Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 66: What looking in a mirror SHOULD feel like!

Hi Everyone,
I know this video has already gone viral, but, if you haven't seen it... you should!  THIS is what looking into a mirror SHOULD feel like!  I'm going to keep the link bookmarked for times when I need a feel-good fix.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 63 - Improve YOUR Mirror (or Somebody Else's)!

Original Image from Operation Beautiful
Hi Everyone!  Sorry for the lag between posts this week.  Between my trip to South Dakota, and another short adventure back to Los Angeles to teach the last class of my seminar... I've felt a bit scattered!  Thankfully, I've managed to gather all my pieces and put myself back together.  So... T.G.I.F., and here's my latest post:

I received a precious package in the mail while I was away: a letter from About-Face (my favorite amazing girl-positive non-profit).  Check out what was written on the bottom corner of the "100% Recycled Paper, 40% Post Consumer Waste" envelope: Mirror Decal Inside!   Score!  Like most folks, I love free gifts.  But... if this one involved mirrors, would I be able to enjoy it?  The anticipation was killing me.  I opened the envelope.
Inside, I found a new About-Face brochure, a letter updating me on current events, a request to donate (I already had), and.... (bated breath).... a beautiful clear sticker with the message, "Beauty FITS every SIZE."  Beautiful!   I know that this decal was intended for a mirror, but I obviously couldn't swing that (yeah, it might be a nice message for M to wake up to, but the letter was addressed to ME!).  Instead, I decided to display the decal on the window next to my desk at home.  

That said, if any of you readers are interested in improving your outlook on life by upgrading your mirrors with a sweet decal... here's the scoop: As far as I know, there are two organizations out there who have dedicated themselves in some way to disrupting poor body image through body-positive mirror decals.  

First (obviously), in summer of 2009, About-Face organized a "Take Action" group of teen girls, who came up with the idea to make these body-positive static-cling mirror decals, and then venture out to San Francisco's Union Square shopping area to place them on dressing room mirrors at multiple clothing stores.  They named it the "Covert Dressing Room Action" and you can read more about it on this page of the About-Face website.  You'll also find directions for how to make your own static-cling decals, or how you can purchase pre-made decals from About-Face. For those of you who just want a quick feel-good about the world fix, here's a youtube video of the project.  
Pretty awesome, huh?!

Okay, the second organization worth mentioning here is Operation Beautiful, found at www.operationbeautiful.com.  Their mission: "Post encouraging notes in public places for other women to find." It looks like a lot of these notes end up on mirrors (as seen in the picture I chose at the start of this post).

For obvious reasons, the Operation Beautiful project has taken off in a big way. The founder, Caitlin Boyle, recently released a books titled Operation Beautiful: Transforming the Way You See Yourself One Post-it Note at a Time.  For a closer peek at the variety of positive post-it note messages that have sprung up through Operation Beautiful, here's another youtube video (this one is a stunning cover of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" by a cappella artist Peter Collens):

For those of you who - like me - are feeling inspired by these projects, I encourage you to 
start bedazzling the mirrors in your own life ASAP.  On that note, here's a closing request from Operation Beautiful, and me:
"Remember, Sticky Notes, Not Graffiti!"

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 58: Greetings from South Dakota!

Yes, I'm writing from South Dakota; Custer, SD, to be exact.  Custer is a land where the buffalo still roam, and were the deer and the antelope still play.  (I just enjoyed a delicious meal of venison sloppy-joes as proof of such things.  Yum!)  This is the state where my mom grew up, and where my cousin just graduated from high school.  I'm here with my family to celebrate (Congrats Alex!). I've been in Custer since Thursday (Day 55), and tonight I'm at the airport waiting for my flight back to California.  It's been an interesting trip, so I wanted to "reflect" on some things before I leave.

If you didn't pick up on this from my "venison sloppy-joes" comment, I'll put it plainly: Custer, SD is very different from Los Angeles, CA.  The cost of living is much lower, the air quality is better (it smells like pine trees and you can see the stars at night!), and it snows... in May.

