Between December 3rd 2016 and March 20th 2017, I didn’t take a single full body mirror photograph. That may sound like an insignificant fact, however this was the first time in a quarter of a year that I’d even really looked at my full body reflection, which to most people is an unconscious daily task. We use our long mirrors to see a reflection. We pick this image apart, prodding and poking and determining to change insignificant details.
When a friend told me she’d gotten rid of her big mirror and felt free, I was in horror. How could she check her outfits? The real question I was asking was how would one scrutinise every inch of themselves for hours of strangely satisfying discontent?
Only being away without the ominous false reflection did I learn to trust myself, of course I know what my outfits look like - I’ve been wearing most of my clothes for years. I didn’t need the mirror to tell me if that pair of black jeans went with this white t-shirt. I realised that wasn’t why I missed my big mirror in England.
In my final week in Switzerland we moved into a hotel rather than our chalet accommodation. Our hotel was lovely; comfortable beds, sunny balconies, long mirrors... Every morning that week I woke up to my own reflected side view, a view I never see. Suddenly, after four months with very few cares about the way my body looked, I was horrified to see my reflection again. I had forgotten what the details of my own figure were, I didn’t know which nobbly bits were new or how much my tummy had softened because I hadn’t watch it happen. Without that mirror I’d gained weight, but that was nothing to do with the mirror- I was too busy having fun to care.
Now I’ve returned to my old IKEA mirror in England I am making the effort not to use it for scrutiny, but that’s hard. My routine checking has only slightly crept back in, but I catch myself on occasion staring at those odd lumps or bumps barely anyone else would see, and nobody would notice. When the reflection is there, it is hard not to stare. It’s the same as our natural habit to check ourselves out in darkened windows when we pass them. The number of conversations I have had making only eye contact with my own reflection rather than my actual conversational partner is uncountable. Staring at ourselves is an impulse.
Returning to the UK also meant returning to somewhere I could afford to buy clothes. To me, shopping ends up being me looking at my legs for hours to choose between identical pairs of black jeans from angles we don’t normally see. Seeing the backs of my thighs was a new experience I felt very unhappy about. However we then moved shop and I noticed that strangely it seems in the last 100m walk I slimmed down significantly. One shop mirror widened me, and another thinned me out. Every shop has different mirrors which manipulate our reflections. Note that even cameras work through mirrors. Therefore, the reflection or the photograph will never show us what we actually look like exactly.
It appears illogical to me to scrutinise a white lie of an image. Let’s all remember that.
I’m Bea. Like the insect, the letter, the verb. Any jokes have already been made.