I feel it’s important to begin this by clarifying that I have nothing against the True Mirror. As a consumer product, it is harmless, even noble in its clear-eyed ambition: to tell the truth. With its bulky black frame, it is deeper than your average mirror—like a box—but at only 10 cubic inches, it’s otherwise unassuming. Most importantly, it has but one simple job, which is to reveal the face of anyone who looks into it—not flipped, as it would be in any old mirror, but as the face appears to others. Left ear on the right, right eye on the left, crooked nose as crooked as it appears in broad daylight. Which is why I have nothing against the mirror itself—how could I? Its chilling results are no one’s fault but my own.
“Looking into it is like meeting yourself for the first time.” This is how the True Mirror experience was first explained to me many years ago—a description I would never forget. How unsettling, I thought, and then: I need to see it. It would be a while before I’d stumble upon a defendable reason to procure one, but then Vanity Month arrived at manrepeller.com, and finally the time was nigh.
When the True Mirror arrived, news spread around the office fast. Nobody except everybody wanted a look, but I made them wait as I inspected the strange contraption myself. According to its website, “[True Mirror] is formed by taking two special ‘front-surface’ mirrors and joining them at exactly 90 degrees to form a seamless, three-dimensional, non-reversed image.” The result is a mirror shaped like the corner of a room, which inverts your typical reflection (i.e., when you lift your right hand to touch your right cheek, the mirror reveals a hand on the left side of your face). In other words, it’s a total mindfuck. But I waited to take a good hard look myself.
“I feel like I’m going to be crooked,” MR Managing Editor Gyan said nervously when I called her into the fashion closet for a look. “Because in a lot of photos I have one eyebrow up, but in the mirror, I don’t see it. Why is that?” She approached the setup I’d created at the vanity table (haha) and took a seat. She was quiet for a moment, tilted her head back and forth. “It hurts my brain!” She appeared distressed, then laughed. “I feel like I’m sitting on a chair that’s sideways. I have one tiny eye and one giant eye. I feel like a Picasso painting!”
In Gyan’s face’s defense, she is gorgeous, but the first thing the True Mirror reveals, we’d all soon learn, is the tiniest asymmetries of the face. And it does this by halting the invisible orchestra of ticks and tilts we perform to straighten what appears crooked to us in a normal mirror. Without it, our faces look wrong. (Wrong!) This can happen with photos, too, but those aren’t necessarily accurate either—they flatten us, while mirrors don’t, which is why the True Mirror is so discombobulating.
Some other first reactions to it:
Nora, Partnerships Editor: “This is so weird! It’s like a funhouse mirror. This is hurting my brain. Is my head currently tilted? Can you tell I look lopsided? Oh my god…I can’t look away! I must conquer this.”
Amalie, Social Editor: “I hate this. One of cheeks looks so droopy! I also talk out of one side of my mouth. Ah it’s so weird to watch my mouth move! This reminds me: I knew I talked out of one side of my mouth when I was a kid and tried to do facial exercises to try to fix it. Obviously it did not work.”
Crystal, Operations Manager: “I don’t look that different! Wait. I feel like one side of my jaw is bigger than the other one? Actually, I feel good about this.”
Harling, Fashion Director: “Oh my god. Whoa. This is confirming that my face is very round—definitely rounder than in any mirror I’ve ever seen. Also one of my cheeks is higher than the other. Also my nose is slightly tilted. Also one of my eyebrows is like a full inch higher than the other. I look like I’m constantly questioning something. How have you never pointed this out to me?”
A sampling of things I discovered: the left side of my face is narrower than the right side (as are its features???); my mouth does not sit on a flat plane but rather slopes slightly down and to the right; my right eye is lower than my left. Your standard Frankenstein fare.
But like benevolent drunk girls in a bar bathroom, none of us agreed with each other’s critical assessments. In fact, I couldn’t spot a single asymmetry in any of the faces I called into the fashion closet despite each person’s insistence on their existence. This got us all wondering: If we’re all subconsciously correcting each other’s asymmetries, the way we do to ourselves in a normal mirror, what “truth” does the True Mirror actually reveal? You know, aside from the tender self-obsession evidently coursing through all of our veins. (I maintain there’s nothing wrong with being curious about your own dumb face—it’s with you all the time and charged with projecting your inner world.)
The real answer to True Mirror’s value prop, at least for me, came once the self-criticism took a backseat to the actual experience. (This is often the answer, isn’t it?) It’s bizarre to see your face move in three dimensions this way. It tricks your brain into feeling like you’re looking at another person and, in doing so, reminds you that you are, in fact, a person. Distinct from a brain and a pair of eyes passively receiving the world like a camera lens. I wasn’t aware I needed this particular reminder, but then again, I’m so often surprised by what I need.
If you’re in pursuit of this kind of truth, I recommend you take a look.
Collages by Madeline Montoya.