Gaslighting, literally

Around Christmastime last year, I parked my car and peered into my rearview mirror in order to check my makeup before going to teach a yoga class. I do this habitually to make sure I don’t have lipstick on my teeth or raccoon-ish mascara circles under my eyes. It was, as I said, late December and so the sun was low in the sky even though it was nearly noon. The bright sunlight shone on my face and it was then that I noticed three black hairs, of significant length and coarseness, sprouting from various parts of my face. Distressing as this was on its own, it was exacerbated by the fact that I was about to teach a class full of people and I had no tweezer on my person, and also, I regularly check and tweeze various parts of my face. Chin hairs and those on the upper lip are no rarity on a woman of my age, and so I hunt them on the regular. Or so I thought.

I was faced with the conclusion that, due to insufficient lighting in the bathroom, regular mirrors no longer serve me, so I ordered a Daylight 10x Magnifying Mirror during the Boxing Day sales on Amazon. I waited with excited anticipation for the delivery of the item that would, surely, transform my life.

Jesus take the wheel.

The first time I peered into that mirror, I felt despair and despondency. If you ever feel the need to be humbled – perhaps you have way too MUCH self-esteem – then definitely consider this purchase. It is not, as my aunt wisely told me, for the faint of heart. But I eventually discovered the secret to use it without plunging into a spiral of shame and sadness: look at your face dispassionately and in sections – eyebrows, upper lip, chin – and always remember that while others may view you in the full light of day, they are not doing so in a way that is magnifying your every flaw by a power of ten. Or, at least, we hope they are not.

The months ticked by and my self-esteem recovered. I continued to use my mirror several times a week, and was not dissatisfied by the effects. What I didn’t realize, what should have been obvious but wasn’t, to me, is that as time goes by batteries begin to lose their charge. And as that happens, the “daylight” setting begins to fade away, until what I thought was “daylight” was, in reality, “dusk.”

In other words, I was gaslighted. I literally gaslighted myself.

Not knowing what horrors awaited me, I placidly changed out the batteries, and then gasped when I looked in the mirror. I should have KNOWN that chin hairs do not magically disappear with regular plucking. We all know that, if anything, those long black hairs become more tenacious with time, like goutweed or mint. I should have KNOWN that total transformation doesn’t just happen with the purchase and use of a magnifying mirror. I should have KNOWN that Bridget Jones was right, being a woman is like being a farmer with all the harvesting and crop spraying, and we all know how farmers cannot just let things go without major consequence.

I think the takeaway lesson here is that none are so blind as those who will not see, and also that changing the batteries more than twice annually is a smart idea for those of us wishing to utilize modern technology to its fullest benefit.

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