Sunday, May 23, 2010

I looked in a magnifying mirror, and what did I see?

magnifying mirror image from The nonblonde

The other day, my middle son brought home a magnifying mirror.

"Mom, you're going to like this mirror," he said.

I took the mirror, a pair of tweezers and went by the dining room window where the light is good to pluck a few stray hairs from my lipline and to pull that one obstinate dark hair that no matter how many times I pull it out it continues to defy me and juts straight out of the mole below my nose, growing back with a vengeance each time.

Bringing the mirror to my face, I screamed "Oh, my God! Scary! What sort of mirror is this?" I was horrified. Seen through this magnifying mirror my skin look like that of the old ladies that I pass by during my morning walk. Weather beaten, riven and wrinkly stared back at me. Every fuzzy hair suddenly loomed like a forest of wire. I didn't know what was more abundant, criss-crossing crevices in my skin or stray hairs. And not only that, I saw all sorts of small spots of sun damage scattered on my cheeks, brown spots that I did not notice before this "magic mirror" that I was going to like so much.

After a few more "oh my Gods", I plucked out a seeming endless bunch of hairs on my lipline, under my chin, and from my eyebrows. I handed the mirror back to my son.

"This is a HORRIBLE mirror! Who the hell wants to look in that?? It's positively scary!"

And true to my word, I have not looked in that magnifying mirror again.

Coppertone ad 1970

The sun damage on my face is a direct result of the relentless tanning I did up until about 10 years ago. I found the ad above online, but it was common in the Glamour and Mademoiselle magazines I read as a teenager. Read the headline and shake your head.

Beautiful tan today. Young looking skin tomorrow.

How did companies get away with stating the exact opposite of what is known to be true? Of encouraging dangerous and risky behaviour? Well, why is that? The answer: the profit motive aka capitalism. And they had no lack of gullible, eager consumers -- like me. Independent minded young women who did not let anyone tell them what to do. Except why were we so enchanted by the lies of ads? Back in the 70s and 80s, who didn't want a dark tan? -- that is, among me and the white-skinned.

It is amazing the things we used to believe when we were younger, and even if we were told different--as in it's dangerous to tan your skin, we just rationalized it away. Somehow we thought we were invincible. We did not, could not, see ourselves getting older. That--liver spots and wrinkles-- happened to other people.

I loved the sun (still do, but now I'm much more judicious in how I spent time in it). In my teenage years of the 1970s, as soon as summer started or spring warmed up, I used to tan myself black. With my sisters and my friends, I used to lie on the sundeck of our family home in my smallest bikini, slather oil on every exposed surface of my skin, and lie on the cement, just baking. And brown I did get. Oh, yes. And I never burned (except my face and shoulders on Varadero Beach in Cuba in the 80s), so I ignored the warnings about sun damage. That was for folks who burned! And I got lots of compliments for my chocolate brown skin. Lots of jealousy and envy because my skin tanned so easy, so fast and so dark.

Well, now the magic mirror is laughing at me; tells me that was an illusion. Reality stares me in the face. In my face. I've caught up to the 70s and the 80s, caught up to my denial.

Glamour magazine cover 1976


Merche Pallarés said...

Magnifying mirrors are cruel!! Had a laugh with your post! However, I must admit, they're useful to see all the defects and, yes, to pluck those stubborn, nasty hairs...
Regarding tanning, thank goodness I didn't overdo it when I was a teenager. Only the years I lived in Ibiza (70's) it's when I went to the beach. Nowadays, I still go two days a year in the Spring (e.g. this past weekend I went to Formentera) and that's my tanning for the rest of the year. Although I have wrinkles, of course, my skin is not too bad (I see it, with my glasses, in the magnifying mirror...). Hugs, M.

northshorewoman said...

I will stay away from the mirror. Then I look like me again....