Yesterday, I went to my mother’s for our weekly dinner together.
It’s my treat, and we alternate between two of her favorite meals – McDonald’s and Subway. This time she chose McDonald’s. Not good for my diet, but certainly okay for my budget. I bought two McDoubles (boy, do I hate those silly names) and one small fries to share. Total: $3.39. My mother is a cheap date.
Although we sit at her kitchen table to eat our cheap burgers, I usually dress up a little on the night I go over to Mom’s. I like to wear something special, including cool shoes and a pretty necklace or bracelet. And I make sure my hair and makeup look good. My mother is pleased if I look nice. I want her to think she raised me well – I’m a job done right.
With my burgers nice and warm via the passenger side seat-warmer, when I stop at the light near her house I check my makeup in the visor mirror.
I look great.
Then it dawned on me.
I always look great in the car mirror. Every time I snap that visor down, this soft pretty image looks back at me. Even the side-view mirror. When my husband drives the convertible, and I catch a glimpse of myself in the side-view mirror – with the sun on me and the wind whipping my hair – I like what I see.
What is it about car mirrors that give me such a good reflection? The natural lighting? No. I like my reflection at night too. Is there some kind of distortion? Maybe only being able to see a seven-inch band of your face is a flattering way to look at yourself.
Certainly there are good mirrors and bad mirrors. The ladies’ room mirror at work is really bad. Unless I have had my color done the day before, I have an inch of gray roots. Which matches the gray shadows beneath my weirdly puffy eyes. And I don’t want to even think about the marionette lines from nose to mouth. I’ve warned my co-workers about that mirror. “Don’t look when you go in there,” I say.
Then there are mirrors that I know are deliberately distorted. I’m fifteen pounds thinner in the dressing room at TJ Maxx. And although I’m aware of it, it still makes me buy more shit there than I should. (And so more returns - after I try it on at home and ask myself, ‘What was I thinking?’)
And speaking of trying stuff on at home, I shopped a long time for the full length mirror in my closet. I look good in that mirror. But not too good. I want to be able to fix myself before I leave the house.
So if there are good mirrors and bad mirrors, how do I know what I really look like? Am I the tired wreck in the office ladies’ room? Or the radiant-skinned young beauty in the car? How do I know?
Photos are no help. I point the camera at myself and click away. One photo is wretched, the next is wonderful. And I haven’t moved, except for my finger on the shutter.
I do know one thing about photographs. Looking back at old pictures, I was a lot prettier and thinner than I thought I was.
I’m sixty-one years old and I’ve just realized I don’t know what I look like.
I think I will go with my mother’s opinion. She thinks I’m gorgeous. And a snappy dresser.