Reflected gory

There’s a well-known passage in Franny and Zooey that has Zooey shaving in a mirror but trying not to look at his face in the process. When I read it—once only, I think—in 1965 or so, I took it as a interesting Zen exercise, and even though I was still probably shaving only once a week, I attempted to emulate his approach. Unlike Zooey, I wasn’t a handsome man battling vanity. I was just an uncertain boy who wanted some control over his body and mind and a little self-discipline. I’m still at it, though now it’s mere habit.

All this is to say I’m practiced in not looking at myself. But I still get surprised at the gym, where every move is thrown back at you. The weights I’m trying to lift, the exercises I’m trying to master, and the techniques I’m trying to learn are a real effort, so I usually focus hard on a spot on the floor out ahead of me or the ceiling above. Sometimes, overmatched by weight or sideswiped by fatigue, I give in to a grimace, which has the effect of closing my eyes altogether. But once in a while, I inadvertently but inevitably catch a horrifying view of a fat old man gasping and sagging on a bench or bent heavily forward with hands on knees. I recognize the guy, and I give him credit for what he’s doing, but when the synapses fully close and I realize that he is me, I think, “Where did I go?”

And then I think, “Effing mirrors.”


Reflected gory — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Goodbye, Mr. Chubby? | Catswamp

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