The Three Day Mirror Challenge: High School Edition

Kayla Manjarrez, Senior

The other week I read an article on from November 24 entitled “The Three Day Mirror Challenge.” In said article (read it now), Leandra Medine outlines her experience of going three whole days without looking in the mirror once. She ultimately came to the conclusion that people are generally self-centered, and no one really commented on her 72 hours of bare face-- or even noticed her mirror hiatus. 

So it got me thinking.
If Leandra Medine, a cosmic beauty and massive force in the fashion industry could go three days without glancing at her reflection, covering up any blemishes, checking her outfit one last time before stepping out the door, what would happen if I did the same? While I’m not comparing myself to Leandra in the slightest, I have worked my day-to-day look down to a science. Careful craftsmanship goes into the equation that is my Kayla regalia and accompanying accoutrements (aka the least wrinkled things I find strewn across my bedroom floor, usually not matching very much, + gold necklace I wear everyday, with or without some sort of bandana thrown in there somewhere for dramatic effect). What would happen if I left my house without my mirror’s approval? Without my red lipstick I vowed to wear every day of senior year? I had to try it.

Courtesy of Photo by Emily Yen

Courtesy of
Photo by Emily Yen

The rules Leandra established included no makeup, no bumming it or taking the easy way out with your dependable dark pants and standard sweater, wash face and brush teeth at kitchen sink, and avoid reflective surfaces.

The makeup thing was hard. After all, I have worn winged eyeliner with red lipstick since the 8th grade. It’s kind of my thing. I asked Laura Brown in a tweet once if she thought it’d be cool to wear red lipstick every single day of senior year, to which she replied “admirable, but exhausting.” So, like, I had to.
But more than that, I knew I had to give Leandra’s challenge a go. I had to know just how different, just how self-absorbed the average high school student was. I hid my lipstick to avoid temptation, and suffered for my art. 

I didn’t have to worry about the kitchen sink thing because the mirror in my bathroom is collapsible, so that was a win. The bigger issue was that my closet doors were made of mirrors. Two of my four walls, 50 percent mirror. I kept my eyes glued to the floor and still tripped over the mess manifesting itself on my floor-turned-walk-in closet. I was determined to succeed.

As I reached the bottom of my steps on Day One of the challenge, however, I caught a glimpse of myself in the windows surrounding my front door. “Leandra made the same mistake,” I reminded myself, and off I went. Besides, one freebie is okay.

Day one was a bust. I felt weird and I wore this horrible tan American Eagle v-neck I’ve never once felt confident in. Not really the best way to start off a day with zero self-assurance, but hey, why would I make things easy for myself? (Or follow the rules and wear something I would normally wear, for that matter?)  

I tried really hard, okay? When I walked up the three flights of stairs to my homeroom, I once again studied my ankles to avoid the reflective windows encompassing the stairs. Emmaus architects didn’t make it easy for people trying not to see themselves, that’s for sure. Haven’t decided if this is good or bad in a high school. Probably mostly bad. 

I kept forgetting. I’m not sure if this is more of a testament to my short-term attention span than to my vanity, but it definitely means something. At lunch, with our new “Cell phones are OK during lunch!” policy, I, naturally, decided to test my boundaries. We were told we weren’t allowed to make phonecalls during lunch, but no one said anything about Facetime. Forgetting the entire premise of Facetime, and that I was even doing this challenge for a good minute, I Facetimed my friend Alana, who sat two seats down from me. Shiiiiiiiiii-oot. Strike two. I hung up on Alana. 

The next two days went similarly to day one, only I was way more focused. 

The weird thing I learned from this experiment was that I get significantly more weird looks and comments on the days I do rely on my old friend, ~Miroir~, than I did on the days we didn’t speak. Freshman year, I wore dark red, MAC Diva lipstick with swirley eyeliner drawn all across my eyes inspired by a look in Lady Gaga’s "Judas" music video and some boy came up to me and said, “You’re a freshman and you have the balls to wear makeup like that?” I was and I did. Other times I’ve worn tweed coats in bright yellows and reds, 100 percent resembling go-to hot dog condiments. It happens, ya know? 

But the days I didn’t wear any makeup, people were (mostly) kind. I was greeted with comments laced with kindness that I didn’t always take that way. “You look pretty with no makeup!” Uh, thanks?

The thing is, I don’t think makeup should be viewed as a bad thing. Since I first began my lifelong love affair with it, outlining my brown eyes with purple eyeliner in seventh grade, makeup has never been a crutch. It’s always been incredibly important to me to appreciate and love makeup as an art-form, a vehicle to help me be the person I enjoy being. This cleanse helped to bring me back to my center and reminded me of this value I hold so deeply. While I’m not saying your appearance is everything, for me, it is a lot. There’s nothing wrong with vanity, and there’s nothing wrong with the lack thereof. 

There is something very wrong, however, with demonizing someone for how they choose to express themselves. If anyone regularly avoids the mirror, I commend you. Because vanity is my vice, and I, for one, am a slave to the mirror.