No Shave November, Beauty, and The Sterilized Inhuman ‘Womanly’ Appearance 


So back in college, I participated in no shave November. Yep, for real. I did. And, I won the contest for hairiest legs for women. 

I think some women couldn’t believe I did this… and couldn’t believe I appeased the entire men’s basketball team by giving in to their request for a close up during the game where we presented our legs at halftime. It was fabulous. Seriously – wish you were there.

Now listen, leg hair may not be attractive to our culture — but we are also a cultural overly obsessed with a woman’s perfectly sterile appearance: no body hair allowed, must have acne covered by makeup, must lose all body weight gained after a baby, must have perfect hair without fly aways or frizz, must have thigh gap, must never have sweat showing through clothes, nor odor should ever be smelt — it’s ridiculous really, and frankly inhuman. Our culture sees us as “less womanly” with these human features…

Perhaps I thought it was good to go the extreme to show women to be confident in what makes us human. We can’t live up to a magazine standard, and most days we just don’t have the time nor energy to put on makeup or shave our legs. (Perhaps we thought spending that time with our kid was more important!) And guess what? That’s okay. You’re beautiful. Your legs don’t define you. Your makeup doesn’t define you. Your hair doesn’t define you. Your body shape doesn’t define you. Your clothes don’t define you.

And women can be the worst to engage and perpetuate this false identity and markers of worth, degrading a woman for her appearance. Instead, start valuing the heart — and start talking about the heart. Stop complimenting what she’s wearing and compliment her smile, her humanity, her love, her intellect, her dedication. Because that’s what continues to grow beautiful with age. That’s what we need to recognize. Make her hold tight to that, not what time will steal away from her.

Advertisements

Lord, bless this mess . . .

 

img_1944

Here’s my view from where I’m writing this. There’s Chex on the coffee table (and floor) that my daughter more played with than ate. Books that she emptied off the bookshelf, dolls she strung out, a shopping cart she tipped over, a dirty high chair, her favorite bunny she must cuddle with, and more.

Typically in these moments, I put my daughter down to bed and then rush to tidy the house from the tidal wave of a two-year-old. I stress. I tell Tucker to help. I scrub. I get frustrated. Or, sometimes it relaxes me to place everything back in its perfect order. Sometimes I even fantasize about the times before children, with the house a beautiful serenity of peace, quiet, cleanliness, breakable decorations, and candles. Once everything is in order, I pause and soak in the serenity. Don’t we all? I mean it only lasts for a few hours…

Tonight though, I decided to stop. Sit. Stare. In the middle of the mess and chaos, tonight I see beauty and blessings. I see home. I see a place where my child plays and feels safe and secure. I see carpet that pads my child’s knees when she crawls on the ground pretending to be a cat. I see food left out, meaning my child was able to eat her fill and we were yet blessed with more. I see toys given by thoughtful relatives. Toys from birthday parties and baby showers – where we celebrated life, another year, and family. I see clothing folded in the chair, not yet put away – clean clothes that I am able to wash when needed in the comfort of my own home.

Instead of rushing to sanitize the chaos of life and place it within order, comfort, and control, tonight I pause. This mess means that I have abundance: of safety, of comfort, of entertainment, of food, of procreation, of family, of home. Being able to even HAVE a messy house, or a house to fuss about in general, means we are beyond rich.

And isn’t this just like LIFE? Right when we believe everything is out of order, we’ve lost control, we can’t find our way, we’re drowning in to-dos and should-dos, and we feel there’s no where to go to find peace, the veil is torn away in the middle of the storm to see its strength, beauty, and life giving water.

Lord, help me to see this mess for what it is instead of seeing it as a chore and a fuss. Help me to be able to sit in the chaos and feel warmth and beauty, giving thanks for my home, family, and life — beautiful messy life.

Lord, bless this mess.

The [Im]perfect Nursery and the Joy of Simplicity

IMG_2891

“So, what’s your theme?” she asked me.
“Theme? What do you mean?”
“Your nursery! Animals? Butterflies? Princess? And what about the type of wood of your nursery furniture? White? Dark wood? Light wood?”
“Lavender?” I replied unsure of myself.

