WHAT YOU'LL FIND ON THIS BLOG

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Evidence that mirrors don't always tell the truth

I bought one of these a few years back. 



It's called a Vanity Magnifying Mirror. So, first, let's deal with the misnomer: you can either have vanity (definition: excessive pride in one's own appearance), or you can have a magnifying mirror.

Here's a description of my daily encounter with the magnifying mirror:

1. Stand it on the windowsill in the light.
2. Look into it.
3. Cringe backwards, crying, 'Surely that's the surface of the MOON! Or a shelled battlefield!'


The problem is, over the years since I've owned the mirror, I think I've normalised that image of myself so that I think that's what everyone else is seeing. That's the danger of these mirrors. And yet, the reality is this:

1. I don't get up so close to people, staring and almost touching them with my nose, as I do to the mirror. You'll know this is true already, because I am not writing this from a prison cell.

2. People don't have highly-magnified x-ray vision, unless they're aliens, in which case they'll be comfortable with the moon thing.

3. My body is usually moving around when I'm with other people, not held in the rigormortis of horrified reaction as I am with the mirror. 

4. My face is usually moving around when I'm with other people. I find this stops them from leaning over to check for a pulse.

And, more importantly than any of that ....

5. No one really cares about the surface of my face. 


In Sylvia Plath's 'Mirror' poem, she explores a woman's feelings about her image but by writing in the voice of the mirror itself. It's an astounding poem, shocking and true. I often use it at school, challenging the students to guess what the object in the poem is without showing them the title, and then getting them to write about an inanimate object in their own house, 'interviewing' it to see how it feels about its life. Here's Plath's poem. 


Mirror

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
What ever you see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful---
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.


Those last two lines are killer lines, and as true as the dawn. See my earlier points ...







26 comments:

  1. I'd never read this poem before. Such power in her words! Enjoyed your own, humorous take the theme and identify completely with both your reaction to seeing your own magnified image in such a close and personal way, and with how you remind yourself to balance that with reality.
    As much as I dislike my 10 x magnification mirror, without it I'd be lost! I cannot see my eyebrow hairs to pluck them unless I peer closely into it, wearing my reading specs as well! But I have clear recall of having seen those ugly unplucked hairs in the unkempt eyebrows of others when I was a lot younger, and shuddered at the time, determined I'd never permit myself to slide into that abyss as I aged.

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    1. Ah yes, the plucking of eyebrows while wearing specs thing. So tricky! I'm glad I introduced you to this poem. Plath is magical.

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  2. When I was 17 friends bought me the complete collection of Sylvia Plath poems. I treasure it still.

    Mirrors I have never liked. They make us focus on our outside rather than our inside.

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  3. And there's also the solution of only fraternizing with people past a certain age, those with iffy eyesight.

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    1. I'll make a note of that for future reference. (In big writing.)

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  4. You might be interested in reading this: http://manmartin.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-mirror-crisis-originally-posted-2012.html

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    1. Ha - so not just women, then!

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  5. Just think how SP would have felt if she'd lived to the age when mirrors are really the enemy...

    Do you know "You're" by SP? It's so lovely.

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    1. Yes, I do know 'You're'. I love it, but then I can't think of one of hers I don't like. Yes, it says something about her, doesn't it, that she was writing poems like Mirror even as a young woman?

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  6. I'm not sure I want to be getting too close to my face either these days. Right now my rosacea is flaring, not a pretty sight even without magnification.

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    1. The thing is, as I said above, people just don't notice the way we do.

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  7. I've always wanted one of these mirrors - especially as my eyesight seems to be going a bit, but I've never considered that side of them. It's true that I'm always horrified when I encounter one in a hotel bathroom. Food for thought.

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    1. Yes, it's the SUDDEN confrontations with unexpected mirrors that are the worst! I agree.

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  8. The wall to wall mirror in the hut where I do an exercise class makes me look bigger than I really am ( or am I just in denial ? )

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    1. It's definitely the mirror. Hold on to that thought.

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  9. I've got 4 large ( but thankfully not magnified) mirrors on my bathroom walls, put there by the previous owner. They make the room nice and light but I've learnt not to wander in there wearing my reading glasses. I only did it once ...

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    1. Ha ha! Yes! Better to be lost in your own house than surrounded by mirrors!

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  10. No , I definitely don't have a vanity mirror . Why on earth would I want to watch myself slowly turning into an origami version of me ?

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    1. This made me laugh. I read it out to my companion, and she laughed too!

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  11. My magnifying mirror often gives me a shock if I have forgotten to check my upper lip and chin for a few days. How do those hairs sprout so fast? Great post…and amazing poem.

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    1. I think chin and lip hair past 50 has an evil personality all of its own.

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  12. I love the way Sylvia Plath captures moments in time and spins them out again with her unique descriptions. Her poem on Blackberrying resonates with me as if I were with her there.
    On a practical note, I recently learned that both Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor shaved their faces daily. I was hesitant to try it but, by Jove, I'm a convert. I'm blond, so every few days is enough. It's liberating and much less painful than waxing. Score one for the old ladies glam squad!

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  13. I bet they didn't do that on the film set!

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  14. I've been enjoying your blog today for the first time. (That is to say, I've never read it before today, and I have now discovered it and am enjoying your writing, not that this is the first time I've enjoyed it.)

    I must say, I would have loved having you as a teacher. Your students are lucky and hopefully will someday appreciate you, if not immediately.

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    1. Welcome, Cathie, and thanks so much for leaving a comment. Do keep reading!

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