude, outright disapproval from men that she passed in her daily life.
I feel that, although Grealy’s “Mirrorings” is a self-reflection piece, it is also predominantly a social commentary. The points that Grealy makes about shallowness and preoccupation with appearance (something that she also falls victim to from time to time) put a critical eye on our culture as a whole. Why do women seek validation from men? Why should a women’s worth be less focused on ability and more on superficial beauty? Most significant to me, by highlighting the behaviors of children in school, Grealy exposes the process of these social concepts developing in young mind. As children socialize each other and learn the values of a society, they will single out those that do not “fit”. I think it is so heart-breaking that people go through such struggles all because of other people. It is a natural part of socialization, but I just feel that an opinion or a mean thought is such an unimportant thing to have or voice at the expense of hurting someone’s sense of value and identity.