Hello? (((Hello!))) Come to me! (((Me?))) Come, I am here. (((I am here!)))
June 20, 2011 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Whitefield-Madrano is regarding mirrors in the same role that I often give to social media. (Social-media sites seem to me to be self-consciousness machines, encouraging that one maintain a directorial distance from one’s own life experience in order to strategize how to present it in update broadcasts.) But the realities of patriarchy complicate matters considerably; as much as believe we are collectively compelling one another to route our social life through commercial social-media sites, that seems like nothing compared with the coercion involved with fulfilling gendered expectations of self-presentation.
Marginal Utility dissects Mirror Fasting. A goal that blogger Whitefield-Madrano recently took up and called a Month Without Mirrors. The initial reason behind her project: "Sometimes I look in the mirror and see myself, or whatever I understand myself to be. Other times, I distinctly see an image of myself."
posted by P.o.B. (25 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I seldom look in mirrors. It's not a reflexive habit I have. I also walk around with the worst bed head and depend on others to tell me.

It's weird how one of the quoted people refers to needed to know what her own image looked like in order to parse how others were perceiving her. I can usually tell by their expression.

I've often thought of trying to go a year without, but don't think it's feasible. I go days for sure and perhaps a week or so at a time.

"I laughed in the mirror for the first time in a year."
The Cure - The figurehead
posted by cjorgensen at 3:01 PM on June 20, 2011


'Then Bioy Casares recalled that one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had declared that mirrors and copulation are abominable, because they increase the number or men.'

J.L. Borges
posted by signal at 3:04 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Josh: There's probably not a lot of reflective surfaces in the sewer.
The Penguin: Still… it could be worse. My nose could be gushing blood.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:15 PM on June 20, 2011


Whitefield-Madrano is regarding mirrors in the same role that I often give to social media. (Social-media sites seem to me to be self-consciousness machines, encouraging that one maintain a directorial distance from one’s own life experience in order to strategize how to present it in update broadcasts.) But the realities of patriarchy complicate matters considerably; as much as believe we are collectively compelling one another to route our social life through commercial social-media sites, that seems like nothing compared with the coercion involved with fulfilling gendered expectations of self-presentation.

This is a parody, right?
posted by entropicamericana at 3:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was eight, I fell and scraped my knee, hard, on a gravel driveway. As I staggered to my feet, I could feel the ticklish sensation of blood trickling down my shin. I looked down at my knee and saw a ragged, dark-red patch of torn skin and flesh, with gravel embedded in the wound. I saw what looked like a whitish patch of bone (it wasn't -- it was a piece of white gravel) and immediately burst out crying, not from the pain, but from the sight of the gore. At 42 years of age, I can still remember that horrific wound with perfect clarity.

For similar reasons, I don't really need to look at mirrors much.
posted by Pants McCracky at 3:25 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Having more mirrors might be a way of dealing with mirror related body image issues. My apartment is full of floor to ceiling mirrors (they make my small place seem larger). They're so ubiquitous that I hardly notice myself in them.

Hiding all the mirrors in my house would provide protection against the Mirror Master, but vampire identification would be more difficult. Worse, I'd be left defenseless against a Medusa attack.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:29 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Trout did another thing which some people might have considered eccentric: he called mirrors 'leaks'. It amused him to pretend that mirrors were holes between two universes.
If he saw a child near a mirror, he might wag his finger at a child warningly, and say with great solemnity, "Don't get too near that leak. You wouldn't want to wind up in the other universe, would you?"

I tried this once with my nephews when they were very young. They've long forgotten it, but it was interesting for an afternoon to have them consider the possibility of a much weirder, larger universe for a bit. I didn't play it up as a fearful warning, just an offhand, watch-your-step kind of thing. Sparked all kinds of neat questions about the universe from them. At that point, I'd try to stay in the realm of actual science, but it was a good hook at the time to spark interesting conversations with them. I guess I'm the type of guy who saw my role as an uncle to them at their age to be kind of like a Tom Baker/Dr. Who kind of thing. Good times.
posted by chambers at 3:31 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I seldom look in mirrors.

Me too. I have a careless approach to fashion, so I almost never check myself out in store windows or bathroom mirrors.

But honestly, I am a man (and married), and that's not what this mirror fast is mostly about.

Yet I’m under no illusion that I can somehow unite with my mirror image to become whole. (And—shall I state the obvious?—there’s nobody there to unite with. Coneheads trickery aside, I’m the only one who actually exists. Twist ending!)

The bigger twist ending is that "you" only "exist" in your fevered imagination.

as much as believe we are collectively compelling one another to route our social life through commercial social-media sites, that seems like nothing compared with the coercion involved with fulfilling gendered expectations of self-presentation.

This is a parody, right?


