For years, I looked at myself in mirrors only to see mirages.
Back in that other life—before a mortgage, midnight wakings with babies, and shoveling snow on Saturday mornings—my husband and I would often venture from our home in Los Angeles to Las Vegas. We weren’t gamblers but rather lovers of deserts and the high, clear mountain air of Mount Charleston. Along the 15 Freeway we’d snake through the Mojave Desert surrounded on all sides by barren lands and crooked cacti. Once, I looked out my window, right in the middle of the Mojave, and saw a lake.
“Paul,” I asked my husband, “has it rained? I’ve never seen that lake before.” “It’s not a lake,” he answered, “it’s a mirage.” But the lake was there, huge and sparkling in the sunlight before me, and yet, in truth, it was nothing more than a convincing illusion. It wasn’t the first time my eyes had deceived me, and it was not to be the last.
Related to the word mirror, the term mirage comes from the French word se mirer, “be reflected” and the Latin word mirare, which means, “look at.” It is fitting, then, that for most of my life, I’ve looked at myself in mirrors only to see mirages.
For 10 years, I suffered from anorexia. Recent studies have shown that eating disorders are on the rise, especially in China, among women of color, in women over 40, and among children. Not even men are immune. According to USA Today, a study released last week suggests that “many young men suffer from undiagnosed eating disorders and distortions of body image.”
These disorders are both mental and physical illnesses fraught with complexities that researchers have struggled to fully understand. Why do only some women (and …