Beyond Mirrors and Windows

Aria Scarlette, 15 Sept 2019  

I was sitting, like any typical mom, in a high school desk.  I was facing forward, giving my attention to a spry, idealistic, hip teacher poised to tell all parents what would be gained by students in her English class. She said a bunch of things that were not particularly consequential: policy on late work, group work versus individual work balance, and some other stuff that didn’t stick. I often feel like a voyeur at a school surrounded by adults around my age, and I find myself taking stock of the percentage that are likely active on a platform for married people playing without permission. I am very uncomfortable in any PTA situation in which I feel like an extreme outlier although I know that a statistically significant percentage of those middle-aged dudes with dad bods are sending unsolicited dick pics to random women online. While my brain was scanning the room and wondering what is on the profile for the guy who chooses to sit in the front row even at his age, the teacher said something that crept into my brain. She said, “People read to experience either a mirror or a window.” Reading lifts a mirror to show us ourselves in another’s story, or reading shows us the experiences of others through a window. Of course, this is not a profound revelation as I have indeed already been through high school English class. Mirrors and window though…bounced around in my brain, slamming against the side walls of my skull until I settled, sat down, and began to write. My entire approach to playing without permission is a curricular value from my kid’s English class. The mirror will let me see myself accurately, with honesty, and without judgement. The window allows me to understand the experiences of others through empathy and exercised understanding.  

Rooms with windows and mirrors exist in isolation and are missing a critical component in this metaphor. Rooms need doors. The path between understanding one’s self and understanding others is blocked by walls, separations, or divisions until one passes freely through the door. I want to understand myself better, and of course I undeniably want to learn about others that are not just like me. Beyond mirrors and windows, I genuinely want to learn to travel back and forth across thresholds and divisions freely as I have things to learn from being intimately familiar with any room. The curriculum guiding my experiences as I play without permission must be three-fold: mirror, window, and door. 

I will manage my experience as if I am the owner of a beautiful hotel. My building is historic and rugged.  There are bricks that are exposed, the walls drip with character, and every corner has random shit that needs chronic attention. The plumbing is problematic at times, but nobody will ever run out of hot water. There are strange sounds from former lives lived within the walls. The very foundation hums with energy, and ever-changing theme music throbs from behind the reception desk. The rooms each have the unique flavor of a person that I have met through playing without permission. Some rooms are elegant and refined, and other rooms are dank and never fully illuminated. There are rooms in isolated hallways with only one way in or out. There are rooms that are part of related suites with doors between and throughout and among other rooms. Each room has at minimum a mirror, a window, and a door. 

The hallways and pathways belong to me as the owner. The doors are a joint ownership between me and my potential partner. I might just look in to a room, but never enter.  I might enter a room, but never stay for long. I might walk into a room and like it as much as I like my own room at the heart of the hotel. Every room has a mirror in which I can see myself without judgement.  Each room has a window in which I can see out to experiences that are not in my immediate grasp. Each room has a door, a pathway to push myself to learn about others or retreat into my own safety and introspection. 

My experiences make me stronger, smarter, more empathetic, and more complete. I cannot stay only in my own room even though the heart of the hotel is beautiful, complete, and filled with valued history. I cannot understand myself through just a mirror or others through only a window. I must walk through many doors, stand next to another, and look together at all that is possible to experience. I need to talk with my partner about what we see in our mirror, out our window, and what we have learned from crossing into other rooms. 

Mirrors? Helpful reflection. 

Windows? Needed glimpses at another world. 

Doors? Essential pathway to understanding of others.