Self check-out

The Ichabodian figure searched the mirror for positives. It grimaced, not too noticeably it hoped, and ran its fingers through thinning hair flattened from a rakish longshoreman’s toque–I still think my toque is rakish. Then I got my coffee and sat down.

Starbucks on 101 St: I’m now comfortably slouched in an arm chair. Above and behind me hangs the mirror, big as a kitchen window. The coffee line is at an mousemirrorangle to the mirror. And in a very short time I realize I’m deep into a study in self-consciousness.

To a woman, to a man, we check ourselves out. But there are degrees and techniques of self-checking.

There’s the conservative once over–things are expected to be in place. There’s the quizzical once over–is everything’s in place? There’s the mid-range sweep, casual, comfortable, I know everything’s in place.

There’s the embarrassed glimpse, with the oh geez I’m appalling flush. There’s the long gaze, bordering on narcissistic absorption. This one came with a kind of subtle 360–an I’m-so-hot-in-tight-black-things pirouette.

There’s the unsure repeater–yep I’m okay, oh crap, no I’m not, look at my waist. And there’s the related glinter–quick glances when it’s safe. Several ‘glints’ are needed to accomplish the check-out.

There’s the over the shoulder peek, fine, but there’s also–and this while in conversation–the over someone else’s shoulder self-examination. Strictly bad form.

There’s the determined–I’m not going to check myself out because it’s so obvious everybody is checking themselves out and I’m not going to be as unabashedly vain as everybody else. One lady made it through the entire line like this, when, some nefarious power spun her head around like Linda Blair and she caught her anguished visage in the glass just before she exited. Better to have been obvious.

Which brings me to the ruse. The, nobody will spot my self-consciousness because I’m going to be so obvious, be as comfortable as I am in my own bathroom, examine my suit, my dress, my makeup, my teeth. But people like the "ruses" because just maybe they don’t care, and because of their seeming lack of self-consciousness they make self-checking okay for everybody.

But then there was the middle-age guy in blue nylon jacket and baseball cap, oblivious to the mirror. He didn’t check himself once. The mirror held no power over him. It was neither friend nor tempter nor fiendish speculum. He just made his way through the line making conversation. What’s his story?

So, what’s your technique?

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  1. I’m oblivious. when i was growing up the mirror was something to make a face in, and my friend and i developed an entire repetoire , more to the delight and fancy funny bone of ourselves, though most school kids laughed, and that’s what we were after.

    older sister, on the other hand, was (is) very vain and the mirror and having ‘mirror time’ was number one. perhaps that’s why i eventually became oblivious. but then as i got older i stopped doing things like brushing my hair everyday, and hey, if my clothes don’t match, well even better! perhaps it’s immunity?

    i SHOULD check myself out more often, just for small things like a spot of dirt on the end of my nose , but now i also find myself wondering who i’m looking at in the reflection, because she’s much older then i remember , but exactly why should i care about liver spots when i loved them on old people when i was a kid? if i’m really lucky they’ll grow into a big map on my face like the birthmark on Gorbacheve’s head.

    but then i also like looking at my hands and all the scars from mishaps over the years and the liver spots developing there. i consider my sagging, stretch marked breasts as beautiful because they fed a child.

    if i have a drop of mustard on my shirt, well, not much i can do about it, so why bother fretting in a mirror?
    maybe i see the looking glass from the mad hatter’s point of view, rather than alice?

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