The Face in the MIrror

by Kath

I have several problems with looking at my face in a mirror.  I have unfortunately reached the age when doing so leads to reactions that veer between disappointment and dismay or, on a particularly bad day, to the question, ‘Who on earth is that?’  I know this is wrong.  I know there is nothing wrong with a few wrinkles.  I don’t feel like this when I look at the faces of my contempories; but there it is.

I am also very short sighted and have never taken to contact lenses so I have to get very near to a mirror when gloomily studying my flaws and blemishes.  Although I do not use a lot of make-up, having come of age in the sixties, I can’t face the world without resort to eye liner and mascara.  I have to get so close to see what I am doing when I apply these that, inevitably, the mirror becomes covered with small black smears.  If I do not rub them off, in no time it looks as though we have been invaded by small black insects which gather on the mirror at just about my height.

That height is the third problem.  I am very small.  In a surprising number of houses and public buildings mirrors are set so high on the wall that I can’t even see the top of my head in them.  It’s impracticable to comb your hair or touch up your eye make-up while jumping up and down so I have to hope my appearance is not too disastrous or remember to take my own small mirror around with me.   I’ve had to find mirrors that swivel up and down for our house because members of my family who are taller than me complain if they have to bend down to see their faces.  This means everyone except grandchildren under twelve.  Growing taller than Granny, relatively early in life, is proving to be an important rite of passage for them all.

Human beings have probably gazed at their faces forever, in water, on burnished metal and then on mirrored glass.  According to Greek myth Narcissus died because he fell so in love with his own reflection that he could not move from the side of the pool in which it lay.  This does not feel like a present danger for me or for most of those I know.  Rather, like me, many people use their mirrors to brood on some irreparable flaw.  I have a friend with a perfectly normal nose who spent a good deal of her adolescence weeping at the sight of it in a three way mirror.  If she were a teenager now, she would probably be saving up to pay some unscrupulous plastic surgeon to relieve her of this imagined defect.

One interesting and underestimated fact about mirrors is that they reverse each image.  If you look at the reflection of someone else, unless their face is completely symmetrical (which is rare), it looks just slightly odd.  How appropriate it is that the face that looks back at us from the mirror is not quite the one that others see.


read more about Kath


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