Without $5 words:

"If you think that people fraudently craft their online personas via social networks, that deception pales in scale compared to the manipulation that women perform at their mirrors every day."

But yeah, a lotta $5 words in there ... :D

Administering beauty standards is affective labor, and the myriad mirrors around us elicits it.

That's what really stood out for me as well. Anyway, I liked the reading(s). Thanks.

The disparity between standard expectations (official or not) for male and female appearance in corporate workplaces is fascinating to me, so I eat this sort of stuff up.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:44 PM on June 20, 2011


I look at mirrors first thing in the morning to make sure that I haven't changed into a monstrous verminous bug.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:03 PM on June 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


But the realities of patriarchy complicate matters considerably;

Yes, men are constantly forcing my head towards mirrors or indeed, any shiny surface. Bastards!
posted by Ideefixe at 4:08 PM on June 20, 2011


But the realities of patriarchy complicate matters considerably; as much as believe we are collectively compelling one another to route our social life through commercial social-media sites, that seems like nothing compared with the coercion involved with fulfilling gendered expectations of self-presentation.

drum roll........................................ web ads by Nair.
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:11 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was eight, I fell and scraped my knee, hard, on a gravel driveway.

When my son was three years old we were hanging out on our patio. He was kicking a ball, and scraped his toe on the concrete. He flinched a little bit, then carried on playing. A few moments later he noticed the stain on the patio. "What's that?" he asked. "Blood," I replied. "My blood?!" "Yes." At which point he burst into tears. It wasn't a mirror, but he knew instinctively that his blood shouldn't be outside of his body.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:14 PM on June 20, 2011


I hate mirrors. Any place that I have to stay for any length of time (hotel room, etc) I cover them with cloth. I especially hate them in restaurants; no one looks good while they're eating, why should I want to watch myself chew?! and sometimes have to go to great lengths to get a table where I have my back to, say, a night-time window.

That said, the fortnight I spent river-rafting, away from all mirrors, was great. It was in high-school, and the airheaded bimbos on the trip with me were always moaning about not having a way to plug in their hair dryers etc... they hadn't brought any mirror larger than a makeup compact and were feeling terrible withdrawl. One day we stopped at a campsite that had an old rusted out pickup truck nearby, and I saw them all crowded around the driver's side door... they were all looking at themselves in the mirror, getting their 'fix'...
Mirrors!
posted by The otter lady at 4:18 PM on June 20, 2011


Maybe you folks have better luck with things like a piece of dry skin on your eyebrow or a slightly-less-than-clear nasal situation, but.. when I hear about not looking into a mirror for a month, all I can think is "for Christ's sake, did you prepare yourself with a booger buddy?"

I (hope I)'m not obsessed or anything, but I have tiny mirrors in my jackets for this purpose; at times, when not afforded a mirror, I've taken a picture with my camera phone, reviewed, and deleted it. To me, that self-awareness informs my relation with the environment in a necessary way: if I'm unaware of the full scope of what I'm communicating and in what context, I risk putting forth non sequitur unknowingly, and that would be unacceptable to me.

I love mirrors to death, both because they expand all space, and they double your angles of viewing any given thing, including yourelf and your companions-- they're twice the fun/intrigue/action/&c? Plus, they reflect infinity into each other, and that's just effing cool.

...my S.O. hates them, though, so I don't get to go nuts w/ full-walls of mirror and that sort of thing, as I would if it were fully up to me.
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:31 PM on June 20, 2011


ENGLISH MOTHERFUCKER, DO YOU SPEAK IT?
posted by lazenby at 5:02 PM on June 20, 2011


The only way still open to him is self-knowledge; from now on he will explore his own inner geography, he will draw the diagram of the moods of his spirit, he will derive from it formulas and theories, he will train his telescope on the orbits traced by the course of his life rather than on those of the constellations. "We can know nothing about what is outside us if we overlook ourselves," he thinks now. "The universe is the mirror in which we can contemplate only what we have learned to know in ourselves."

And thus this new phase of his itinerary in search of wisdom is also achieved. Finally his gaze can rove freely inside himself. What will he see? Will his inner world seem to him an immense, calm rotation of a luminous spiral? Will he see stars and planets navigating in silence on the parabolas and ellipses that determine character and destiny? Will he contemplate a sphere of infinite circumference that has the ego as its center and its center in every point?

He opens his eyes. What appears to his gaze is something he seems to have seen already, every day: streets full of people, hurrying, elbowing their way ahead, without looking one another in the face, among high walls, sharp and peeling. In the background, the starry sky scatters intermitten flashes like a stalled mechanism, which jerks and creaks in all its unoiled joints, outposts of an endangered universe, twisted, restless as he is


Italo Calvino - "Mr Palomar, the Universe as Mirror"
posted by Sebmojo at 5:17 PM on June 20, 2011


I just so happen to not have had a mirror in my flat this year, not in the bathroom, not in the morning room, not in my room. I just didn't have one, I didn't think I really needed one, since I was a student and under no obligation to look nice for everyone, and I didn't particularly want one.

