09 October 2008

Through the Looking Glass

In the history of this blog, there has been some talk about an issue dear to our hearts. There’s been a lot of talk about this very issue in my house lately. Conversations go a bit like this:

Me: Wow. I look very like a whale.

Him: You’re lovely.

Me: I’m HUGE! For crying out loud! I have, like, half a year left! And I’m already carrying a watermelon! (turning around) Two watermelons!

Him: You’re beautiful.

Me: I can’t believe this. What am I going to end up wearing?!?! I’ll stock up on tarps. Big tarps. I’ll cover the windows and doors of this room in tarps and stay under the covers all day.

Him: Darlin’, shut up.

Now, don’t misread me. I’m not looking for a forum to discuss my fabulous, gibbous beauty as, objectively, I was neither born with it nor is it Maybelline. What I do want to point out is my husband’s rather endearing habit of thinking of me as “lovely” in spite of my “never the same river twice” figure and in spite of the good view he gets of those swimsuit models in the diet ads that keep popping up on our homepage. He seems to like me, and God bless him, he is not about to let my constant self-hag sessions stop him from saying what he thinks. I am deeply grateful to have this man as my husband, and not only because he’s so nice.

More to the point: I’ve had some time (at 3 a.m.) to think about the impact of my words upon my marriage. And because I can, I’m going to share those thoughts with lucky, lucky you.

Most women I know naturally want to be admired and appreciated as beautiful. We do not wish to be leered at with those poor creatures on the Victoria’s Secret runway; we want to be genuinely appreciated—Venus rising from the sea foam, chaste, pure, lovely, and loved.

Such appreciation is not achievable in the minds of the general populace. The boys who looked upon us--who today look upon our daughters—as innocent girls fresh from the sea foam, thought: “Smoking hot, made to order with onion rings at Appleby’s.” Regardless of hair color, height, jean size, and modesty, there is no avoiding it. Shudder The general populace is such a vile thing.

The gods that feed the depreciation of feminine beauty are too numerous to be named. Their prophets are everywhere, from cosmetics counters to Super Bowl commercials, and their message is very, very loud: You do not measure up. You are old. You are just a baby. You are fat. You don’t fill out a swimming suit. You are in desperate need of this product, this outfit, this surgery, this diet, this pill, this technique, this shampoo. Buy it, do it, wear it, strut it, sister, or no one will ever, ever love you.

We then carry these prophecies into our homes and into our relationships with our husbands. We look in the mirror, stand on the scale, or accidentally fall into a triple-layer dark chocolate strawberry ice cream cake and we just can’t help but reiterate all we’ve heard: I’m old. I’m fat. I’m scarred. I’m ugly. I am not worthy of anyone’s appreciation. I cannot be loved.

On the other hand, the good, Christ fearing, long-suffering husband does not see what his wife has been taught to see. He sees the wife of his youth, the mother of his children, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. How frustrating, how infuriating it must be for him to hear his most precious possession wrongly called worthless, to hear the object of his love called not worthy of love. How devastating when those terrible words drop from the very mouth of his bride, her features twisted as she spits at her reflection.

I daresay Paul’s admonition to submit to one’s husband comes into play here. Note to self: shut up. When your husband dares speak his heart and tell you that you are beautiful swallow the bitter pill of your disagreement. What you think is not of any importance whatsoever, for it is the filthy residue of that first lie hissed into the ear of our mother, Eve. Your dear husband is your head, even as Christ is the head of the Church, and what he says is not only final, it is truth. You long to be loved, appreciated, seen as one who shares in the very image of God. Here is a man who sees your flaws, your scarred up flesh, and by the grace of God sees with eyes of faith that which you already are in Christ. What a great gift you have been given in this husband who, as a metaphor of the Bridegroom, declares that you are worthy, whom Christ in His mercy uses to communicate the fact that your not yet is now.

Marriage is great. Here’s to casting off the corset in favor of the crew neck. Come next brownie night, I’m really going to enjoy my half of the pan. ;)


Joy said...

Honey, I've seen your picture and I don't know WHY this topic is even on your radar screen. I am roughly 100 pounds heavier than when I got married (granted, I'm 37 weeks preggo), but I have to be honest with myself and admit that it's pure, unadulterated vanity that makes me loathe my stretch-mark covered parameters. It seems that the prettier (and thinner) women are, the more obsessed they become with staying that way. I used to be the one in the room that all the other girls hated, and I did everything possible to meet our culture's ridiculous standards of beauty. What a miserable life, to always be chasing after some illusive number on the scale, or the tape measure, or the tag of my jeans. Somewhere between vicarage and miscarriage, God smacked me upside the head and said, "I don't want you to live that way!"

It's just fluff. And he's right: You ARE beautiful.

Rebekah said...

I'm going to print this magnificent post and sleep with it under my pillow.

But, Joy, what of Gauntlets, the beautiful girl who's as afflicted with self-loathing as we mortals? (Gauntlets, stay out of this.) It just goes to show how truly we are fashioned after Eve, how readily we believe what anyone else immediately scorns as a bald lie.

Beyond that, though, doesn't every woman (no matter how beautiful) fear that other woman who can catch her husband's eye, even in passing? There's plenty of room in a girl's mind for both vanity and insecurity.

Melanie said...

Beautiful!Guess it's time to go apologize to my dear husband :}

Joy said...

Insecurity is a good point, Rebekah. In the context of another woman catching my man's eye, there are also issues of trust. (Maybe I'm being naive, but I never worry about that!) This is where the words of Eleanor Roosevelt are timeless: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Ah, the fine line between true humility and self-hatred.


MooreMama said...

Your husband (and mine) is a member of the Order of Unusually Fabulous Husbands.
I spent a lot of time trying to wrap my head around the idea that Mr Moore might just love me as much as he professed. After all, what had I done to deserve such a wonderful thing? I still don't know for sure that I am pretty enough, witty enough, fun enough, or sexy enough for such an extraordinary man. But he says that I am. And more.
You hit the nail on the head, though, with the command to self to Shut Up. I had to learn to let my Husband's voice drown out the little insecure voice in the back of my head. I'm getting better at it, and it's a good thing, what with this last bit of baby weight, the stretchmarked belly and boobies, and the fact that my baby screamed through my (abbreviated) shower this morning and I'm pretty sure that I only shaved one armpit... ;)

AshleyEffken said...

I wrote on my blog a few weeks ago concerning the direct relationship that occurs in the minds of women (me in particular) between their (my) beauty and their (my) ability to be loved: the more beautiful, the more loveable.

This really is a great post, and I look forward gladly to the day when I will have to swallow the bitter pill of my disagreement when my husband tells me that I'm beautiful. Someday...

Yeah, brownies. Mmmm.

MooreMama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reb. Mary said...

Magnificent post. You will have to update us on how thoroughly this truth translates into everyday reality. I found writing my last post on the topic to be immensely cathartic, and also quite practical--I've been better about it since. (Nowhere near where I should be, of course.) But this writing, it's good for the soul. We'll see what happens when/if I wax gibbous again...though really, as Rebekah has pointed out, this problem has nothing to do with one's actual appearance/weight...I'm sure I'll be reprising the topic :P

Why do we forget that our prideful insecurities poison not just our own minds, but our marriages as well? That our constant harping on the subject can only make us less attractive, after all?

Mooremama: great point. The more I let my husband's eyes and voice replace my own whenever I pass a mirror or put on my skinny jeans, the happier we both are. I'm finally learning to let him do what he's so often asked of me: "Let me be your mirror."

Glenda said...

Beautifully said, thank you, for giving me some perspective.

April Marie said...

:) Wow. Thank you.