I recently spent a hilarious afternoon at the hairdresser, as all the women there and the witty, astute owner of the place, shared our strategies for never really seeing ourselves in the mirror again… except, of course, when we’re at the hairdresser and look our absolute best. We each had our own mid-life mirror-avoidance technique – a skill that apparently surfaces on auto-pilot between age 50 and 60, and either sends you to “have work done” or makes you laugh at yourself, and set about appreciating the self-protective merits of healthy denial.
Why didn’t anybody tell us we’d still feel 35, even after we pass 60? How come our insides and our outsides don’t match any more, so when we pass a shop window and catch an inadvertent glimpse of ourselves, our first thought is OMG who is that stranger wearing my clothes? Or is it a kindness that no one tells you of the losses life can bring – that jobs come and go, as do husbands and wives, that decency doesn’t always triumph, there are no poor tyrants and the good, too often, die young. Maybe if we knew all that, there’d be kindergarten suicides, and we’d make the terrible mistake of giving up too soon, missing all the joy and wonder life provides to balance the scales.
The Virtues of Avoidance
Now that I know everybody else is practicing this mirror magic, I feel much better about it. I threw out my contact lenses because they put too fine a point on the truth of my mid-life face, which up to the moment I’d put them in and looked into the mirror had seemed just fine to my gently blurring vision. (At least with glasses, you can decide when and where to let the truth in). With aging, sight becomes less sharp, and what a blessing that is. As edges become less defined, clarity seems to expand in inverse proportion, as if fewer sharp edges let the perimeters expand exponentially. I look just fine without those pesky contact lenses telegraphing a truth that does me no good at all. How many more realities of mid-life are there that are best banished with my Happy Denial Technique? What’s young, sexy, strong and beautiful in us really lies between our ears or in our hearts, anyway, where mirrors just can’t catch the true reflection.
I left the hair salon laughing, with visions of legions of Baby Boomers happily averting our eyes from sharp edges and uselessly painful truths, traipsing fearlessly into the future with optimism, a sense of unfettered adventure, laughter on our lips and the sure knowledge in our hearts that there are very few mirrors left in life that we can’t conquer with a slight tilt of the head and a little Happy Denial.
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2012