Mirror Mirror On the Wall

I’ve returned from a grand vacation with a new perspective on a variety of things: work, crowds, cabbage, tea, humor, Dylan, bisque, Crocks, gratitude, mirrors …

On this trip, I found mirrors to be as invasive as Spanish moss. I don’t think I’d ever noticed how there are mirrors stuck around just about everywhere. I live in a nearly mirror-free environment. There are two in the RV. They’re both in the bathroom. Well, technically, the closet doors in the bedroom are mirrored, but since I’ve plastered the windows with blackout paper to make it easier to sleep during the day, it’s always dark, which renders those mirrors pretty useless.

I see mirrors as having two primary purposes.

1 – I look in the mirror when I get up to remind myself that I’m me and not the entirely other person I was in my dream moments earlier. (Is it just me, or do you also sometimes dream you’re someone else altogether?)

2 – As an occasional fleeting reminder that a hairbrush might help.

I particularly like this mirror because I can mostly just see myself from my top chin up (unless I step back and then I can’t see much at all). Straight on, from the chin up – that I’m used to.  It may be a transposed reflection, but it’s a familiar one. There’s a second mirror on the medicine cabinet over the toilet. Odd placement. I never look at that one because I always have my back turned.

But while traveling, I found not just high medicine cabinet mirrors, but whole bathrooms full of mirrors, providing surround vision mirrors for that complete 3-D look.

There were rooms with entire walls of mirrors; mirrors inside the closet doors; mirrors behind the bed; mirrors beside the TV; mirrors over the desk; mirrors all over the lobbies and lounges and restaurants. Why is that, I wonder? I find all those mirrors to be disconcerting and distracting.

For example, during dinner, right in the middle of a great conversation, I would look up and see myself listening, which of course would cause me to stop listening, and lead me to ponder the fact that my face is a little lopsided or try to subtly see if I had food in my teeth.

When the Wicked Stepmother said: Mirror, mirror on the wall, she had just one mirror in mind. And in my mind, one is enough (although I’m glad mine is mute). Unlike Narcissus, I’m not enchanted by the beauty of my reflection. The more left to the imagination, the better! For example, I imagine myself with nice straight posture, an unbent nose, youthful skin, only one chin and much smaller thighs.

I’ve given up the looking glass; quicksilver has no sense of tact. ~ James Goldman

In addition to mirrors, the vacationing cousin in crime is the camera. I hate to have my picture taken. For generations, the women in my family have hated picture opps. We’ve found a work around for this problem by being the one who holds the camera whenever possible. We do the picture-taking instead of being shot. And when I say being shot, that’s just how we look when we pose for a picture. We all paste on that awkward frozen smile that makes us look like someone dropped an ice-cube down our backs and then said Say Cheese!

Mirrors and photos leave so little to the imagination, but more than that, they make me self-conscious and self-focused. Part of my challenge on this trip came from a quote I read by G. K. Chesterton:

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.

I found that it wasn’t the weather or the people or the itinerary that, at times, kept me from being a traveler and moved me into the realm of tourist. It was all those mirrors. It was my literal and the figurative focus on me that occasionally kept me from seeing the wonder of the moment.

And there was plenty of wonder all around me, every day. There still is, it just takes a little keener eye. Coming home, being back in my familiar environment in my top-secret job, there’s so much to see when my eyes aren’t on me.

If you have a good friend, you don’t need a mirror. ~Bente Borsum