Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 5 - The Rules

Good Morning!

A lot of folks have been asking me about the "rules" of this project.  I'll be updating the list as a "final" version soon, but here's what things are looking like for now.  Please give me feedback if you think I've forgotten anything!

1) I'm allowing myself an approximate 1-month transitional period.  This is when I'll figure out how to navigate/avoid mirrors in my daily life, and how to apply make-up, style my hair, put in contacts, etc. without using a mirror.

2) Reflective surfaces do "count".  Window shopping may become tricky... :(

3) I will use the rear- and side-view mirrors when driving.  I just can't use them to check myself out!

4) I'm allowing myself to see my shadow. 

5) When using skype or other video-chat programs, I will disable features that allow me to see my own image.

6) Blogging: I'm planning to post 2-3 times per week, aiming for a ratio of 2 "personal" posts + 1 "educational" post.  "Personal" posts will discuss my experiences.  "Educational" posts will explore interesting tidbits I learn about mirrors along the way - from history, literature, and art, to psychological research and sociological theory!

Finally.... I have not figured out what to do about photos and digital cameras.  I've decided I can't give up having my picture taken, but I'm not sure how long I should have to wait before seeing pictures of myself.  1 day?  1 week?  1 month?  At the end of the project?  

Have I forgotten anything from this list?

What do YOU think?

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 3 - Poem: "Beyong the Looking Glass" by E.P.C.

Hey everyone, I just found this outstanding poem.  Perfect for this project.  It's beautiful, poignant, and funny (check out that stellar closing line!).  Enjoy.

Mirror, mirror on the wall . . .
Who is the fairest one of all . . .

Out flew the web and floated wide . . .
The mirror cracked from side to side . . .
The cracking of this crystal sphere
Was greeted by a rousing cheer
A joyful cry that filled the air
From thinking women everywhere
The smashing of this narrow glass
Which lived to hurt and to harass
Pernicious magic; dark, arcane
Existed only to cause pain
The things it loved most to create
Were envy, rancor, gall and hate
It’s message spoke of surface things
The beauty of the wives of kings
Who in it’s depth would sit and stare
And wonder if they were most fair
It’s true intent was low and starker
Something deep and so much darker
It’s mission here upon the earth:
To prove that women have no worth
The things it hoped to bring about
Were fear, resentment and self doubt
To feed on woman’s greatest fears
And it had worked for many years
Generations it had held in thrall
With “whose is the fairest one of all”

It’s urgent that we understand
The duplicity this mirror had planned
It made the mirror laugh and exalt
When a woman thought it her own fault
It made the mirror extremely glad
When a woman thought that she was bad
It was the foul mirror’s fondest dream
To obliterate all self-esteem
And make a woman quail and balk
For wanting to hear its wretched talk
To keep her spirit in upheaval
Believing the wanting made her evil
To feel her feelings cloaked with grime
As if emotions were a crime
To make her feel she needed shrift
For owning the Goddess’ greatest gift
Nature’s magnificent work of art
A woman’s full, emoting heart

But now we’ve smashed the wretched mirror
Broken it’s hold; erased the fear
And it’s about time that it was gone
With all the pain it’s words could spawn
Turning women against each other
Friend and sister, daughter, mother
All that trash about who is best
“Who is better than all the rest?”
While all those words of false self-pride
Just bruised and wounded from inside
But, now we know it’s words are hollow
A new-found wisdom we will follow
Henceforward we’ll show lots more smarts
And believe the truth of our own hearts
We’ll scatter this dark glass on the waters
And build a new glass for our daughters
A smooth, clear glass that will project
Authenticity and self respect
With wisdom’s width and truth of length
To mirror a woman’s many strengths
A looking glass not made of sand
But shaped of things we understand
A mirror milled from moon and star
That shows exactly who you are
Out flew the web and floated wide
The mirror cracked from side to side
Good riddance to that harping witch!
That mirror was always such a bitch

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 1 - Reactions

I am one of those people who becomes intensely excited about things, and feels a NEED to share whatever I'm excited about with the people around me.  This is often annoying, like when I try to shove bites of my "delicious! so good! you have to try this!" food into peoples mouths while they're talking to me at a nice restaurant.  I do the same with unique alcoholic beverages.