Another big difference is that people here seem to be a lot more down-to-earth.  This leads to some significant cultural differences, as far as beauty and self image go.  I'm not saying that folks here don't care about their appearance, or that they don't look fabulous - they do, and they do!  But, I did notice that there seems to be a little less fuss and a lot less plastic surgery.  Perhaps most refreshing: even at special events, like graduation parties, the spirit is much more come-as-you-are, and a lot less come-as-the-latest-trendy-celebrity.  I wore the exact same tee-shirt on two days during my four-day visit, and nobody cared.  Actually, my mom said, "Oh, I LOVE that shirt!" both times.  Yeah, I still put on my makeup, but there wasn't a hair-dryer available and it didn't bother me.  I think that Custer, SD is the kind of place where I might have managed to overcome my bridal body-insecurities without a no-mirrors intervention.

How about mirrors in Custer?  Oh, they're still everywhere.  In fact, I caught a peek of myself in a bathroom mirror this morning, but I was too groggy for it to really register.  I've grown accustomed to having curtains covering all the mirrors at home, so my reflection kind of startled me.  Luckily, in addition to being groggy, I was also not wearing my contacts or glasses, so I didn't really see myself, just colors and shapes.

Later on, when I was washing my face, I was very careful to keep my eyes DOWN, so it wouldn't happen again.  Just my luck - I could see my reflection in the sink drain-cover!  I took a picture of it to share.  As you can see, it was fun-house-style warped, and didn't reveal much detail below the neck (or above it, for that matter!).  I found myself wondering, why haven't I ever seen myself reflected in my drain-cover at home?? It struck me: this sink has been cleaned recently!  Oh well... 

Fun memory: My young cousins, Sadie and Julie, were really intrigued by my makeup-without-mirror skills.   They actually watched me apply everything, step-by-step, to prove that I could do it.  (I did it!)  I even gave eyeliner a try, and was promised it looked "normal good".  Yippee!

Some closing thoughts:  Sadie's 14th birthday is this coming Tuesday, and my family gave her a pretty extensive collection of drugstore makeup (purchased at the local Family Dollar) as a gift.  I signed the card and sang the song - I love this little girl/woman!  But I feel a little mixed about the subliminal pro-makeup message we'd sent along with the gift.  Sadie, if you're reading this (and you should be, since we set you up as an email subscriber!) - please have FUN with your makeup, but know that you're beautiful with out it, okay?   I'm twice your age, and still working to believe this, myself... I hope that reading about my experiences will help give you and Julia a head-start at having a healthy body image.  Growing up in Custer won't hurt either! :)

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day 56: 3 ways this project has restored my wedding-sanity

Yes, Ugly Teva Stilettos.  Only $330!
Remember my fears of slipping down that slippery-slope to bridezilla-land?  Well... I'm making no promises for future issues that may arise, but I feel like this mirror mirror project has put some serious treads in my stilettos.  With all the planning left to do (flowers! shuttles!! hair!!! makeup!!!!), it's still a slippery-slope, but I'm climbing up instead of sliding down.

Here are 3 ways that this project has restored some wedding-sanity:

1)  Now that I can't look at myself in the mirror, I've stopped trying on my wedding dress(es).  Yeah, I attempted to do this once without a mirror (habits die hard), and it felt really stupid.  And heavy.  Time saved: 20-40 minutes per month, depending on how easily the damned things zip.  (Note: I still feel a little bit obsessive/worried about whether I've got the "perfect" dress, but this is waning a bit each day.  See comments from my last post, regarding critiques of a $161-Billion wedding-industry that would fully support my purchase of infinite dresses, in search of an un-achievable "one".)

2) I've reduced my spending on beauty products.  I used to peruse the makeup aisle at CVS, and purchase when inspired.  Now that I've memorized my makeup routine using particular products, I don't feel motivated to deviate.  Although a small piece of be bemoans the reduction in my cosmetic creativity... a peek at my makeup drawer confirms that I wasn't all that creative to begin with (nude lipgloss, anyone?  I've got twenty!).  Money saved: probably $10/week.  Well, more like $30/week if you count all the random other stuff I typically got "inspired" by on these trips.  It remains to be seen whether this project might actually increase my spending on beauty services.  Will I completely give up eyebrow grooming and the occasional "inspired" at-home hair-dyeing escapade? Will I attempt these tasks sans-mirror?  Or, will I farm them out to the pros?  (Note: allowing M to perform said tasks is NOT an option I'm seriously considering!)

