It’s an interesting experiment.  For one month, writer Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, author of the blog “The Beheld” will not look into any mirror for one month. Not after she gets dressed, not when she washes her face in the morning- never.

She writes:

As of 12:01 a.m. Sunday, May 1, 2011, I’ve embarked on a monthlong mirror fast. Thirty-one days of no mirrors, store windows, shiny pots, spoons, or the dark glass of the subway.

She’s already taken the necessary precautions: covering her bathroom mirror, leaving her windows either open or blinds closed to avoid seeing her reflection. And for the reflections she can’t avoid, like the sight of her self in store mirrors or the backdrop of the subway’s dark tunnels and train windows, she will avert her gaze the instant she sees her reflection in any of them. Her one exception: a compact mirror for her to apply her color makeup products including her eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. Because as she writes, “I’m doing it this way because not wearing makeup for a month is another sort of challenge, and I don’t want this experiment to be about not wearing makeup for a month.”

So what is this experiment then? Why shun your reflection for a month?

According to Whitefield-Madrano, she decided to embark on this journey after reading this quote from John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (a MUST read):

A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. … And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. … Thus she turns herself into an object-and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.

Now, as she starts her month long experiment, Whitefield-Madrano says she hopes avoiding her reflection will help her to see something else. She explains:

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 think it’s a fascinating experiment, one that I happened to inadvertently get a taste of the first day I moved into my apartment.  There was nothing but bare walls and had no mirrors (well, one on the mantle of the fireplace, but at 5 foot nothing, I couldn’t even see the top of my head in that one unless I jumped with a running start).  And while I’d like to proudly say it didn’t bother me, truth is I found myself breaking out the Photo Booth to ensure I was pulled together. I don’t know if I wholeheartedly agree with Berger’s premise that women have an intrinsic need to see themselves, but really, it’s hard to argue against it. I mean I can count on one hand my guy friends who check themselves as often as one of my girls.

What’s your take on the no mirror experiment, Clutchettes?  Would you give up seeing your reflection for a month?  Share your thoughts!

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  • I wanna try this… but maybe start with a week or two.

  • i did this for 4 days. it was a long weekend and i lazied around the house cleaning and doing work. it wasnt on purpose, it was simply a rare and quiet weekend. by the time i saw a mirror (by accident) i was startled. it took a couple of seconds for me to remember that was my reflection! lol!

  • African Mami

    Nope I like to gaze and muse at my reflection and that of others. I see what she is trying to do though. Big ups to her mirrorless study.

  • taj

    It`s not that we have a *need* to see ourselves, but in a society where the burden of beauty and image rests heavily upon our gender, we have a ‘responsibility’ to look “put together” to be taken seriously, to be noticed, to be courted, etc.

    I can`t wait to hear about the results.

  • What a delight to see my name pop up here! Excellent point about the difference between men and women on this. I spent the night with my boyfriend on Day 1 and asked to shroud his mirror as well, just when I was over, and he said okay. When I came back two days later, it was still up, and he said he’d barely noticed the difference. “This is how I live all the time,” he said–it was totally eye-opening.

    Thank you so much for reading!