A Week Without Mirrors

Venus at her Mirror by Rubens, 1612-1615
Venus at her Mirror by Rubens, 1612-1615

What would a day be like without looking at ourselves in a mirror? The idea of seeing our own reflections – first thing in the morning, or anytime we want to check something out – is so easy and automatic that we don’t even think of it. Mirrors surround us – in our bathrooms, our bedrooms, and even on the street if we live in a city. The ubiquity of mirrors in our lives mean that we are constantly checking ourselves out – something that could be good or bad, depending on who you ask.

Yet plentiful mirrors are an artifact of modern life – they used to be so expensive and rare that only the wealthiest people had access to clear ones – and even they didn’t have very many (even 17th century Venus, left, with her earthly and heavenly “help”, has a fairly small mirror). So what does that mean for us moderns? Much has been said about the constant barrage of perfect faces and bodies in mass advertising, but what of our ability to compare ourselves? If we took a break from our own reflections, would that change the ongoing monologues inside our heads? Or maybe just give us a chance to hear the voices for what they are?

These questions are the basis of a year-long personal experiment done by Kjerstin Gruys. As a bride-to-be, Kjerstin was going through the craziness of wedding dress shopping, and having struggled with eating disorders in the past, found the inner Bridezilla monologue especially crazy-inducing. So she hatched a plan – maybe taking a year away from the mirror would help? It was an ambitious project, and undertaking it while planning a wedding (and working on her PhD thesis) provided amusing anecdotes for her blog readers, and has now yielded a memoir, Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year.

Kjerstin has invited other beauty bloggers to spend a Day Without Mirrors, on May 2nd, in concert with her book release. I’ve been fascinated by the concept of mirror fasting since I read about it on The Beheld, though Autumn’s month-long fast is a little long for me. I’ve written about the history of mirrors in the past, but “doing without” is not generally my thing. So I’ve decided to go a week without mirrors, and see what happens.

Is it 100% no mirrors? I’ve covered the bathroom mirrors with paper, but there’s a flap to expose a 2×4″ area so I can get my contacts in and do makeup/grooming. This isn’t a week without grooming (or seeing clearly) – it’s more a way of removing the reflexive “checking myself out” that happens every time I’m in the bathroom. As for the outside world, I’ll just have to consciously avoid looking at my own reflection, which could be weird. If I’m working a studio job (so far everything’s on location), I’ll really be avoiding myself – though I have a habit of not really looking at myself in the mirror at work anyway, since I’m concentrating on making the models look the way they need to. It’ll be weirder at the gym, where the mirrors are huge and yes, I do spend my fair share of time looking into them. We shall see.

What inner voices about my appearance have been threading through my brain that I’m not aware of? Does my face still exist if I don’t see it every day? What is my dependence on this modern technology? And what will I experience if I’m not using it? These are questions I can think of now, though more will come up as I embark on this mini-journey (and read Kjerstin’s book while doing so.)

I’ll be sharing periodically during the week, and if you’re joining in the Day Without Mirrors, please feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

Resources on mirror fasting:

Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year by Kjerstin Gruys.

A Year Without Mirrors – in real time (blog).

A Month Without Mirrors at The Beheld

Mirrors: A Short History at Wild Beauty.

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