Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall

Penguin 2013, by Kjerstin Gruys, Ph.D

What could you go without for a year?  Chocolate? Wine? Sex?  What about mirrors?  That is exactly what Kjerstin Gruys does, a year without mirrors.  This book tells us her story.

A touch self-indulgent?  Sure, maybe, when the other ‘go without’ books are usually more along the saving-the-world theme i.e. going without stuff, to recalibrate how much stuff you need and raise awareness of our addiction to stuff.

But wait!  How much is affected by poor body image, lack of self-love?  For a start, lots of needless ‘stuff’ is purchased, so Dr Gruys is saving the planet in her own way.  What about the damage to relationships, to health, to vitality of poor body image?
Given she has a PhD in sociology and her research is in physical appearance and related social inequality, who better to take us on this journey and tell us this story?

I had so many different thoughts, judgments and reactions reading her book. I judged her unfairly at times for agonizing over make-up application while being mirror free.  I thought smugly to myself – isn’t that a bit rich?  She got me back – anytime I found some judgement rising about the trivia of the thing, she read my mind and confronted me on my thinking.  She showed me shocking research about the links between looks and life, on how we judge and how we compete.

She shared her most vulnerable, weakest thoughts.  She took me deep into her journey of trying to live a  modern Californian life while being a feminist, a serious academic and still wanting to be pretty, to be validated and to feel loved.   Ultimately she put ‘up there’ for the world to see, so many thoughts I have had about myself and others that I would not have been brave enough to put up.  In the process, she taught me about the world and myself.

Something else she really unpicked for me is the nasty way women compete and judge each other, even within families.  She helped me understand how the inner critic which gets turned so viciously on ourselves and on others is the same beast, and feeding it makes it grow in both directions.

Perhaps the nicest thing she offered me was time, I am spending much less time looking in the mirror.  Given woman do so something like 30 to 70 times a day, that is lots of golden time saved.  Of course, HimIndoors is walking about with toothpaste down his shirt and the complaint ‘it’s not my fault, someone covered the mirror and I can’t see what I am doing.  So I learnt something else via the lovely Kjerstin; I learnt HimIndoors can’t clean his teeth without watching, my t-shirts are just fine.


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