Mirror, mirror on the wall…

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In a scene from “Men of a Certain Age” (a great new television show) Ray Ramona’s character looks in the mirror and doesn’t recognize the person he sees looking back. What he sees, and he talks a lot about his sagging behind, is an older version of himself.

I laughed, but I also related because I’ve had those mirror experiences. Of course, for the most part I’ve chosen to ignore them and hold to the image of myself I carry around in my head.

In my inner mirror, I look like I did years ago, no wrinkles, no graying hair, no sagging stuff anywhere. It’s a nice illusion but one that has the potential for shattering (no mirror pun intended), which it did this weekend.

Before I tell that story, let me explain how I think the image in my head developed. As a skinny kid, I was small and slow to become a “woman.” So, for the early part of my life, most folks thought I was younger than my age.

I didn’t like this when I hit puberty and wanted to look older. I longed to be less Gidget and more Cleopatra. Or put another way, more like leather-clad Sandy at the end of Grease as opposed to sweet Sandy at the start of the movie.

Truth was, I could pass for 12 at 16, maybe at 18. Even in my twenties, someone asked me if my child was my little sister, something that offended me at the time. I wanted to appear mature, look motherly.

My ideas about aging underwent a shift at 30 and I appreciated appearing younger than my years, but even then, a ticket-taker at an R-rated movie asked to see my ID. I considered kissing the guy.

Things held together pretty good through my 40s, at least that is what I thought. I even slid into the 50s with ease. I stood at that mirror and saw what I wanted to see. Well maybe it was more ignoring what I didn’t want to see. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

So I arrive at last weekend and the shattering of the mirror. My middle grandchild is a gymnast who competes in meets all over the place. Sunday she competed in one of those meets.

We hit the road to go watch her. I dressed in my best jeans, my cutest top, put on my cool leather-look jacket and swung my bright peace-sign covered scarf around my neck.

It was a relatively good hair day so I approved of what I saw in the mirror. Not bad for a person in her late 50s, I thought.

We arrived at the meet and I walked in with my daughter and son-in-law. A nice “young” woman sat at a table selling tickets.

She looked at my daughter and son-in-law and told them the total for their tickets. Then she smiled at me and said $5. I handed her the money and walked away. After about 10 feet I realized what I paid did not match what my daughter paid.

I turned to read the sign posted beside the ticket table. In large letters it read, “Admission $8.” In smaller print under it the words, “Senior Citizens (over 60) $5.”

Crash, bam, boom, my mirror hit the floor. Not only did the lovely woman not see me as younger than my years, she thought I was three (well 2 ½) years older than I am.

Oh the illusions we create.

Now I know this story should end with me finding that quiet center inside myself that knows no age, that place of serenity that understands life is an endless flow of which I am an ageless part.

I should write that from that peaceful place, I handed over the money she mistakenly didn’t charge me.

Yeah, well that didn’t happen. Nope, I figured having an extra $3 in my pocket was small consolation for a broken mirror.