This post is part of the Broken and Beautiful series, a discussion of beauty and identity.
I finally met her in person at a lingerie shower for a friend. I had seen her from afar and we shared dozens of mutual friends, but I had never approached her – partially because we didn’t cross paths often, and partially because she was stunningly beautiful, ridiculously professional, and always put together. Frankly, I was intimidated.
Now here I was, sitting next to her (almost on TOP of her) on a sofa, elbowing her in the ribs as I shoveled shower food down my gullet. Classy.
There is nothing I love more than a lingerie shower: celebrating a girl who is getting MARRIED, giving away lacy gifts, making the bride blush with racy jokes that are okay because she is GETTING MARRIED – all in a room of full of God-loving women! It’s my element, and I may or may not get a little… celebratory… at such events. What can I say? I love marriage.
By the end of the evening, Ms. Ridiculously Beautiful approached me. “I had no idea you were so outgoing! You always seem so professional and put together, I just never knew what to say to you.”
“Me?” I asked, probably through another mouthful of food (I never stop eating). “I was going to say the same thing about you!”
Thirteen years old, with spaces between my teeth and unruly curls, I unfolded my opening statement on a podium I could barely reach. A one-room schoolhouse where we met for tutoring once a week now housed the families of the debaters, all of us homeschool students who studied Latin, logic, composition, and rhetoric together. But today we were debating something far removed from Greco-Roman culture: the issue of American slavery.
I don’t remember how the topic was picked. I grew up in northern Michigan, far removed from Civil War battlefields and the Confederate flag. I came to the issue with no real bias; I had no African-American friends, as there were few, if any, African-Americans in my community. I had studied the Civil War for history and had even visited a few battlefields on vacation with my family. But even to my thirteen year old mind, the idea of enslaving one people for the advancement of another seemed at best backwards and at worst anti-human.
Now, twelve years and a college degree later, memories of this debate filled my mind in the wake of the Charleston church shooting. The consequential outrage over the Confederate flag flying on Southern capitol grounds seemed to me – at first – like a distraction from the real issue at hand. In a sense, I felt that concentrating on the flag demeaned the memory of those who were killed in that Charleston church – as if the flag, not a hateful human being, were the cause of their death. But as I considered the flag in light of that debate twelve years ago, I saw the connection. And after seeing the connection, I realized there is a pivotal principle Christians are missing when it comes to discussions of race and gender.
“After this baby is born, I’m writing an entire series on why you shouldn’t believe anything you read on the internet concerning pregnancy.” I said to my husband, slapping my laptop shut. He chuckled.
“So they shouldn’t believe anything you write, either.”
“That’s beside the point,” I muttered, fully aware of my illogical solution. I sighed. “I know people mean well, but I haven’t followed the advice of 80% of these articles and I’ve had a dream pregnancy so far. Besides, no woman handles pregnancy the same way! Basically the only thing they can say for sure is that, at the end of nearly 10 months, you will have a baby.”
My experience with pregnancy (now at 6 1/2 months) is just one example of why comparison doesn’t work. If anything, the temptation to compare has been killed by this pregnancy, where advice from other women, “facts” shared in Parenting Magazine and horror stories from every sector have convinced me that no woman experiences pregnancy the same way because no two women are the same!
It would behoove younger women to learn this earlier than I did. While it took pregnancy to finally cure me of the temptation to compare, comparison is no respecter of persons. Every woman is prone to this insidious habit. Unfortunately, many do not realize the damage it does.
This post is a part of the series The Broken and Beautiful, a discussion of identity, self-perception, and beauty.
I stood in front of the mirror and frowned. What had once been the outline of my abs was disappearing overnight, my face was broken out in all-new places, and I could point out several other flaws at the drop of a hat. Mr. M poked his head in the bathroom door.
I smiled wanly. “At least you think so.”
I am now five months pregnant with Baby M, and though I’ve been able to dress my growing body underneath my regular clothes so far (thank heavens for blousy trends!), it is growing more difficult by the week. Not just that, but I’ve seen the visible changes as I get dressed each morning and hastily cover up my “undesirable” to put best face forward in my world.
A few days ago I received my Commencement packet in the mail. As I flipped through the pages, I was in something of a daze considering how long this day has been in coming. Hours of late night work, crying over papers I was sure would be the death of me, doing my best to keep up my grades through engagement, wedding, full time job and then early stages of pregnancy – and here I am: graduation!
Until my last class concluded in March I had always been sure of two things: I had to finish my degree, and we (Mr. M and I) needed to pay off his student loans to become debt-free. In March, I finished my Bachelor of Science in Religion and we made our last payment to Sallie Mae. I wanted to shout: “I’m FREEEEE!”
Once the excitement died down, however, I realized the things I had worked toward for so many years were now complete. The things that were certain were gone. Suddenly, the future seemed clouded with a fog of options and uncertainties, completely out of my control.