When it comes to mirrors, my philosophy is: If you're dumb enough to look in one, you deserve what you get. A friend made the mistake of glancing at herself sideways in the full-length bathroom mirror. What she saw wasn't a pretty sight. She relayed her gruesome story.
"For years," she said, " I never knew what was lurking on the other side of my body until the ugly truth was revealed. I should have left well enough alone. Instead, I looked, I saw, and I screamed so loudly that my husband, who was watching TV, ran in to see what had happened.
"It deflated," I cried.
"What deflated?" he asked.
"My left buttock."
"Let me see."
"Not on your life.
"With that, he snatched the towel and said I shouldn't worry because my right buttock had deflated, too, giving me a very symmetrical look," she said. "Since then, I try staying away from anything that gives back a mirror image of myself."
Last summer, I found my self in a similar predicament: bathing suit shopping inside a cubicle with bad lighting. "I don't do fluorescent lighting," I told the sales girl.
"All our rooms have fluorescent lighting," she said. "It's easier to get the full effect."
Was she nuts? Did she really expect me to stand there in my underwear checking myself out under lights that accentuated every pore? Why, even when I went for a physical, my doctor had enough decency to allow me to don a sheet.
"If you think that's bad," a friend said. "I was blow-drying my hair in front of the mirror when I leaned all the way over to create hair volume, and I witnessed a sight so horrific, I almost called 911. I thought an alien had entered the room. Instead, it was just I. I had no idea I looked like that. Every part of my body hung there swaying in the breeze. It took me a while to regain my composure. I had to fix myself a double martini at ten o'clock in the morning."
"Mirrors don't lie," my friend pointed out when we stood in the GAP dressing room, trying on jeans."
"But they do tell fibs," I said. "Are you saying this is how we really look?"
"Of course not," I said. "This mirror happens to give off a ripple effect. You might think your thighs are curdling before your eyes. But, the fact is, what you see is mirror erosion, not lumpy thighs."
My feeling is that any self-respecting woman over 50 should operate on the premise that whatever she sees in a mirror is a distorted image rather than face the unadulterated truth that things are not what they used to be.
My friend, Susan, has learned to develop a mind-over-mirror attitude. She explained.
"When I don't like what I see, I blame it on the glass. Once, at a hotel, I complained to the manager that the mirror on the back of the closet door was defective. It was reflecting an image that was grounds for my jumping out of the 12th-floor window. He asked me to describe the problem. I explained that the woman in the mirror had an altogether different body from mine."
"It must have been something you ate," he said, and moved me to the 23rd floor. But, once there, I experienced another horrific moment. "The woman in this mirror has bags under her knees," I implored.
"Try Preparation H," the manager said. "It shrinks membranes and reduces puffiness."
"So, I smeared it all over the mirror, but it didn't do a thing," Susan said.
My worst mirror nightmare occurred a few months ago when I attended a bridal shower. Needing to use the rest room, I found myself encased in a mirror-enclosed sanctuary where the only thing not made of glass was the commode.
While I sat there sizing up the situation, I had a panorama view of my entire body. It was as if I were being CT-scanned where cross-sectional images appeared at every angle, reflecting parts of me I never knew I had, or had no business seeing in the first place.
"Did you get a load of that chamber of horrors?" I asked my friend. "The entire bathroom is wall-to-wall mirrors. It took me 10 minutes to find my way out."
"You think that's bad?" she said. "Up until today, I never knew my elbows needed facelifts."
Let's face facts, ladies: after a certain age, mirrors are not a girl's best friend.
Judith Marks-White is a Westport writer, and her "In Other Words" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.judithmarks-white.com