A Glance in the Mirror by A. Y. Stratton

October 18 2014

                     Approaching O. A.*

                     by A. Y. Stratton

     It all began when one of my daughters advised me to brush my hair upside down. “Upside down?” I asked. “What do you mean?”

     “Bend over and brush away from your scalp for five minutes—at least. Your hair will look shinier, thicker, healthier.” She patted me on the back and flounced out of the room.

     I have two grown daughters. They have taught me everything I know about lip liner, eye shadow, lip gloss, blush, shampoo, hairspray, night cream, day cream, shaving my legs, and which items of my wardrobe have been out of style for at least two years. 

The education continues. When I happen to wear something that draws their approval, I feel as if I’ve won an Academy Award. “Your blouse is perfect with your jacket, Mom.” “Great boots, Mom. Where’d you get them?” “Hey, I’d love a bag like that.” Heady stuff.

     So one night I grab my brush, bend over in front of the mirror in the bathroom so I can see what’s happening, and I brush and brush, and...

I am horrified. Frightened out of my skull. I squeal. I’m alone, luckily. The upside-down face in that mirror is not ME! It’s some woman whose cheeks have shifted into her eyes, whose neck has crumpled into her chin. I spring up and heave a sigh. There I am again, skin restored to its rightful zone.

And suddenly I realize I look just like my mother. She’s been gone for more than a decade, but there she is. Well, actually it’s her neck I see. I wasn’t supposed to get her neck.

I slide into a funk. I’m old. That’s it. Wrinkled, saggy. I call my pal, a woman I’ve known since 4th grade, my friend, a divorcee who has had a few male friends. She laughs. Hard. Doesn’t stop the giggle I’ve known since fourth grade. She says, “That’s why women our age don’t want to be on top.”

“On top?” What’s she talking about? And then I get it. And blush.

     One summer day I am in my favorite seat at the baseball stadium. My Milwaukee Brewers are playing. The roof is open. It’s a glorious afternoon. I look at the giant screen and see myself. I’m on TV! All by myself. I wave. I’m wearing a T-shirt. My hand is waving one way and my upper arm is flapping the other way. My upper arm. MY upper arm.  In horror  I watch myself grab my upper arm and pull it down to my side. The camera moves on.

     I don’t move on. How could this have happened to my upper arm? I lift weights. I swim. I’m in great shape.

     My skin has outgrown me. And I can’t blame my mother.

*Old Age