As you get older, the bathroom mirror can be a cruel friend
The balding man in the bathroom mirror has a double chin and jowls which droop like the sails of a yacht on a windless sea. His blue eyes have faded to grey. The skin under his eye sockets sags like an airbag which should have been packed away after a collision years ago but has been left hanging from the car dashboard instead.
His eyebrows are unruly bushes and tendrils of grey hair sprout out over the top of a black T-shirt, like knotweed. The hair in his ears is knitting itself into a black, thicket fence and his nasal hairs are bolting from his nose like madcap runner beans.
But it’s the contrast between his pate where the hair is in retreat and the rest of his body where his hair seems to be positively blooming, which is so horribly fascinating. He looks like a garden that’s rewilding chaotically. He urgently needs a flying visit from Alan Titchmarsh and the Ground Force team to restore order.
I realise this man is me…
As I lean closer towards the mirror, I realise it really is me in the mirror not some other balding man. Reality sinks in. I have evolved into the thing every young man fears he will never become: a hairy eared, bushy eyebrowed, nasal clipping old man. I have become part man, part yeti.
And there’s no point pretending this abominable thing is the result of one night’s heavy drinking or that I can restore myself to some former glory with a single, vigorous cold shower. This hideous hairiness is the result of years of my own grooming indolence. I have connived in my own shaggy downfall. Look upon my ear lobes ye mighty and despair.
As I look again in the mirror I am reminded of a song:
‘Mirror in the bathroom / Please Talk Free / The Door is locked / Just you and me.’*
And, suddenly, I get the message. My mind is flagging up this song because it wants me to pull myself together and set myself grooming goals which will stop me drifting further down the mountainside to full yeti. The plan forms itself immediately: follow David Beckham on Instagram, start reading the weekend fashion supplements and buy new nasal clippers. Simples.
I tell the family…
So, later that day, I explain my thinking to the family.
‘People say we shouldn’t go back to the old normal after Covid. This is a chance for society to do things differently. This is one thing I could do,’ I say.
‘Trimming your ear lobes is going to be your contribution to a new post Covid society?’ asks my daughter.
‘And my nose and eyebrows, too,’ I say.
‘It’s not exactly revolutionary, is it?’
‘And it’s not the sort of radical covid job creation scheme I’m hoping for,’ says my son, who is on the job market for the first time as he decides whether to go to university.
‘This is about your father’s sense of self-worth. And mine, too. If it means he stops looking like he’s given up on life, that’s good enough for me,’ says my wife.
‘Fair point. He looks a constant mess at the moment,’ says my son.
‘Diet and exercise are what you really need,’ says my daughter.
‘Surgery, too. Eye tucks. Chin tucks.’
‘Bariatrics,’ says my daughter, stretching the word out.
The children fall about laughing
As they fall about laughing, it’s clear my vulpine children have no interest or understanding in the trauma caused by becoming part balding man, part yeti. I guess it’s too much to ask for some sympathy?
My wife puts a little package in front of me. Inside is a sleek black electric nasal shaver with a ceramic snap-in blade.
‘It’s called the Lawn Mower and I forgot to give it to you for Father’s Day. All this chat about you turning into a yeti reminded me where I’d put it.’
I’m chuffed to bits. This is the crutch which will help me meet my first grooming goal – no nasal hair.
‘The hairdressers are open now,’ says my wife. ‘I think you should book yourself in for a proper trim. That haircut I gave you with the other clippers isn’t very flattering, frankly.’
*Lyrics from ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ copyright The Beat