this month's topic for If...:
If given the challenge, could you live without a mirror for one week? How much emphasis do you place on the outward appearance you show the world?
You Lookin' at Me?
sure, i could live without a mirror for a week. no problem. i don't get too tied up about how i look. the bigger question is: how would one avoid every other reflective surface? i mean, i subconsciously check in pretty much every shiny surface, just to make sure i'm still there. even sitting here in front of my monitor, writing this, i can see my reflection. the glass doors to my office building? same thing. the brass doors in the elevator? actually, i mostly talk to myself with that one. even sitting on the couch watching TV, i can see a miniature me reflected on the screen. not seeing myself at all, except from the inside out... that would be a challenge.
but still, it wouldn't be a big deal. most days, i just shower, run a comb thru my hair, toss on some clothes and go. okay, okay - there is one thing that might bug me. in the category of Too Much Information: there are a few little black hairs that sprout on my chin. and they make me crazy. i pluck them out as soon as i see them. going without a mirror would mean not being able to indulge in the one grooming 'thing' i obsess mildly about.
i used to worry about 'dressing for the office', and picked out nicely coordinated outfits complete with nylons and heels. these days, i can't be bothered. showing up in jeans or a skirt doesn't affect my ability to get my job done one way or the other. if it affects someone else's ability to work with me or take me seriously, then that's their issue. and i'm more comfortable in jeans and a pullover. recently, i had to teach a class, and i contemplated wearing slacks just to look more official. that thought lasted about 5 minutes. and guess what? the class went fine.
which is not to say that i don't have fun dressing up once in a while. getting all dolled up for a party or a night out - it's fun. of course, i do it so rarely that i'm wildly inept at putting on makeup. i've been known to shanghai my best friend to paint me up for a big night out. but that comes down to how *i* want to look, not what i think someone else needs to see.
there are a few times that i worry about fitting a particular role, and dressing the part. mostly, it's for family events like weddings or receptions, holiday dinners and such. caring how i look is more a way of showing respect for others, in that case, than feeling the need to look a particular way. and i suppose i'll care when i start interviewing again for a new job, because you only have a few seconds to make a good first impression. my rule of thumb when interviewing people for my company? never hire a man who wears white socks with a suit. sounds dumb, perhaps, but it's proved to be deadly accurate. everyone that management hired whom i had given the thumbs down based on my rule proved to be a disaster. one of them got himself fired.
what it boils down to, i guess, is that the image i see in mirrors rarely matches how i feel about myself. my internal image is more important than whether i have my brows perfectly tweezed or my hair done just right. and the people to whom those external things matter aren't often people that i want in my life or whose opinion matters to me. well, more accurately - the people to whom those externals are the *only* thing that matters.
to some degree, i think our culture is too wrapped up in appearances. don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong at all with spending time on yourself and looking good. when that keeps you from seeing the good inside yourself or someone else, though, it's perhaps time to think about what matters. do you really care if someone wears white before Memorial Day? is that a reason to cross them off your list? or is it more important to know someone who is a good listener, an empathetic ear? would you rather someone complimented you on how lovely your frosted hair looks, or thanked you for being a good friend? hey, here's an idea - let's take *everyones* mirrors away for a week, and see if we can get people to see each other for who they really are.