Friday, November 30, 2012

Virtual Reality


We were at piano lessons on Wednesday. My kids take them back-to-back from Teacher Brittany, who is twenty-something and darling, with tattoos of piano notes on her arm and a working knowledge of everything sung by Adele.

While Child #1 was learning Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Child #2 and I sat doing homework on the futon couch. "Mom," he said leaning over. "I really have to use the bathroom."

I escorted him upstairs, returned to the futon and then waited. For a really long time. Finally I went back upstairs to check on him. The door was open and, as I watched, he picked up Teacher Brittany's bathroom items, a hairbrush, contact lens solution, a pair of earrings and added them to the assortment he'd already assembled in front of a small 8 x 10 mirror.

"Child #2!" I said. "What are you doing?!?"

He motioned me into the bathroom and pointed at the mirror which, for him, was eye-level. "Look mom," he said.

I looked at the mirror and saw it was stenciled with a familiar saying with a twist. "Objects in mirror are BETTER than they appear."

He smiled and pointed at the row of objects he'd put together. "I'm waiting for all these things to get better!"

So, of course, I laughed at his little boy literallness. But later that night I started thinking about it again and it made me wonder about the ways the rest of us are literalists.

The holiday season is upon us with stores blasting Christmas carols that tell us to be of good cheer. But are we? Is the expectation we will be endlessly joyful during the month of December any less literal than lining things up in front of a mirror and waiting for them to get better?

What about women's magazines?

They give us airbrushed images of the female form alongside workout regimes and recipes for cookies. The message; we can look that way, if we work out hard, but it's still fine to eat cookies.

Are we dejected when we follow their glossy advice and don't end up looking like a cover model? When things, in the mirror of our self-esteem, are actually worse than they appear?

Maybe the trick is to recognize our literal tendencies and use them sparingly, like accessories. A shiny patent leather belief that volunteering has the power to change the world; make objects in the mirror better than they appear. And the ability to know when to leave that zebra-striped backpack of commercially packaged literal thinking at home.

16 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd just break the mirror.

Beylit said...

That makes me think of my mother rubbing her elbow bloody while cleaning a wall as a young girl because her teacher told her to 'put elbow grease into it'.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh how cute. I love how kids process things. It makes one look at the same O, same O differently. A fresh perspective.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I read those women's magazines (I even subscribe to one of them). But it is tough to see women who I will never look like. They have all these articles about how to stay in shape, and they even offer substitutions for things like cookies. But if I have to choose between a cookie and a scoop of nonfat (and nonflavor) ice cream, I'll choose the cookie.

lizy b said...

Give that little boy a squish from all of us out here...

Barbara Watson said...

All mirrors should have that inscribed on them.

Johanna Garth said...

Alex! You wouldn't break the mirror.

Beylit, that's so crazy. Your poor mom.

Sia, it's a whole different perspective.

Neurotic, I ALWAYS choose the cookie.

Lizy, absolutely!

Barbara, I know. And I looked for one to buy, or at least post a picture of and none were to be found.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, your son is too cute! And you have a great point. We need to be careful about taking things literally that AREN'T.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That is so cute! Wish it worked.

Carol Kilgore said...

Mixed messages. Sometimes it's difficult for adults to know when to take things literally. Much more difficult for kids.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I knew there was a reason I quit reading those magazines. :D

jenny milchman said...

That is an excellent story!! And you are beautiful, literally and otherwise :)

Chuck said...

At first your mention of piano lessons took me back to when I was a kid. Never really progressed very far with it and I say that with regret. But the kid in the bathroom story was too much!

naida said...

awww...he's too cute. Great post Johanna.
I have a problem with those women's magazines and the fakeness they try to push onto people. Nobody looks that good, not even those models. It's sad that people, especially young girls try to strive for that, when it's not even real to begin with.

Kelley Lynn said...

I think I'm gonna put that on my mirror too! Such a cute story!

Kristen Wixted said...

I absolutely avoid women's magazines because they confuse me so.

I have a literal child (she is my 13 year old) and she still takes things wrong sometimes in such a charming way. Love that story about your son.