I knew this lady was trying to be helpful and considerate in asking me the theme of my baby’s nursery. She wanted to make sure she bought a gift for the shower that would perfectly coordinate. In all honesty, this thought hadn’t even occurred to me until this moment. Decorating a nursery? I suppose in America it would be considered a rite of passage. I know, I know . . . SURELY I would have seen all the advertisements in baby magazines and all the nursery picture posts by friends; however, when you find out you’re pregnant, plan a full wedding in two months, move twice, and figure out the very basics of being a wife, being pregnant, and becoming a mom, it doesn’t leave much room for browsing magazines and window shopping. Even if I HAD seen these beautiful coordinating nursery ads though, I still probably wouldn’t have paid it much mind. We see “perfect” all the time in ads. The perfectly fashioned female model. The perfectly polished, fast sports car. The perfect office space promoting creativity and relaxation. No one pays attention to the “perfects”! Well, perhaps I underestimated how big of a rite of passage the “perfect” nursery was. For me, this really stressed me out.

Up to this point, I had really enjoyed the simplicity of pregnancy. Wait . . . before you crucify me, hear me out. When you’re pregnant, there are less choices and you stick to the basics. When you’re pregnant, only a few items on the menu appeal to you. When you’re pregnant, entertainment choices are limited (no theme parks, no hiking, no rock climbing, etc). When you’re pregnant, only the handicapped bathroom stall will do. When you’re pregnant, bedtime is as soon as you get home. When you’re pregnant you give up on painting your toenails. When you’re pregnant, high heels are a definite NO. When you’re pregnant you grow out of your bras faster than the Irish sunburn, so a Victoria’s secret lacy little thing with velvet trim and push up padding for 80 bucks is out of the question. My favorite part was that, for once, I had a small manageable closet of maternity clothes and the choice between two pairs of shoes that were comfortable and fit my swollen feet. It wasn’t really hard to get out of bed and be ready in the morning . . . well, besides the sitting up from lying down part.

My family helped us out a lot on relieving my tension of figuring out a nursery. Tucker’s brothers (who by the way are GIANTS and don’t have to have a step stool to reach a ceiling) painted Tali’s room lavender. And, with the help of friends and family, we bought white matching furniture and received simple fitted sheets and other necessities in the color lavender. No, there weren’t decals on the wall. There wasn’t a rocking chair nor a decorative pillow embroidered with the letter “T.” We didn’t have a matching quilt, picture frames, diaper pail, hangers, lamp shade, lavender princess booger wipes… or whatever else you can buy in a “theme” for a baby’s room (you’d be surprised). By the time my labor was induced, the room wasn’t even completely put together. Tali’s new clothes from showers were still laid out all across the floor, her toys were in their plastic store-fresh containers lining the hallway, and the dresser was still in pieces with a manual on how to assemble it lying beside it. And, as I cried out in pain in my hospital room as Tucker embraced my hand and we waited to meet Tali, in my purse I still had a long unfinished checklist of things I absolutely must buy, things I absolutely must do, and books I must absolutely read.

When Tali arrived, I learned quickly how little we really needed. Although we had a lot of beautiful and thoughtful items from showers, to get us through those first few weeks all we needed the most were a carseat, about three footie pajamas, a pacifier, diapers, wipes, a bath towel and baby soap, breastfeeding supplies, a swaddle blanket, and a crib. The consumer baby market would be ashamed. Of course I needed a wipe warmer with a built in digital clock and room thermometer; an automatic spinning, music playing crib mobile; and sanitizing, alcohol free, gluten free, paraben free, dye free, calorie free baby safe pacifier wipes!

My husband and I didn’t have a lot of money, but we were happy. It really doesn’t take thousands of dollars worth of stuff to bring a baby home. And, there’s no shame in not being able to afford it. In fact, I learned quite a lot while I was pregnant and those first few weeks with Tali. I was happier with less. I was happier with more time with Tucker and Tali, less time organizing the clutter, and more money to spend traveling to see family.

So to the moms out there like me overwhelmed by the expectations,

You’re doing great! You don’t have to have a straight-from-a-magazine room for your baby! You don’t have to have the latest fashions or the trendiest baby clothes! The room doesn’t have to be tidy. Toys don’t always have to be put away from sight. Chores can wait.

Mommy, you’ve adorned your baby in love. You’ve decorated her room with your voice. You’ve grown rich in her laughter. And perhaps save a penny or two and go buy yourself a coke, and after she finally falls asleep, slide yourself down the wall onto the floor with your messy dirty hair, your unshaved legs, your pile of dirty laundry in the next room and breathe. And smile. You’re doing great.