There are two mirrors in my bathroom. In one of the mirrors I am fat. In the other mirror I am not fat – in that mirror I am old. Now, in reality, I am both fat and old, so I have become intrigued by the selective world-views of what are, in essence, two identical reflective surfaces. What prompts them to throw back at me two such startlingly different visions of my own visage? More to the point, which opinion should I trust? For opinion it must surely be. I realise that they may be lit slightly differently, but the job of a mirror, surely, is merely to bounce back (with the merest of delays whilst it transposes left and right) whatever hits it and what hits both of these two is the same face. Why, I wonder, would one of them take a look at me and think ‘fat’ whilst the other thinks ‘old’? However I light the bathroom, in daylight or in LED glow, what bounces back out of the glass surfaces remains unaltered. According to these reflectors, I am fat or old, but never both.
I do wonder why neither of them ever takes it upon themselves to make me look slim or young, but I’m guessing that’s a bridge too far – for a mirror.
I think it probably important to mention here that, as far as I can see, both of these mirrors are flat and unblemished. When I was a boy, no fairground was complete without a Hall of Mirrors. These mirrors curved and bowed and were meant to reflect images that were either short and fat or tall and slim. As I was, at that time, short, but exceedingly skinny, the results for me were less than impressive – making me look either of normal stature, but so thin that I barely registered, or of normal weight, having spent the last six months having carried a 10cwt anvil on my head. In achieving these contortions the mirrors were usually variously bowed to such an extent that the reflections were often doubled and unfocussed. By positioning oneself at a certain level, it was possible to achieve the vision of a huge, fat head leering out atop a normal sized, slightly retroussé body. One of my bathroom mirrors has got the hang of that one.
Obviously, I would like to check out my suspicions with somebody else, but the only other person available to me is my wife and I think that if I asked her whether she thought that the bathroom mirrors had developed an attitude, she would be on the phone to the crisis team quicker than you could say ‘stark staring mad’. So, I have only my own experience to fall back on. I have tried to trick the mirrors. I have jumped in front of them in an attempt to take them by surprise. I have sucked in my cheeks before looking in the ‘fat’ one. I have taken a ‘selfie’ of myself looking into the ‘old’ one. All to no avail. The ‘fat’ one makes me look fat and the ‘old’ one makes me look old. In each case a mere fifty percent of what I actually am.
There is, I must admit, a recently arrived alternative at my disposal. It is a back-lit, magnifying, make-up mirror that my wife has placed on the widow-sill. In that, I look fat, old and seriously mis-shapen. Occasionally I use it to put my contact lenses in. It appears that I am plopping a Pyrex bowl over some kind of jelly fish and I don’t like it.
So, for now, I will stick with the two mirrors I have. Whilst they both give me half-truths, I suppose that two half truths are better than one fat lie…
Mirror in the bathroom, please talk free
The door is locked – just you and me…
Mirror in the Bathroom – The Beat
How to look twenty years younger instantly: stand further away. Jeff Green