This aside, it was kind of a rough year for me. My flatmate dropped out and moved back in with her family, and I became extremely depressed. One of the most surreal things that I remember, just before I began getting treatment, was going to a public toilet and seeing my reflection for the first time in literally about two months. My skin looked weird and slightly jaundiced, my hair was a greasy, frizzy mess, and my eyes were incredibly bloodshot and had dark bags under them. I had to stop and stare at myself, not because I looked embarrassing or unkempt, but because I looked sick in a way that I hadn't yet realized myself to be.

I don't know, I've never been particularly for or against mirrors, but in that instance running into one gave me a weird moment of outside perspective, where the image of myself I expected and the one I got were jarringly different. That said, If I'd had a mirror in my flat, I probably wouldn't have even noticed my deterioration, so I guess this is kind of a mirror neutral anecdote.
posted by emperor.seamus at 5:20 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jeff Noon: Falling Out of Cars
posted by ovvl at 5:25 PM on June 20, 2011


our full-length mirror broke soon after we moved into our house; we didn't replace it for nearly two years, out of laziness and cheapness. It was an interesting exercise - in particular, I stopped looking at my body and, instead, began feeling my body (I'm a woman). The constant refrain in my head of "Am I fat? Do I look fat in this?" quieted down, and rather than "Are my thighs huge? Is my chest too droopy?" I started thinking in terms of "I feel strong today," or "I feel uncomfortable in my skin today." I felt that my clothes were uncomfortably tight or too loose, rather than squeezing myself into shapewear that felt awful but looked alright or belting things. I had honestly never experienced life like that before.

Now I sew a lot more and we finally had to get a mirror so I could fit my muslins properly. But I hardly ever look at it otherwise, and life has been pretty good going on what I feel and know about myself rather than what I think others see.
posted by peachfuzz at 5:48 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


About five years ago, I was wandering around Chicago, and decided to stop in a nearby American Apparel. Shopping at American Apparel has never made me feel good about myself, and that year, I'd lost my job and gained a few dozen pounds, so I couldn't really afford or fit into most of the things in the store. I was depressed from losing my job and I was having a bad day: I don't remember the specifics, but I was trying to find an apartment, and I was in the neighborhood because of some annoying complication involving cosigners or shady landlords or something. I felt pretty crappy about myself and the world. But I had nothing better to do, so I went shopping.

It was the middle of the day, so the store was fairly empty, which was a relief. I'd always felt like the people in American Apparel were silently judging my fat disheveled uncool ass. But none of them were paying any attention to me, so I grabbed a couple dresses and slunk over to the fitting room, hoping I could at least get something over my head.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl walking towards the fitting room from the opposite direction. NOOO! HIPSTERS! I tried not to look at her, and I didn't want her to notice me. I got all sorts of pissed at this stranger, because she represented what I was not, and I was jealous. I was thinking, look at her stupid cute outfit that looks good on her stupid figure, walking around like she doesn't care. I bet she never has to worry about finding stuff that fits.

Then I realized my shirt was the same color as the horrible hipster chick's. And then I realized there was no horrible hipster chick; I was facing a mirrored wall. And I was hating my own reflection for looking better than my mental image of me.

It was a bizarre experience, not recognizing myself in the mirror, and judging myself as I would a stranger. I didn't come to any sudden realizations about beauty or perception, but I did realize that I was a jerk. And while I didn't completely turn around on that day, over the years I've made an effort to break that habit of snottily judging other people. I'm just the same as everyone else; the only difference is that if we all stand together, my face is the one I happen to recognize. Most of the time.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:52 PM on June 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


Also, previously. Like I said before, he sees the same marxist style critiques in everything.
posted by zabuni at 6:33 PM on June 20, 2011


I guess that's why some religions have their followers covering mirrors during periods of mourning: to be able to sit and just be with the feelings tumbling around inside you without any external distraction.

That said, I can't help but psychoanalyze this a little bit and wonder if people who avoid mirrors aren't just, like, y'know, totes uggs.
posted by Mooseli at 2:05 AM on June 21, 2011


The unlived life is not worth examining.
posted by joannemullen at 3:41 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's a '$5 word'? Is it bad to be polysyllabic?
posted by mippy at 8:39 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I risk putting forth non sequitur unknowingly, and that would be unacceptable to me.

That would be wonderful to me.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:33 AM on June 21, 2011


« Older Philosophy Bro: Philosophy is hard - I read and su...  |  Life imitates O'Henry's "The C... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments