by admin on February 10, 2011

girl before a mirror

who am i?

have you ever noticed that you look different in different mirrors?  one of the stores i patronize has a mirror that i swear makes one look 2 inches taller and 5 pounds lighter (what a sales technique)!  i’m hoping that the mirror at the gym makes one look 2 inches shorter and 10 pounds heavier with lots of non-existent wrinkles and sagging places that can’t possibly be there. 

the mirror we have at home is not quite full-size and is hung in a narrow space so that you can’t see your body and your feet at the same time (if you ever notice that esme’s shoes look funny you will know why).

a mirror my parents had in their bedroom when i was a child was perhaps the most objective one i’ve found:  full-size, excellent lighting, lots of space, and probably responsible for many adolescent agonies. 

the same is true of photographs; one recent pic i saw sent me straight to the library to check out nora ephron’s I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK, while another rather flattering photo made me wish i could print it on silk and wear it as a scarf! 

even reactions from one’s friends and family can be confusing:  kate loves one outfit, my husband grimaces.  these difficulties are probably most pronounced during adolescence, pregnancy, and (dare i say it) middle and old age—times of rapid and sometimes erratic bodily change. 

many of us, however, find it to be a life-long struggle….the process of figuring out how we look.  i sometimes find myself trying to catch myself unawares in a store-window, sort of sneaking up on my own image.  or finding people who look a bit like me and wondering, is that how i look?  even my sisters aren’t much help, as none of them look much like i do. 

roz, however, in her inimitable fashion, had this to add:  “it does make me think of lacan’s mirror stage.  maybe it is a fantasy to imagine that anyone looks as coherent or constant as we imagine we ourselves should.  other people give the impression of looking the same over time and constituting an integrated whole, but perhaps this is some sort of cognitive editing we do on their behalf and can’t do for ourselves because of the complexity of our subjective experience.”  i count myself lucky that i know who lacan is (as i do proust) but i confess i’ve never actually read his work.  but dang!  doesn’t a conversation like this make every penny of our college educations worth it?   the body may be morphing into unrecognizability but the brain is going strong!

see you in the mirror,


a note about lacan from wikipedia: 

The mirror stage was the subject of Jacques Lacan’s first official contribution to psychoanalytic theory (Fourteenth International Psychoanalytical Congress at Marienbad in 1936.) …. By the early 1950s, he no longer considered it as a moment in the life of the infant, but as representing a permanent structure of subjectivity, the paradigm of the Imaginary order: it is a phase in which the subject is permanently caught and captivated by his own image.


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