The Vanity of Mirrors

18 Oct 2022

"Mirrors should think longer before they reflect." ~ Jean Cocteau

"Mirror mirror on the wall. Tell me, why do I bother to give my all?"

So many people ask me this even though I am nothing more than a bland, boring piece of glass with a chipped frame. I wonder what it is about me that makes me a confidant for seemingly everyone that has the misfortunate of walking past me. Perhaps my tell-it-as-it-is nature is alluring to everyone looking for a little bit of honesty; I tell nothing but the truth. 

It's not my fault that I'm this way. I find it impossible to hide things from people. I cannot distort their image to make them look better than what they are; all I can do is reflect back what I see whether my poor hapless victims like it or not.

I take a silent breath. My first victim is in front of me, straightening his polka dot tie and fixing his tailored blazer. He must be out to impress yet behind the façade of confidence I see a man who is trying desperately to fit into a suit that is far too big for him. And he knows it all too well. I can see the exasperation in his eyes.

Yes… tell yourself lies in front of me, and I will only reflect the lies back to you. I’m sorry. I can only tell you the truth. 

He finishes adjusting his collar, takes a deep breath, and moves on.

A young woman no more than twenty one takes his place. She looks sharp. A pristine collared shirt; a smooth, shiny black blazer and a matching skirt.

But she’s uncomfortable. She cannot stop fidgeting with the buttons on her blazer.

Top button done up? Or undone?

Her hands trembling, she nervously buttons up her blazer. Then she quickly shakes her head, and undoes it. No, it doesn’t look good enough to her. It makes her feel quite restricted, like she has chains wrapped around her entire body. But now she feels too exposed. So she tightly wraps her blazer around her like a shawl, and moves on.

Wait, no she doesn’t. She’s back. She forgot to check her eyeliner. She breathes. And moves on once more. For real this time.

I want to ban her from looking into another mirror. 

The young woman is soon replaced by an older woman, one whose face has been worn in by decades of gruelling work and a lifeless marriage. She seems defeated. Her skin no longer has the soft pink radiant glow of a young woman’s face; it seems to have greyed a little, like a white t-shirt that has dulled after being punished several times in a washing machine.

She pulls out her lipstick.

Just a little more.

The bright red gloss of the lipstick does nothing for her but accentuate the deep cracks that cake her lips. Exasperated, she applies more and more. And more.

And she leaves.

The next person takes her place…

I cannot do this anymore!! For goodness sake, do away with me.


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