THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR
She never spent her youth, she bottled it. Or tried to preserve it for later viewing, like a frog in formaldehyde, for a time when it became extinct.
She eked it out with prudence, drop by precious drop, like the liquid gold Le Mer potions which crowd the shelves of her Italian bathroom. He has his own bathroom, also Italian I presume, but I have never been in there.
She rises religiously at 5 o’clock as she has for the 52 years they have been married. This gives her the requisite three hours to strip away the ravages of the night and construct the mask necessary to face Him, the mask she removes only after He is asleep each night.
This is only the basic program. Additional preparation is necessary depending on the demands of her schedule. For, say, a day’s shopping or lunch with the girls, an additional hour is required. A 7 o’clock dinner reservation with their best friends, Lawrence and Olivia, involves a 3 o’clock start, and even then, she often keeps them waiting, although He is quite used to it now and never complains. He is proud of his wife and still calls her his Beauty Queen.
When their son got married, she locked herself away on Thursday and although various professionals came to her assistance, no-one else saw her again until an hour before the nuptials on Saturday, just in time for the informal family photos to be taken before the limo arrived.
I am not her friend – but one of her good friends is one of my good friends – and so our paths have collided, quite literally on occasion, as I have no patience for such vanity. Or such impracticality. I wonder, what did she do with the baby crap and drool? And what about labour? What is the house was on fire? Does she orgasm? Our friend berates me for my insensitivity and calls for compassion, can’t I see how needy and insecure she is? In need of therapy, I reply.
Still, she retains some terrible fascination for me, a train wreck before my eyes, I can’t stop looking.
I see a long ago beautiful face atop a strangely youthful body with breasts that definitely perk, a belly and bum tamed and mummified in Suzannah and what’s-her-name latex, slender nyloned legs stepping much too carefully in ankle breaking stilettos, pretend red finger nails and hair sprayed hard, bouffed and buffed to gold, the whole doused in perfume.
My eye takes in all this and sees, too, the smooth egg white face frozen many times by the surgeon’s knife and toxic needles, the turkey neck, the chicken wing arms, the grapefruit skin and the liver spotted hands. Her etched eyebrows forever arched in surprise and the petulant, pouting lips of a princess wearing ruinously expensive jewelery and clothing designed for youth who cannot afford it. Her shaky hands draw odd outlines of her lips, rheumatism makes her ankles swell and she sometimes needs a nap.
Daily, determinedly, she defies her youth departed decades ago, and she believes in the bottles in the bathroom as she walks alongside her admiring Husband, an old man. When she looks in the mirror, and when He looks at her, they see someone I don’t see.
She will never surrender to old age.
You have to admire her for that.