When I was 23, I just ached to get married. All I wanted was to have a home of my own where I could stay up as late as I liked, eat ice cream, have lots of lovely sex without the panic about getting pregnant. Almost all my friends got married that year, and I was full of envy as I stamped off to yet another wedding each Saturday morning.

On this particular occasion, the wedding reception was held in an elegant home and the sun was shining. Through a glass door, I saw a pleasant, smiling, plump, middle-aged woman coming toward me. She wore a coat and dress and a ridiculous hat. She had a big cheerful face. Possibly an aunt of the bride, I decided.

She looked as if she would be nice to talk to, so I moved to hold the door open for her, but then I discovered there was no door. I had been looking in a mirror. The round, middle-aged woman with the big smile and the silly hat—that was no aunt of the bride. I was looking at myself. Now, I must say the elegant home had small, narrow windows and the lighting was neither good nor flattering. My blonde hair looked gray, and the big hat cast shadows that looked like deeply etched wrinkles. But it had to be faced: I was 23 and I had mistaken myself for someone over 50.

My first reaction was sheer interest and amazement. Is this what I look like? How extraordinary. How totally extraordinary.

Maeve Binchy is the author of Circle of Friends, and most recently Scarlet Feather.

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