Original image found here.
3) Finally, the very act of "announcing" so publicly that I need to take a step back from the wedding craziness has been enough for me to take the task seriously in more realms than just my appearance.   I've caught myself not thinking about my wedding for entire days!  Yes, it's still fun to plan (and register!), but other things - like moving, teaching, spending time with family, and completing a long-overdue journal article - are competing for my attention. It feels great to know that the fluffy stuff can play second-fiddle, at least temporarily.  

Friends and Family: If I do start slip-sliding into inse-scary-bride mode again, please DO NOT buy me those ugly Tevas.  They are hella expensive, and don't look very practical.  Instead, just silently hand me an adorable-but-telling greeting card, such as the one pictured to the left (found on this website). Make sure that the inside is blank, so you can write me a personalized note telling me how annoying I've been.  :D

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 55 - Reflections on a wedding industry "in love"... with my money!

Highly Recommended Reading Here!
Time for a mini-update on my wedding planning. See below for a spattering of musings about the injustices of the wedding industry, and my first wedding-industry-related "plug."  

Spattering of musings:
Aside from those mythical impromptu Vegas events, most weddings require at least some planning.  Indeed, according to Rebecca Mead, author of One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Weddingthere's a $161-billion wedding industry that survives - nay, thrives - on the constant one-up-womanship of brides (and mothers-of-the-brides) who are determined to not embarrass themselves with a sub-par event.  As much as we like to think of weddings as revolving solely around romantic commitment, weddings are also deeply embedded within in a highly gendered consumer culture. Further, I am convinced that the wedding industry thrives on reinforcing (and sometimes creating!) women's insecurities about their appearance, which totally stinks.  (Don't worry, I'll save my lecture on the sexism and hetero-sexism of the traditional "institution" of marriage for my long-suffering students.)

Okay, getting back to American weddings and consumer culture: these two things are - in my humble opinion - married to each other (pun intended).  This is not news to anybody who has planned a wedding in the past few decades.  Personally, I have mixed feelings about my own role as a consumer-bride.  The penny-pinching bargain-reveller in me is thrilled by such an epic challenge, but I am simultaneously peeved and appalled by the seemingly unavoidable and ridiculous expenses involved in getting hitched in a relatively normal wedding. For context: I come from pragmatic stock. My always-grounded Minnesotan dad, upon hearing that my wedding dress was going to cost $700 (!!!), sputtered"Uff-da! That's before the 85% discount, right?  Whooee!"  Bless his heart.  (And bless my more-knowing-of-these-things mom for shushing him with raves about what a truly great deal it was!)  Now if only I'd managed to avoid buying that other dress... Uff-da, indeed!
Buy this ceramic tile here!
First wedding-industry-related plug:
The insanity-potential of wedding planning has gone so much further than my annoying body image woes, or a $700 dress of questionable bargain-worthiness.  Sadly, the bridal-hype has spurred a snarky cultural obsession with epic "bridezillas," to whom I refuse to provide links.  Happily, there is a massive-and-growing collection of books and websites (including mine, I hope!) devoted to helping the betrothed keep budgets and emotions in check throughout the process. My favorite of those in the latter group, thus far, has been this gorgeously sane and emotionally resonant website: www.apracticalwedding.com (emphasis on the practical, and "APR" to those in the know!). 
From essays exploring issues of "Gender and Feminism" ... from the groom's perspective (I laughed), to memoirs of a wedding entangled with the greatest of losses (I cried), and inspiring reflections on body image (I fist-pumped), this website is rooted in "a lot of grounded smart-alecky women talking intelligently about their weddings and marriages" (as explained by founder Meg Keene).  It is totally up my alley, and I will someday beg Ms. Meg to post my own nuptial memoirs on her "Wedding Graduates" blog.  Highly recommended.

