Mirror, Mirror

OFSTED half way through: thank you for the incredible wave of support from all my cyberfriends. Repost about one of my favourite fairytale characters. Back tomorrow 🙂 

Wicked stepmothers, they have a hell of a time.

They are generally seen as ruthlessly, artfully beautiful. They put make-up on in spades to hide those tell-tale signs of age that, Canute-like, they try to hold back with invisible but growing dismay.

They have harsh, loud strident voices, if you believe Walt. They are supposed to be unhappy, and they are supposed to be alone.

Join me, if you will, in the room of one such unfortunate, as she stares at a huge and beautiful mirror. It is a limpid pool on the wall of her sumptuous chamber, not a real mirror, so much as an enchanted reflector.

She strides into the room, slams the door, and the moment no-one is looking her face, so carefully held in regal beauty, in arch intelligence, approximating youth: it falls. She is tired, and cross, her feet are aching and she needs a bath.

When no-one is watching the beautiful and powerful they can become themselves, and so she does: two large hands lean on her dressing table, and she hunches over the potions to peer in the mirror which has served her so faithfully all these years. She examines her crow’s feet.

Today, she’s a tad uneasy.

Because that stepdaughter of hers, that infernal princess, is blooming more perfectly every day. She’s not her own daughter, not an extension of her own ambition, not blood at all.

She is snow, snow white.

In among the politics of the castle, where life and death walk closely together, the wicked stepmother has never learnt to do anything other than put herself first. And now it’s someone else’s turn.

The mirror gives our antiheroine a reality check. Look in me, it says, you are growing older. It is the turn of youth now.

Let us back hastily out before the tantrum begins.

I’m not a stepmother. I’m not very wicked, though I have my moments. But I am a mother.

One vital difference between me and the wicked queen: I love Snow White.

My darling’s cheeks are red as roses and her skin as white as snow. Her tresses are thick, brown, vibrant chestnut. And she is moving dreamily from childhood, through the hazy years of adolescence, to young adulthood.

I am in another part of life all together. There comes a time when if one ever had beauty and charm, it ceases to work with quite such ease as once it did.

Maybe there’s the odd Helen Mirren-a-like out there who can keep up the good fight; but as we grow more mature and more experienced, we become a force to be reckoned with.

We carry the world on our shoulders and can occasionally make us tense and snappy. We know more than our superiors, and spend a lifetime pressing the mute button so they do not know it. We are wise, and we are tetchy, and we need the mirror to read us a few home truths.

My mirrors come for walks with me, and come out to lunch with me, as they have been doing this very day.

9:45am, and the dog was the closest to barmy he has been for some time. He was actually trying to talk. His tail was a blur. He was desperate to share every tiny visitor, every succulent forest smell.

Because a member of his harem had arrived. Lydia has been walking him in the forest for years now, with and without me. But she moved further away, and her distance, to him, is an object, although his ardour remains untamed.

Lydz and I walked the forest and, as usual, she told me her life and I told her mine. We refelected on our lives as we always do, and came to lots of conclusions.

We parted just before lunch and I hotfooted it to another friend. I have worked with her for two years, and found myself pouring my woes out to her over scampi and chips.

We discussed two paths I was considering taking in my life. And then she said: “Are you aware your face is different when you talk about the different paths?

She explained: “You are full of smiles when you talk about one. And when you speak of the other, you face goes serious and concerned.”

Thanks, Mirror.

Reflection can happen in many ways. The therapist; the mirror: the couch: the journal.

But none can come close to reflection with one’s friends.


31 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror

  1. When we look into the mirror, we tend to first see the flaws…the wrinkles…the changes…all those parts that comprise our personal “unlikables.” When our friends look at us, they see us whole, love us anyway, and immediately recognize when something written upon our face has changed.

    Your friend must be an excellent friend (and mirror) to know you so well. I, too, hope you are able to choose that which makes your face light up. 🙂

  2. Wonderful, Kate.

    We tend to look, especially at my age, at the wrinkles and sags and not the elasticity and staying power. A few years ago I had a bit of basal cell on my nose. Both the dermatologist and the surgeon said, upon examining my skin, that it was beautiful. It took me by surprise. I’d been focussing on my face and not the glue that held it together. Well, the surgeon took his scalpel and performed wonders removing the culprit with a bit of cut and paste in a sensitive spot so no one would guess and the dermi checks me each year now, still saying how lovely my skin is. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all need to be more comfortable in our own skin, don’t we?

    Thinking of you. Penny

  3. Interesting thoughts. Makes me think of seeing myself and my husband reflected back at ourselves when our adult son moved back in with us. A very different experience, having a child who is no longer enthralled by your superhuman abilities come and live with you. Helpful, too – though humbling.

  4. I love these reposts, I get to catch up on all the Kate I missed by not reading you sooner! Hope your busy, tetchy days are coming to a close and a properly-resolved one. You are missed!

  5. Try to resist the temptation to put arsenic in the Ofsted mob’s tea.

    So thanks to the insight provided, you can choose the right path. If you are Welsh or perhaps Scots you will, of course, choose the serious one. A happy occupation would never do.

    The lass behind the camera seems but a spring chicken!

    Next project is to put in the pic of Snow White …

  6. Loved this post, Kate. I’ve always wondered why step-mothers are portrayed as cruel, insensitive and vain. Where did that originate from? It’s kind of like the myth about wolves. Anyway. . .

    . . .you’re a very lucky person to have such a wealth of good friends. Congrats on whatever your choices lead to.

  7. What a wonderful observation, Kate. Those around me are a bit reluctant to get me on edge, ergo, not many mirrors chatter. Z (the pup, who really I’ve had for 3+years) on the other hand helps to be my non-verbal mirror. A look in her eyes sometimes makes me realize just how complicated I make things when really it’s just a dog’s life if I allow it ~

  8. Yep! And you’d better continue to cultivate the light within, because the mirror does indeed go everywhere…friends are wonderful–as are therapists. Age would be a lot more difficult for me without them! Debra

  9. Wonderful – liked “We carry the world on our shoulders and can occasionally make us tense and snappy. We know more than our superiors, and spend a lifetime pressing the mute button so they do not know it. We are wise, and we are tetchy, and we need the mirror to read us a few home truths”

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