Many years ago a friend recounted that for her still-stylish mother’s 90th birthday she bought her a magnifying mirror. “Because,” she added, “Well, you know…” Frankly, I didn’t know. I do now.

In His infinite mercy, the good Lord diminishes our vision as we age. Perhaps so that we and our beloveds may see ourselves through a gauzy filter. This fades or entirely erases the little additions that come with age. These include nose, ear or chin hairs, lengthening noses and ears, thinning hair and back flab.

Where I’m from, Anything Goes

But then, of course, some people do wear glasses. For them, as a few stray chin hairs do not go unnoticed. The egregiousness of this offense depends upon one’s culture. Where I live, in “anything-goes” Berkeley, California, women have been known to braid their underarm hair or see just how long they can grow a chin hair (cannot unsee) as a competitive sport.

What You Can’t See Can Hurt You (Or at Least Your Look)

A dear friend of mine has the kind of features, and particularly a mouth, that women pay a plastic surgeon good money for. But unfortunately age has brought her some vision problems. This results in a lipstick line that shares a rather casual relationship with her actual lips.

More recently, said lips have been adorned with paint (she’s a wonderful artist) and/or remnants of that morning’s breakfast. The problem doesn’t seem to be exclusive to her. Her husband has been known to leave the “barn door” open upon occasion. But these seem trifles as they appear to get on quite well even after all these years.

Another dear friend, a gorgeous woman with the most beautiful blue eyes, heavily lines them in kohl. Now, I have seen some older women artists who do this intentionally. It’s glorious, dramatic and striking. Unfortunately, my friend is a tender hearted soul and tends to tear up a lot. So within a short period of time, the black line below her lower lashes begins to drip, creating a kind of “sad clown” look.

Geography, marriage, and culture notwithstanding, a magnifying makeup mirror can be a valuable asset for any of us as we age.

Then, of Course, There’s the Value of a Full-length Mirror

Something like back flab that appears when we wear the wrong bra or a tight sweater can be a bit distracting if we are hoping to appear chic. In this case, a full-length mirror, or better yet, the kind you might find in a dressing room that has three sections so you can see yourself from behind, is a gentle truth-teller. I’ve rejected many a pair of jeans and pants that looked just fine from the front, because they revealed a rather unflatteringly and disproportionately large derriere from behind.

How do we tell people we care for that perhaps they need a new mirror, a good pair of tweezers and/or trip to the electrologist?

We can take a cue from advice column I read recently. It was suggested that one might say something along the lines of, “You know, when the light catches your face at a certain angle I notice a few stray chin hairs. Thought you might want to know…” And then the columnist advised to never mention it again.

Now depending upon the level of sensitivity of the person, and your relationship with them, this may be received with less than positive response. But someone of good cheer will thank you enormously.

The other option, of course, is to simply say nothing, judge nothing… and hope nobody is judging you.

What’s your favourite way to approach such a delicate subject with a friend? Would you want a someone to mention these things to you? Do you depend on a magnifying mirror when you apply makeup?

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