Okay - any other brides or former-brides out there?  If yes, I'd love to hear how you've managed to balance expenses/epic wedding dreams/sanity, etc..  Post your thoughts in comments here, or email me at mirror.mirror.OFF.the.wall [at] gmail.com!

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day 52 - If a tree falls in the forest, does the tree exist if she can't see herself in a mirror?

It's been more than a week without mirrors of any sort, and it's time to report back on the emotional experience.  To put it shortly, I am in withdrawal.  I ache to see myself in a mirror, and I have no logical explanation other than addiction.  I'm sure things will get better as I adjust, but here's the current situation:

The strangest experience, thus far, has been a weirdly philosophical questioning of whether or not I actually exist, if I can't see myself.  Yes, I'm serious (please don't laugh).  I work from home several days per week, and it has been much more lonely than usual, now that I can't wave hello to myself in the mirror.  Do mirrors bear witness to our very existence? ( Note: "proof of existence" did not make it on to the list of things I'm willing to  give up for this project, so I'll be working to remedy this issue ASAP.)

Original image found here.
I imagine, now, that if a tree falls in a forest with no one to hear its sound, said tree would probably feel less shitty about the situation if it could at least watch itself in a mirror during the fall.  (Here I am, promoting vanity for redwoods!  Forgive me.  It's been a tough adjustment.)

On a less philosophical (i.e., more superficial) note: I've experienced mild paranoia about my looks.  I know - in the most pragmatic sense - that my appearance has not changed dramatically over the past several days or weeks.  Yet, I have felt lost without the reassurances from mirrors to which I have become accustomed.  

To give my people credit, I've had subtle reassurances from the various V.I.P.s in my life, as far as my looks are concerned.  My fiancĂ©, his sister, my sister, and several friends-of-friends have seen me over the weekend.  I've had no (unsolicited) compliments on my looks, and no insults either. (okay, okay, while writing this, M leaned over in bed just to tell me that I'm "beautiful" - bless him!).  This is good, right?  I trust these folks to tell me if something not-so-good is going on with my appearance.

Fresco by Raffael, 1511
And yet, I feel a bit wild (i.e., restless, unsatisfied and high-strung - more than usual!), wishing to be gifted by angels with a stark, factual, and highly-detailed description of my looks.  Is my hair bumpy? Fluffy?  Sleek?  Is my makeup invisible-yet-ethereal?  How about visible-yet-tatesful?  How  'bout that belly-button doughnut?  (I've brought concept of obnoxious academic navel-gazing to a new low, me thinks!) I am at a loss.  Yeah... I used to not be so vain, but now I know better

To wrap things up, life without mirrors has been simultaneously freeing and yet paralyzing.  It's been priceless to leave the house in less time, and with a conscious "good enough is good enough" attitude.  Yet, I have felt haunted by the question of whether or not I've actually accomplished "good enough."  Additionally, without mirrors I feel less able to understand the intricate details of why people are interacting with me as they are.  According to Charles Horton Cooley, this shouldn't matter, but it has mattered for me.    This same response has been experienced by others, and yet I feel embarrassed to report it to you.

Yesterday things reached the point at which this blurry image of me (reflected in my apartment buildings' elevator door) became pathetically intriguing. Yes, random reflections are against my "rules," but I couldn't resist.   That said, I imagine that this was about as satisfying as Nicorette gum feels to most trying-to-quit smokers.  Here's what I learned: my 6-years-old Banana Republic blazer still fits, and... I still exist.  Good news on both counts, right?
I promise you, I'm not a wallower; my life (and this blog) should perk up quite soon.  Hang in there with me and I promise good things ahead. :)  

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Day 49 - What Sociologists (and I) say about "The Looking Glass Self"

Mother Combing Child's Hair, Mary Cassatt, 1879
I am a Sociologist (at least in practice if not yet by doctoral degree).  As such, my first "academic" post needed to draw from one of Sociology's most famous theorists: Charles Horton Cooley.  Here goes!

