When I was little, I thought about Narcissus and tried to look at my reflection in the river. For those of you who might wonder why a little kid is thinking about Narcissus, you can see last week’s post about “book” which only touched on the edges of my parents’ eclectic library. Dad liked Greek myths for the action. Admittedly, Narcissus had very little action since he just looked at himself in a pool of water until he died, but the story interested me because I doubted the premise. I didn’t think a pool of water would reflect like a mirror, and the endlessly rippling water of my river proved me right. I tried looking in a pond, but that didn’t work any better. I made a pool of water by diverting some river water and waiting for the mud to settle. A water bug crawled across my murky, distorted reflection.
Okay, I was a very bored child, but I had endless sources of activities in the woods, and nobody was watching me looking at my reflection. Besides, river, pond, and puddle making only took a couple hours. I had the rest of the day to scour the woods for something else to reflect my image. Here’s the thing – there isn’t a natural mirror except other people’s eyes, and that’s a tiny reflection. Narcissism isn’t possible without chemistry and a furnace, and my interest in Narcissus just wasn’t strong enough for me to learn how to melt glass, mine silver, or whatever else it would take to make a mirror.
Besides, even if I could’ve made a mirror, a mirror doesn’t really show us as we appear to others. Our view of ourselves is necessarily skewed by what we focus on in the mirror or by how we see ourselves reflected in the faces of other people. I have been hit on when I looked my absolute worst. I haven’t been hit on when I’ve looked my absolute best. Okay, I’m getting too old to be hit on much at all anymore, but I remember such things, and the whole dynamic is terribly confusing, made more confusing by other people’s comments and a gigantic cosmetic/fashion industry designed to make us all feel insecure.
When I was in college, a friend remarked that I have big ears. Huh? Since we were studying anatomy, I had reference to know how big ears are supposed to be, and mine were exactly average in proportion to my head. My friend is a significantly smaller person, with smaller ears to go with her smaller head – but that has very little bearing on why she’d remark on my ears in the first place. Maybe she felt insecure about her own ears? Maybe she had earlobe envy? Maybe she thought I needed knocked down a peg to lift herself up? Whatever her reasons, my ears had nothing to do with her issues, and if I didn’t have proof that my ears were normal I might’ve developed insecurities about them. Pick a body part and multiply by a million tactless comments or stray looks or defective mirrors.
Remember, there isn’t a natural mirror. I don’t think we’re supposed to spend our lives looking at ourselves and picking apart our flaws or falling in love with our faces like Narcissus. The wicked queen in Sleeping Beauty wasn’t beautiful inside and made herself miserable waiting for her beauty to be usurped by someone younger. Let’s face it. We all get old and die. There’s always someone younger and more beautiful. The best we can do is make sure we put laugh lines on our faces instead of frowns.