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rehabilitating my body perception, however slow it will be
Reading time: about 5 minutes
There are six mirrors in our tiny flat, excluding any reflecting object like picture frames and windows as we don’t have any curtains (an atrocity, if you ask my mum). We’d bought a giant round mirror to hang opposite our bed, but then I read how it could induce nightmares, and honestly, I didn’t want to deal with any of that since I occasionally suffer from night terrors. To be fair, it wouldn’t have been worse than what I put myself through on a daily basis – what if I wake up in the middle of the night and see a man looking from the bedroom window? Instinctively, I snuggle up to Burak, who is always peacefully sleeping, dreaming of alien invasions and weird business deals that he passionately relays to me as soon as he wakes up in the morning. Sometimes I wake him up with an unwanted slap on his poor head, unknowingly, and spew nonsense like, ‘DID YOU SEE THAT BIG SPIDER CRAWLING ON THE WALL?!’ I can get very intense. I insist and dictate that he inspect all surfaces; if I am scared shitless, I do a tour around the flat to confirm everything is alright.
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But it is not home invasion or arachnid raids that unsettles me the most. It is my own reflection. Mirrors are the vortex of envy, aversion, admiration – they stretch and twist and gulp down my likeness regardless of time and place. There is nothing that humbles me as fast as a dressing room mirror can or an intense stare-down in the bathroom, triggered by god-knows-what. Not to mention catching myself in a shop window that can cut short any good time I am blessed with that day.
It’s always been like that. I remember standing in front of the gold ornate full length mirror, hung slanted in my grandmother’s summer house where I used to spend pretty much every summer. Be it the wrought iron bed or the firm divan in the veranda, the adults would withdraw to whatever shade and cool they could find to have their fixed afternoon nap, leaving me in the living room/guest room to do anything I wanted. As quiet as a mouse, I would get snacks from the kitchen, tiptoe back, get on stage to perform the latest song I was obsessed with and act out scenarios where I was the best and only the best. I would space out every now and then to study my features very carefully in the mirror. My reflection looking back at me would feel particularly alien to me as the persona of my excessive maladaptive daydreaming didn’t quite match the fat kid with ill-fitted clothes in the mirror. The fantasy would shatter when I spent a bit too long peering into my double chin. Snapping out of it, I would body-check ruthlessly, identifying the parts of my body that needed improving. Exhausted from buzzing between reality and fantasy, I would tumble into the velvet couch, sticking my fingers between the cushions and finding the crumpled candy wrappers I forgot to toss in the bin the night before. My eyes would grow tired while I fixated on a perpetual fantasy that I woke up skinny the next day.
Photographs, on the other hand, sear my reflection forever. Any candid photos are off the table as they often make me despise myself; any reassurance that I look great is followed by my insistence that they delete immediately. Or a polite nod, if I am not close with them, followed by suffering in silence. Yet there is simple beauty in the intimacy of such shots, because a) it is usually by someone I love, b) they capture me in a fleeting moment of laughter or silliness, which is who I am.
At this point, I am used to this constant chasm brought about by my relentless body-checking and body dysmorphia. But something fascinating happened this summer that I would describe as a slow realisation that rehabilitated my body perception: no mirrors. The summer house we rented had none except for the shitty ones in the bathrooms, which were always busy – so, no time to obsessively check myself; just brush my teeth and leave it to the next person who is also cursed with a small bladder. I didn’t put on makeup most days as it was boiling hot and I just didn’t feel the need or urge to do so. Lastly, I rotated between the few shorts and t-shirts I brought with me, as I had to fill my luggage with boxes and boxes of Twinings ‘Calm’ tea that my family’s obsessed with, so no point in checking my fit. Just like that, the hex lifted and I saw mirrors as mere objects without any power over me. I started feeling lighter – yes, the food was great, loved swimming in the sea and being with my family, but the source of my euphoria was certainty that washed over me, that I felt so fucking great in my body. The lack of mirrors allowed me to stop thinking of my body as a vessel that is constantly perceived, but something that is completely mine, and mine alone. Big and strong. Capable of doing so many things that I take for granted.
As no progress is linear in my book, some changes went unsaved after I got back from holiday. I mean, there are still six mirrors in our flat. But it wasn’t a complete ‘undo’ – I make a conscious effort not to spend more than I need in front of any mirror (ironically, I had to care for my new piercings at least twice a day). I try to go back to that intoxicating feeling – that I have a big and strong body whenever my reflection in the mirror disagrees with me. I have a long way to go, but it is something, right?
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See you next time!