In his book On Self and Social Organization, Cooley develops the aptly phrased (for our purposes) theory of "The Looking Glass Self."  Cooley's theory proposes that our sense of self is forged through our imagination of the way we appear in the eyes of others.  In other words, we are fundamentally social creatures who depend on interactions with others to provide feedback, telling us both who we are and how we should feel about ourselves.

Using mirrors as both metaphor and tool to explain how we see ourselves through other people, Cooley writes:
A social self of this sort might be called the reflected or looking glass self: 
'Each to each a looking-glass
Reflects the other that doth pass.'
As we see our face, figure and dress in the glass, and are interested in them because they are ours, and pleased or otherwise with them according as they do or do not answer to what we should like them to be; so in imagination we perceive in another's mind some thought of our appearance, manners, aims, deeds, character, friends, and so on...."
Thus, even when we look into a mirror, our understanding of what we see is fundamentally social because it is mediated by reactions to us that we have seen in people we spend time with.  As Cooley aptly puts it, "The thing that moves us to pride or shame is not the mere mechanical reflection of ourselves, but [...] the imagined effect of this reflection upon another's mind."

Take a second peek at the child featured in the Mary Cassatt drawing I selected to headline this post.  By Cooley's logic, this child's self image will be more fundamentally shaped by interactions she has with her mother than by the image of herself that she sees reflected in the mirror.  Indeed, it is only through social interactions with mom (and others, obviously!) that a mirrored reflection can have any meaning at all!

Despite focusing on the impact of social interaction, this theory speaks volumes to how mirrors, themselves, contribute to our self-image.  On the one hand, in the purist form of Cooley's theory mirrors are wholly unnecessary for understanding ourselves, so long as we have other people around.  If the people we spend time with see us (and treat us) with love, affection, and approval... we will love, have affection for, and approve of, ourselves.  If the people we spend time with see us (and treat us) with disdain, disrespect, and condescension, well.... you get the picture.

On the other hand, mirrors allow us to actually see (at least in reverse reflection) what others are viewing when they look upon us.  They add another step of self-awareness (and, importantly, a tool for self-adjustment) in this process of self-understanding.  As noted by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, in her blog The Beheld, mirrors give us greater information (we think) about how people view us.  (Like me, Autumn is partaking in a "mirror-fast.") Based on Autumn's experiences, a look in the mirror before leaving home can inform how we interpret interactions with other people.   Upon being peered at by a stranger on the subway - during her mirror-fast - she writes:
I had no anchor to hold onto, no private feeling of, "Well, I do look nice today" or "I wish he would stop staring at the enormous pimple on my chin."  Without having any idea what he might be seeing, I had no idea how I should feel about him looking at me.
What I love about this passage is that it goes further than Cooley's theory.  It illustrates a cycle in which (1) interactions with people inform how we will view ourselves in a mirror and (2) the mirror, in turn, informs how we understand our interactions with other people.

So far in my mirror-less project, I have been quite blessed to be spending time with people who almost uniformly "reflect" positive things back to me.  Yes, they let me know when I have mascara on my nose (thanks Mandy!), but this is different from expressing disapproval (or disgust, for that matter).  I've learned that others tend to be much kinder to me than I typically am to myself.

I think that this bodes well for my upcoming 10 months without mirrors - so long as I continue to surround myself with people who see (and in doing so, bring out) the best in me.  :)

Next up: I'll let you know what it feels like to go through "mirror-withdrawal".  Soon after, we'll learn explore history of how mirrors have shaped the body image of American girls since the 1830s, from Joan Jacobs Brumberg's awesome book The Body Project.  I'm pretty psyched - hope you are too!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 46 - Who told LAX I was arriving??

I usually HATE airport bathrooms.  The varied and ample traffic of traveling folks using these potties causes them to buzz pretty high on my germophobic meter.  Add to this the fact that fitting both my person + my carry-on bags into the toilette stall feels like I'm playing a combined game of puzzle-fitting "Tetris"and don't-touch-anything "Operation," where losing the game means peeing with the door open and catching giardiasis. Sigh.  You all know what I'm talking about.  

