I don’t like mirrors. Or Zoom screens.
Mirrors reflect reality.
I am 67.
That’s not old.
What is old?
Getting old would never happen to me.
I feel immortal.
Getting old is what happens to grandparents or other people.
That would never happen to me.
It couldn’t happen.
I am a grandparent, five times over.
Our eldest granddaughter turned ten in May, four days prior to my birthday.
Once she hit nine there was no dulling the anticipation of a double-digit b-day.
Family members were willing cheerleaders.
Her next milestones will be 13, 16, 18, 20, 39, and 60.
And then she will catch up to me.
Turning 60 I had no thought of getting old.
Age doesn’t bother me. Age is for cheese.
I am always 18 in my mind’s eye.
Thus, my hatred for mirrors.
Or Zoom screens.
I don’t think I’m a particularly vain person.
But whenever I’m on a Zoom call I feel like a total narcissist.
I’m constantly looking at my own face.
I try to focus on the other people tiled on screen.
I’m not really admiring myself.
I’m just… looking.
As much as I will myself to focus on the speaker, my gaze constantly comes back to my visage.
Am I smiling enough?
Am I smiling too much?
What is this doing to my self-image?
I look old.
Zoom lighting is terrible.
My hairless head fades in and out of the Zoom background.
The shadows on my face make me look tense.
I am not tense.
My interest is in the speaker.
I critique myself for looking at myself.
Then I learned that everyone acts this way on Zoom.
Oh, yes you do.
It wasn’t until a year ago that we were constantly, relentlessly, obliged to watch ourselves in real time.
Zoomers report an inability to look away from their own face floating on the screen.
Now, Zoom is not an ordinary mirror.
Zoom is not even an alternate kind of selfie.
On Zoom, I am not a poised, static image.
I speak, gesture, smile and react.
Is everyone else seeing what I’m seeing in me?
Most people on Zoom are acting just like me.
Wondering if their focus on themselves makes them narcissistic.
Next time you are on Zoom notice each logon.
Can you see me?
Can you hear me?
Maybe those are expressions of a deeper longing.
To be seen is to exist.
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