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A month without looking in the mirror
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Autumn Whitefield-Madrano considers the mirror-slave dialectic @ The New Inquiry. You, like me, probably have a mirror face. It’s close to my “photo face,” but it’s a separate beast. My face contorts itself not because it will be recorded for Facebook posterity, but because I desperately need to believe certain things about my appearance. My mirror face is an attempt to correct things about my visage I don’t like: The pout makes my lips fuller. The tipped chin minimizes the broad planes of my face. The widened eyes and softened gaze call attention to my best feature. You may even find me ever so slightly sucking in my cheeks. A friend of mine—whose womanly charm lies in her mix of acerbic wit and casual grace—turns into a bright-eyed, prepubescent pixie when she looks in the mirror. Like me, she has no idea she’s doing it, and when she tries to stop, it only gets worse.

So in my mind, I’m fuller-lipped, slimmer-faced, wider-eyed than any of you would actually find me. My adjustments are virtually uncontrollable. Which is to say: After 35 years of seeing myself in the mirror, it’s possible I still don’t know what I look like.Certainly, I don’t know what my face shape is (Round? Oval? Heart?). When I was 25, I decided to find out once and for all. I used a classic ladymag tip: I took a tube of lipstick and traced the outline of my face onto the mirror. Then I got angry.Lipstick in hand, I scribbled over the circle/oval/whatever. I covered an entire pane of my mirror, and then another, and then I went to the walls. And then I was out of lipstick so I took another, and another, and another. I coated, smeared, dragged, drew, until I had no more lipstick, no more walls, no more mirrors.

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