I have always hated looking in the mirror, even as a child. The image of me in my head has never matched the one I see in the reflection. I’m always surprised. And the older I get, the more that surprise turns to shock. If it weren’t for bad hair days and a penchant for getting spinach in my teeth, I’d remove every single mirror from my house.
I wonder what a world without mirrors would be like? Would we be less vain and self-absorbed? Would we spend more time caring about others and less time focused on ourselves? Would our priorities change? Or would we just take even more selfies?
Driving would become a bigger challenge, that’s for sure. I would be a lot more hesitant to change lanes on the interstate. But I think I’d be willing to take that risk in exchange for a little less self-criticism.
There was a time when mirrors didn’t exist. But even then, people tended to gaze into pools of water. Thanks to Narcissus, though, too much of that was considered, well, narcissistic.
And yet, we couldn’t leave well enough alone. According to Wikipedia, people have been struggling to come up with a decent mirror for centuries. They made them out of polished stones in Turkey starting around 6000 BC, and from polished copper in Mesopotamia 2000 years after that. These mirrors were quite precious and most likely only used by the very rich.
From the beginning, the biggest challenge with mirrors was obtaining a flat surface. Without that, the images would become warped. And if there were bubbles or impurities, the image was cloudy. Depending on the substance you used, the image wouldn’t reflect colors accurately, either. It makes you realize where the term, “through the glass, darkly” came from in the Bible.
In the 16th century, the people of Venice, long known to be experts in all things glass, perfected mirror making. But it was no mean feat. These mirrors were still considered luxuries. So much so that, again according to Wikipedia, “in the late seventeenth century, the Countess de Fiesque was reported to have traded an entire wheat farm for a mirror, considering it a bargain.”
Nowadays, and pretty much since the industrial revolution, mirrors are mass produced. Everybody’s got ‘em. Most of us have them in just about every room in our house. It was a several-thousand-year struggle to get to this point, but here we are.
And here I am, still wishing that the darned things didn’t exist. Maybe I’d feel differently if I were the fairest of them all, or if, at the very least, I looked like I think I do.
I used to have this mad crush on an amazing man. Sadly it wasn’t reciprocated, so for a while there I allowed myself to pine away. He’s intelligent, funny, likes a lot of the same things I like. He’s popular. He has a lot to offer. So, for a hot second I wondered, “What’s wrong with me?”
But things happen, or in fact do not happen, for a reason. And now I’m profoundly grateful that we never hooked up, because I know him a lot better now. And I find him annoying.
Don’t get me wrong. He’s still amazing. But he refuses to see it. He’s too busy focusing on his flaws. Everybody has flaws. I have tons. So do you, no doubt. But what sets us apart from this guy is that he seems to be in love with his.
His self-deprecating humor is charming at first. But then you start to realize that not only does he believe what he’s saying about himself, but he uses it as an excuse. He hides behind his neuroses so that he doesn’t have to move ahead in his life. He clings to his quirks, uses them as a suit of armor, to keep life at a distance. His rut has become so deep that he’d be hard-pressed to climb out of it now.
I find this tragic. I also find it frustrating, because I see his potential, and I see him wasting time. I want to shake him until his teeth rattle. But I’ve also lost patience. I kind of get sick of hearing him tell people what’s wrong with him, as an explanation for why he’s alone, and why he doesn’t measure up in life according to his own impossible standards.
So I shall leave Narcissus alone, happily gazing at his own reflection, and do my best to find a man who is willing to look up and see me and the wider world.