I do not make a pretty picture while sitting on the toilet. I know this because far too many hotels seem to think it good design to place full-length mirrors on the wall or door opposite the commode. Once I settle in and finish distracting myself with arranging my clothes and wadding up a good handful of tissue, I am left with full view of myself as my main entertainment.
Despite the unsavory nature of the tableau before me, I find it difficult to look away, like the innate tendency to rubberneck at an accident. I once stayed in a hotel with a mirror on the wall to my left in addition to the one forming the main-stage of the show on the door. This reduced my options for looking away and added a profile vision of myself en scuotendo flagrantiamente should I wish to carefully examine how I would look if photographed intimately during this act.
I looked for awhile, examining how the flesh of my buttocks and thighs bunched up from the pressure of the seat, then met my own gaze. We both sighed, then looked away, giving each other what privacy we could manage.
Mirrors are very useful things but like all tools they can be overused, or used for the wrong purpose. Placing one so I can watch myself defecate is both.
Some hotels, as well as some acquaintances whose bathrooms I have used, also think a mirror above the toilet is de rigueur, situated so I can watch myself urinate. It is true that men, myself included, occasionally admire the sight of their penis in a mirror, but that is usually reserved for the quick glance at an amazing episode of Morning Wood or other occasion in which pride is warranted. Having a front-row seat to observe my best friend in his worst condition, dutifully micturating, is neither sexy nor interesting. I usually find myself staring nonetheless.
These experiences lead me to concoct conspiracy theories in which sadists collude with psychologists to devise a method that makes the victim mentally uncomfortable while forcing them to fixate on an aspect of their own body rarely observed with care.
Twenty years ago my wife and I honeymooned in a hotel room with mirrors on two full walls and the ceiling over the bed. It was fun for about four-and-a-half minutes, and that’s when we were young and slim and sexy. If we tried that today I’m afraid she’d lose herself in laughter and I’d lose myself in flaccid disappointment.
Even back-bar mirrors bother me now, though I used them for their intended purpose — catching the eye of that redhead fours stools away — back when I and the world were young. Today they only serve to make me self-conscious while drinking, a combination that makes the beer taste flat and my moral foundations feel unstable.
I once stared at myself in a bathroom mirror under the influence of hallucinogens for what seemed like hours but was, in fact, only about five minutes. It felt like hours because I was waiting for some explosive epiphany about my soul to flood my consciousness but none was forthcoming. It was only five minutes because a trip-mate starting showing a Bugs Bunny cartoon backward in the living room. The laughter acted on me like the Sirens on Ulysses and there was no one to tie me to the drain pipe under the sink.
Anything is more interesting than seeing myself in a mirror — anything. I’m able to use it to to shave or brush my teeth in the morning, or to check my teeth for spinach and my shirt for marinara stains before returning to the dinner party. Whatever the purpose, only a few quick glances are needed. But only a few of those glances are at me, the myself that is standing before the cursed combination of glass and powdered aluminum, the guy who would rather see the world from the inside out, and not glance back from the outside in.
The former is far more beautiful and wondrous.