At my worst, when I find a new perfume that blows my mind, I act a bit like those women who try to spritz things at you in department stores.

Well... Naturally, I couldn't keep my exciting new plan a secret.  Immediately after landing in Los Angeles, I called my mom to share the news.  It went something like this:

MOM: hello?
KJ: Hey Mom, I'm calling to let you know that I landed safely!  I'm here in L.A.
MOM: Oh great, thanks.  By the way - I have your wedding dress hanging up in my closet, and it's just beautiful.  So nice to look at...  I love it!
KJ: Oh yeah, cool.  Ummm... don't try it on, okay?
MOM: I think I can resist the temptation.
KJ: Sooo.... actually... I wanted to call about this other thing.  I just came up with a project idea that I am REALLY EXCITED about!
MOM: Oh, okay.... (taking deep breath - she's heard this tone before)  Tell me about it.
KJ: Yeah, so here it is: you know how I was sooo drained yesterday after all the dress shopping?
MOM: Yeah...
KJ: Right!  So.  I was reading this book about nuns who never - not in their WHOLE LIVES - see themselves.  No mirrors.  They can't even look down at their bodies when they change, right?
MOM: Okay....
KJ: So that made me think... I want to give up mirrors for a year, and I'm going to write about it to reflect about the experience.  I can learn about the history of mirrors, and research on mirrors from sociology and psychology.  It feels totally up my alley, and probably good for me too.
MOM: Oh wow, that sounds cool!  I've always seen you as a writer....
KJ: Thanks. Well I wanted to tell right away you since you're always, like, my #1 fan.
MOM: Awww, that's nice of you to say.   I am!  But... just to be sure... you're not going to start this thing until AFTER the wedding, right?
KJ: Ummm, actually, I'm worried that if I don't start now I won't start at all.  It's the wedding stuff that's motivating me to do this in the first place.
MOM:  Well, hrmmm.  I don't know how I feel about that....

We got off the phone with kind words: she, still uncertain, and me.... also a bit uncertain.  When your #1 fan thinks you should hold off on something, you take pause, right?

Thankfully, the next person I spoke to was M, my fiancĂ© and second #1 fan. (Yes, I have two...  I can't be expected to pick between my mom and the love-of-my-life.)  When I saw M at the airport, I gave him a hug and kiss, and then immediately launched into the same hurried explanation.  His enthusiasm and support matched my mother's, but with one important difference: when I told him that my mom had implored me to wait until after the wedding, he said, "Well... you know.... now you HAVE to do it before the wedding!"  Haha! Indeed.

And that, ladies and gents, is why I love him so much.  (And you too, Mom!)

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Day 1 - The Inspiration

I left St. Louis feeling pretty good.  On my flight back to sunny Los Angeles, I remember feeling relieved that
(1) I had successfully given 4 (!) presentations at my conference, and
(2), as I mentioned in my last post, I had found a wedding dress I felt comfortable in (and which gave my mom goosebumps).

Yet, I felt ill at ease when reflecting on the dress situation.  Was all that really necessary?  Did my happiness over dress #2 outweigh the expense and self-centered obsessing I had gone through to get it?  Was this my first slippery-sloped step toward bridezilla land?  Sighing, I decided to channel Scarlett O'Hara and "think of it tomorrow."  Determined to distract myself, I turned to the first page of a new book, The Birth of Venus, by Sarah Dunant. 

