My son’s senior year of college is starting, and yesterday was move-in day. Driving to school with him in the front passenger seat, I noticed, he seemed a little distracted. As I drove, he opened up the sun visor at its hinge to reveal a small mirror which is standard in most vehicles. My wife will often use it to put on lipstick, and check her appearance. My son, for at least a half an hour proceeded, in quick succession to meticulously view and touch his face, teeth, hair, eyes, and then his face again. This process continued until he was obviously satisfied that he hadn’t mysteriously lost his youthful good looks, and been somehow transformed into an exact likeness of Mr. Potato Head.
I looked over at my son, smiled, and said, “Adam, why do you need a mirror to see how you look? I thought that was what mean girls were for.” I remember being a teenager, and appearance seemed to be everything. At that age, a mirror could be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on that huge pimple remaining invisible until after senior picture day, or following prom night. I’m starting to realize that mirrors, are not only everywhere, but have changed the way we think about ourselves, and those around us. Maybe, just maybe, we would be better off without them.
Take a good look at the picture of the handsome young man at the beginning of this post. He had been legally blind since he was a very young child, but due to miraculous developments in medical technology, had regained his sight. What you are witnessing, is the incredible moment, when he viewed his facial features for the very first time. I can imagine his first thoughts being, “What the heck! I’m Asian? My names Stanley Pawlakowski for Heaven’s sake. I don’t even like Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese food, sushi makes me sick, and I’m terrible at math. I wonder why my parents never told me, I was adopted.”
A few months ago, I had a very strange dream. I was in a fairy tale with a group of little people, who were driving me crazy. I don’t know what their problem was, but one was grumpy, another was dopey, and a third did nothing but sleep all the time. The worse one was the guy who sneezed at all hours of the day or night. Before I woke from the dream, I remember looking into a large mirror, and saying, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Suddenly a face resembling a theatrical mask appeared amidst billowing smoke and fire. I repeated the question, and after a slight pause the frightful figure, in a deep and disturbing voice said, “Not you Patrick Dykie.” I then replied, “Please tell me oh magic mirror, who is more handsome than I?” The mirror spoke only one word, as it said – “Everyone.” I woke from the dream, rushed into the bathroom, gazed at my disheveled reflection in my personal looking-glass, and thought, “Darn mirrors!”
I think, as we get older, mirrors become less of our friend. To be honest; I really don’t need a piece of cut glass, covered with a layer of silver or aluminum, informing me that I’m well past my prime, have a face, falling far below societal norms for male attractiveness, and a body which most people might consider to be big-boned. I kind of figured it out myself. My wife loves me, so I know she’s not always honest when it comes to my appearance. I once asked her how she would describe me. She said, “You’re a very striking man, with a unique look, well-formed and healthy teeth, and you have the physique of a of a geek god.” Let’s see if I can put this into words I can understand. According to my wife, I look like someone took a baseball bat to my head, I have horse teeth, and a body that doesn’t resemble a classic Greek statue, but rather that of a computer nerd.
Do you ever wonder what the world would be like without mirrors? What did people do before the invention of the mirror? I read that crude mirrors with imperfect reflections were around for thousands of years, but only kings, and the very wealthy would have them. Average people didn’t have access to mirrors until the 18th century. Before mirrors, how did people determine who was attractive, and who had a face, only a mother could love? Was everybody ugly, and they just didn’t know it? Did someone walk up to another person, and say, “Do you know something dude; you’re one ugly son of a gun.” Did the other guy say, “Look who’s talking. I may just go out, and invent a device, to show you how hideous you are. I think I’ll call it a mirror.
These days, except for shaving, I really don’t need a mirror. Besides, the mirror is a painful reminder of the time I put a profile picture on match.com, and didn’t get a reply in over two years, or the day I was stopped by the police for speeding, and they asked me why I was wearing a Halloween mask. If I want to know how I look in the morning before going to work, I just ask my wife. She’ll usually say fine, as she holds her hand over her mouth to hide her smile. She’ll then proceed to comb my hair with her fingers, straighten my tie, fix my collar, tuck my shirt in the back, use a lint brush to remove cat hair, wipe oatmeal off my chin, painfully remove a two-inch hair growing out of the top of my ear, remind me my eyebrows need a trim, and send me on my way.
While doing my research of mirrors I cam across a few interesting facts. Have you ever heard of a character from ancient Greek Mythology named Narcissus. His story was responsible for the word Narcissism, which is the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of ones own attributes. In simple terms it means – you love looking at yourself in a mirror. In the Greek fable, Narcissus, was a hunter known for his extreme attractiveness, as well as a very large ego. At this time in history, mirrors were not yet common, and he had never seen himself. One day he was in the forest where he came upon a pool of water. Seeing his reflection in the water, he instantly fell in love with the image, not realizing it was his own. Unable to leave such incredible beauty, he leaned forward to kiss the reflection of himself, fell into the water and drowned. You can learn two valuable lessons from this tale. Mirrors as well as any reflections, can be bad for you, and I’ll bet a lot of people drowned back then.
Before I go, I guess I better give you a few words of wisdom, concerning mirrors. If you’re not as young as you once were, maybe a few pounds over your optimum weight, and haven’t hit the gym as much as your doctor recommended; do yourself a favor. When you get out of the shower in the morning, a robe isn’t nearby, and the mirror is fogged up; please don’t do two things. First, don’t take a towel, and wipe off the mirror. Secondly, do not, and I mean this sincerely. Do not put on a pair of glasses. I’m just grateful my wife knows CPR, and that ambulance happened to be passing by. I hate mirrors.