the mirror
August 5, 2003 01:08 PM

I got this article in my inbox from the DTMWSIMB list today about mirrors in gyms and health clubs (link to the original study & this article weren't to be had, not even for ready money).

The study, published in the journal Health Psychology, focused on young women who exercised less than 15 minutes a week...

..."The mirrors make women more self-aware, they think of their shortcomings. Things like: 'I look fat, I should be more active'," said Kathleen Martin Ginis, lead author of the study...

...And whether the participant felt comfortable about her body or not, the outcome was the same -- women who did not have to watch themselves exercise felt calmer, more positive and more revitalized at the end of their session.

I alternately exercise in front and out of sight of this mirror from my adolescent baroque period (when everything in my room was white, jewel-toned, and flowered). The mirror itself is somehow quintessentially girly, but my response to it isn't.

I don't know that exercising in front of or away from the mirror effects me much. I do find I last longer when I can't see what I'm doing. I know a lot more about my relationship to mirrors in general. It's not much different from the idea of female to mirror tension.

A woman's expected response to a mirror is a sort of magnetism. We're expected not to avoid the mirror, but not because it's a source of pleasure. Rather, it's a source of self-examination and unkind criticism. This is acceptable. This is ugly. This is too round, too small, too... Perhaps an unexamined life is not worth living, but I could do without some of the implications of an examined face.

We think of the mirror as a blunt, occasionally cruel, reflection of our true selves. As if a true self can appear in two dimensions. And reversed.

So. I'm not surprised that anyone might find exercising in front of a mirror less refreshing. Particularly considering the American approach to exercise as a tragic necessity in the fight against fat and aging (oh, and health - but only if you look thin and young). Exercise, particularly something as uninvolving as the average stationary bike, presents another opportunity for unkindness to oneself. The mirror-gym combination might have a tormenting appeal. I can see the unpleasantness.

Yet I look at the stereotypical gay male relationship with the mirror, and I see the same self-examination - but with a sort of joy and freedom in it. Perhaps it's a co-opting of an unallowed gender behavior? I wonder how a group of variously feminine-performing gay men would feel after a bike ride into the mirror? Stressed? Anxious? Refreshed?

I'd like to look in a mirror and feel nothing. Just - oh, look, there I go... Why does that seem like primarily the province of [straight] men?

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your wicked thoughts

Hum. I feel a little sad, reading this.

I was going to add more thoughts, but I think I'm going to take it over to my end of cyberspace.

these are the thoughts of house9 on August 5, 2003 04:27 PM

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