But last Sunday night I decided I LOVE one airport bathroom.  Los Angeles Airport, Terminal 1, last ladies' room prior to exiting the terminal.  Yes, I still had to play TetriOperation to do my business.  But look at what was waiting for me when I exited the stall:

Yes!  Thank you, LAX, for covering your bathroom mirror, clearly JUST FOR ME!  This must be what it feels like to be a celebrity.  Next time I'll request a vat of M&Ms with all the blue ones picked out.  :)

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Day 45 - Ode to George and Martha

Does anybody else remember George and Martha?  No, not the first American president + wife, but the sweet cartooned hippopotami featured in the classic children’s books by James Marshall. I'm grateful to one of my dissertation advisors, and his young daughter, for re-introducing me to these wonderful characters. The George and Martha tales tell short stories of these best-of-friends who really look out for each other and have a lot of fun in the process.
One story - titled "The Mirror" - is of particular relevance for this project. It goes like this:  Martha was having a bit of a vanity crisis (remind you of anybody we know?).  She couldn’t stop looking at herself in the mirror!  George was getting really annoyed by all of this (after all, Martha was even waking up in the middle of the night to admire herself in the mirror).  So, he devised a plan to teach his friend a lesson.  When Martha wasn't looking, George taped a horrid picture of her onto the mirror.
Martha was horrified (as most of us would be, upon seeing ourselves with green skin, wonky gold teeth, and eyes stacked on top of each other!).  She cried out, "What has happened to me??"  Sly George was ready with an answer: "That's what happens when you look at yourself in the mirror."  The tale ends with Martha's enormously cool/brave/awesome decision to never look in the mirror again.  "And she didn't."  (according to the story)

Ms. Martha and I have more than a few things in common.  (M has even started calling me "Martha" every time he's had to point out mascara on my cheek or spinach in my teeth!).   Yet, after considering this tale over the past few days, I've identified a few very important differences.

First: George and M make a great comparison.  As George is to Martha, M is my best friend.  We really look out for each other and have a lot of fun in the process.  But... instead of drawing a yucky picture of me on my mirror (which only feeds into vanity - no?), M helped me pick out some sweet "She & Him" album covers with which to cover the two mirrored medicine cabinets in our bathroom.  To put it plainly, Mis at least a little bit nicer than George and has much better taste in decor!

Second: Martha truly enjoyed looking into the mirror (at least until George fooled her with his unflattering drawing).  I, on the other hand, have struggled in my relationship with mirrors.  At times I've admired myself in mirrors and felt pride and pleasure in my appearance.  I have distinct memories of this: the day in 8th grade that my braces came off, getting reading for my first high school dance, prepping for (and then nailing) a corporate job interview at Abercrombie & Fitch.  On these occasions, and many others, I've felt beautiful or glamourous, and, indeed, vain; very Martha-esque.

Yet, I've also experienced the flip-side of this mirror coin.  I had crippling (indeed, disordered) body image throughout much of my high school and college years.  Nobody ever drew an unflattering picture of me on my mirror, but I managed to look upon myself with horror nonetheless.  Thankfully, I've enjoyed much healthier body image over the past 5 or 6 years.  Still - as recounted in my first post - the pressures of my upcoming wedding triggered a renewed - and very unwelcome - sense of vain insecurity about my appearance.

And this brings me to the final difference between Martha and me: Martha stopped looking into the mirror to protect her vanity.  Indeed, she abandoned mirrors only when their use threatened her looks!  In contrast, I've chosen the same path with the hope that avoiding mirrors will reduce my vanity.  I've accepted (nay - embraced!) the fact that my appearance will suffer a bit during this project.  Think about it: what better way to "prove" to myself that happiness and looks are not so tightly intertwined?

Question: What "prize" could motivate you to look a little less put-together on most days?  Emotional satisfaction?  What kind?  Money?  How much?  Anything else??

