Mirror, Mirror

I catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror.
The light hits it at an angle,
each pore highlighted.
The scars of acne long gone,
a trace to remember.

Eyebrows that are overgrown,
expanding and claiming the face.
A nose that had adorned generations of Punjabi women
Eyes that are too tiny,
high cheekbones,
the only outstanding feature in this plain face.

A tiny moustache over my lips,
the altar at which my femininity is sacrificed,
flaky and blotched skin, tiny hair
crooked teeth, an untamed unruliness
even braces couldn’t salvage.

Some days I like my face, and
look into those twinkling eyes.
Like the way my nose curves, the lips part,
the eyebrows arch.
Like how the sun catches my face,
how even if only for a second,
I can exult in having achieved ‘glass skin’.

On other days, the sight of a pimple,
or an acne scar portends days of agony
And so begins an incessant hunt for miracle cures,
praying for aloe vera and besan to save me.

I like tracing the patterns of my heritage across my face,
like stories that go back ages.
My grandmother’s nose,
my father’s tiny eyes
that fold into a straight line when I laugh,
my mother’s prominent eyebrows,
A face that bares the blood that runs in my veins.

On other days, I see a face that is far too much
but never enough,
far too masculine – not delicate enough,
far too chubby – not angular enough
far too rugged – not ethereal enough.

The checklist always beckons.
The beauty of my face,
the desirability of my body,
slaves to this checklist.

I contort and bend to fit into these boxes
Years of effort, one block on another
But I always seem to miss the mark,
and the goal inches further away.

The anger bubbles over into an agonised scream
Or a tear, the two often entwined.

I know that my body,
a female body,
will forever be a war zone.

Arshiya Sharda is a writer and lawyer based in New Delhi. She makes sense of the world by writing about it. You can read more of her work here.

Featured image credit: Car Communication/Pixabay