Within 2 pages of the prologue, this project was planted in my mind.  Here is what I read:

No one had seen her naked until her death.  It was a rule of the order that the Sisters should not look on human flesh, neither their own nor anyone else’s.  A considerable amount of thought had gone into the drafting of this observance.  Under the billowing folds of their habits each nun wore a long cotton shift, a garment they kept on always, even when they washed, so that it acted as a screen and partial drying cloth as well as a night shift.  This shift they changed once a month (more in summer when the stagnant Tuscan air bathed them in sweat), and there were careful instructions as to correct procedure: how they should keep their eyes firmly fixed on the crucifix above their bed as they disrobed.  If any did let their gaze stray downward, the sin was a matter for the confessional and therefore not for history.” (Prologue of The Birth of Venus, by Sarah Dunant)

lifetime without seeing oneself.  It made me pause.  What a different life those nuns had lived, compared my appearance-obsessed world of Los Angeles!  Could I go even one day without looking at myself in a mirror?   Maybe I should.  Actually, how about a year??  

My brain was having one of those rare “aha” moment.  My values and behaviors had been at odds, and this would be the "step back" from vanity that I needed.  I would force myself to experience life from the inside-out, instead of the outside-in.  But could I do it?   How?  And with what effects on my life, self-image, and personal and professional relationships?  Was it possible that removing mirrors from my life might actually cause me to become more obsessed or insecure about my appearance?  Would I completely lose the ability to apply make-up, style my hair, or select flattering and chic outfits?  Despite these looming questions, I felt very determined.  Somehow, I would wean myself off of mirrors for a year!

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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Day Before Day 1

I bought my first wedding dress the same week that I got engaged.  In my giddiness in being officially betrothed, I accompanied an also-engaged friend to a fabulous sample sale at the Los Angeles Glamour Closet.  Most of the dresses didn't even fit me, which was mildly frustrating (especially when I wasn't ALLOWED to try on a few!), but one caught my eye and fit the bill, and my butt.  A gorgeous Romona Keveza gown, in light blush slubbed silk with lace detailing and a dramatic train.  The ex-fashion merchandizer in me was satisfied.  The current (penny-pinching) grad student in me was relieved by the 80% discount.  My friend, the saleswomen, and my Aunt Sarah (on-the-phone-from-South-Dakota) approved.  I bought it.  I loved it.  It loved me.  Until... somehow... we fell out of love.

Mirrors are to blame.  Damned mirrors.  I tried on that amazing, gorgeous, fantastic dress at least once every few weeks for 4 months.  Each time I looked in the mirror, I felt a bit less sure.  The dress was, undeniably, a bit tight around my waist and hips.  Through the slubbed silk, I could see my belly-button (or - more specifically - the doughnut of flesh surrounding it).  It was a negligible tightness - the type remedied by a month  of skipped desserts, and some Spanx.  At first I confidently told myself that it would be so so easy to fit into it by my October 1st wedding - 11 months away.  But as weeks wore on, I became less excited.  Trying on my wedding dress was supposed to instill confidence and positive anticipation, but the sight of a bit of belly behind the fabric was disheartening.  Sometimes I felt like I couldn't breathe when it was fully zipped.  I began to resent the dress.  

Flash forward to March 25th.  I was in my hometown of St. Louis, visiting my parents while attending a professional conference.  My mom, who hadn't been able to go dress shopping with me the first time, had heard enough of my kvetching, and (secretly excited, I'm sure), made appointments at area bridal salons, "just to look."  Sure enough, after an exhaustive hunt through the sample-rack at salon #1, we found my second wedding dress.  This one was lacking a bit in uniqueness (compared to the blush of my first love), but was a similar style, and it FIT PERFECTLY.  No doughnut in sight.  My mom got the requisite goosebumps.  I could breathe.   $700.  Done.

I was, and remain, so relieved to have found a dress I feel comfortable and beautiful wearing. But I was also getting really, really, sick of staring at myself in the mirror.  In those moments I felt like the worst version of myself - insecure, indecisive, vain.  My vanity had already cost me several hundreds of dollars (BTW - email if you're looking for a gorgeous wedding dress!).  More importantly, I had lost both time and emotional energy in the process.  The dress shopping had put me over the edge, and with the requisite wedding make-up and hair trials, there would be more vanity to come.  Something had to give.  It was time to take a serious look in the mirror - or was it?

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