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 40 - 2 Steps Forward (Relationship), 1 Step Back (Mirrors)

Image originally published here.
This week was a huge milestone for my relationship with M.  We've officially ended our long-distance relationship!  This marked a big step forward (actually, 2 big steps forward if we're counting both of us!).  Unfortunately, moving also forced me to take 1 step back, in terms of the mirror project. Here's how it all went down:

To catch up those of you who know me only from this blog, my fiance, M, and I have been in a long-distance relationship for more than a year.  I met M when he was interning in Los Angeles over 2 years ago.  We hit it off immediately, but had to part ways when his internship ended.  We were too attached to break up (ahh... young love), so have been swapping weekends, weeks, and sometimes months in each others' respective cities - L.A. (me) and Palo Alto, CA (him) - ever since.   Our relationship has remained awesome, but the emotional and financial expenses of long-distance were exhausting.

So... even though I'm still teaching at UCLA through the end of the Spring quarter, we bit the bullet, sublet our respective places, and moved to San Francisco for 2 months!  I'll have to fly back to L.A. a few times to teach my seminar (on "Gender, Appearance, and Inequality"), but the important thing is this:  Long-distance = Over!  Never again.  Hooray!

Here's the downside: after almost a full week of successfully avoiding mirrors in Los Angeles, I'm having to learn how to navigate mirrors in a completely new home + workplace (I volunteer several days/week at the amazing girl-empowering nonprofit, About-Face)!  The good news is that our new apartment has far fewer mirrors than my place in Los Angeles.  The bad news is that, in the process of moving, I've managed to look at myself in every single one of them!  A step back, indeed.  :(

Initially, I'd hoped that M would be able sneak into our new place and cover/remove all of the mirrors before I even entered the building.  Wouldn't that have been nice?  Well... our moving plans went more than a bit awry (i.e., given the wrong keys, slept in hotel first night, etc., etc.) so we had to face reality and move in like normal couples do (i.e., in a stressful rush, and at the same time).

In the meantime, I've regressed back to my "in-training" mode for a few days: I'm taking note of all of the mirrors and reflective surfaces I encounter at home, on my commute to, and at, the About-Face office.  So far, nothing I can't remove, cover, avoid, or look away from!  Also, even though I've been applying makeup and styling my hair while looking away from the bathroom mirror, I've peeked at myself after.  I've already mastered the makeup application, but I'm still struggling a bit with my hair (lumpy ponytails, anyone?), so I decided that a few more days of practice would be a benefit to my sanity in the long-run.

But, don't worry - this is only a temporary setback.  This weekend, M and I are making a carefully calculated shopping trip to buy curtains to cover our bathroom and bedroom mirrors.  We'll also search for some to-be-determined supplies with which we can "gift-wrap" the 2 mirrored medicine cabinets in our bathroom.  That ought to cover it (pun intended)! In other words, this Friday, May 6th, will be my official LAST DAY of looking in mirrors until the project ends.  I'm pretty psyched, and can't wait to tell you how it goes!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 39: Check out another "mirror fast" on The Beheld!

I'm super psyched to have met (electronically) another woman who is removing mirrors from her life and writing about it from a hip-intellectual/uber-cool/fem-feminist perspective.

Ms. Autumn Whitefield-Madrano from one of my now-favorite blogs, The-Beheld, is holding herself to a 31-day "mirror-fast" during the month of May!  (You may have also seen her project notes re-posted on the fabulous jezebel.com.)

Speaking to her hopes for her project, Autumn writes:

There’s nothing wrong with looking in the mirror. There’s nothing wrong with sometimes looking to your reflection—even when it is impossibly subjective, and backward at that—for a breath of fortitude, centeredness, and assurance. I just want to see what life is like when I’m not using that image as my anchor; I want to see how it affects the way I move through the world, the way I regard myself and others. I want to know what it’s like to sever a primary tie to one of my greatest personal flaws—extraordinary self-consciousness—and I want to discover what will fill the space that the mirror has occupied until now.

I couldn't have said it better myself, and I can't wait to swap tips as we move forward on these similar paths.  Best of luck Autumn!

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