Mirror Mirror

by jkatejohnston

This morning in the empty locker room at work, I said to myself in the mirror, “Why do keep you clinging to this image of yourself?” I wasn’t aware of speaking aloud until an instant later when I saw that the door to one of the bathroom stalls was closed. I glanced under the door. The stall was unoccupied. So I got away with it.

I used to spend a lot time looking in the mirror and talking to myself, partly silently, partly aloud, not because I thought I was pretty (I was always passable) but because I thought I was interesting. I was curious about what I might look like from the outside—something that you can never see in a mirror, since we all have our mirror-face expressions. Anyway, it was fun, and I never do it anymore. I’ve lost interest.

I still talk out loud to myself, especially when I’m walking the dog or on my bike. Those are the few times when I feel like I’m alone. It’s awkward to get caught. When everyone started talking on the phone hands-free, I thought I’d be in the clear. Not so. People are so perceptive. Without thinking about it or trying at all, you can tell the difference between someone who’s on the phone, someone who’s having auditory hallucinations and someone who’s just talking to herself. (I think you can tell the difference, though I can’t remember ever catching anyone doing what I do. And who’s to say that all those schizophrenics aren’t also on the phone?) Still, I do think you can tell the difference, and instantly. It reminds me of Patrick O’Brian’s remark that a back is almost as recognizable as a face. Or my own experience of recognizing one of the janitors from his meaty calves alone. It’s not just kids who are horrifyingly perceptive.

Where does that leave me? Caught! (Usually by someone who’s riding a bike right behind me.)

But anyway, back to the locker room—what image of myself? I think I’d been thinking about my fat and my age and why I’m clinging to this hope that I can be the only woman in the world to traverse the decade between 40 and 50 without putting on a pound or two—how I could do it, if I made it my entire life’s work. But I’m not willing to have a life that small. In other words, I was looking at myself in jeans in a full-length mirror.

(next morning)

I just opened some of my old diaries and word-searched for mirror. It came up quite a bit. On April 17, 1994 I wrote, “Dear Max, Do you ever sit in front of the mirror and interview yourself? I know that you don’t. Never mind!” So my memory is corroborated.

On Thursday, we did Take Your Kids to Work Day. The kids were this mix of bold and shy, some very willing to speak in front of the group, others not. Most of what I wrote about that, I can’t put here. But I will tell you that we used the unisex bathroom in the lobby of my building. While I peed, Enzo said, “Oh cool! A full-length mirror!” and started making faces and striking poses, complete with sound-effects.