You can read my new column at Inside Catholic: Beautiful Girls.
And won’t you please help deflect some of the negative energy this one has spawned? I just can’t win (perhaps I should stop trying). In response to my article, Desiderius (surely a pseudonym) made some good points all the while seeming to miss the meaning behind my words.
She (he?) writes, “I’m really sick of seeing Catholic ‘mother martyrs’ go online and brag about how noble and unworldly they are for letting the hair on their legs go grey. I’m sure their husbands are enchanted—as enchanted as wives must be at big beer guts and apathy about career advancement, savings, or stewardship.”
And then, “telling married women that it is more Christian to neglect their looks implies a contempt for their husbands.”
In fact, I agree with her (in part), and I never said anywhere in my column that I want my children to neglect their looks. Perhaps she took the line about beauty being too exhausting to maintain the wrong way. I’m not suggesting we should surrender to sloth or some feminist hoopla that “I don’t care what men think. I am lovely just the way I am even with my unkempt hair and smelly pits.” On the contrary, I work hard to take care of myself – to exercise and to eat properly and to dress attractively. (And even slice off moles in the process of shaving my legs for goodness’ sake – talk about love for your spouse!)
I can remember my mom always sprucing up before my dad returned from work (she still does though she admits to frequently wearing Cubs tees; baseball is her obsession). I do no different (sans the Cubs t-shirt). Even if a day has been particularly harried and I haven’t had as much time to devote to grooming as I desire (code for not having showered) I like to give my eyes (my favorite feature) a quick swipe of the mascara because this small gesture goes a long way in helping me to feel bright-eyed and lovely both for my husband and myself. Personally, I have to be more careful about not being too vain and getting too wrapped up in “lookism.” In fact, my husband often gets frustrated with me because he sees me as desirable and that should be enough.
The point I was attempting to make over at Inside Catholic is that I want to encourage my girls to reclaim the beauty of creation – not conform to some unrealistic standard of beauty that’s dictated by the media. God created us to be fertile and womanly, not stick-thin, expression-less, Botox-y, fabricated beauties. Likewise, I want my children to recognize that the health and beauty of their souls is more worthy of their attention and energy than fretting over their physical appearance, which has no eternal value.
Also, I want to make it clear that eating disorders have little to do with beauty or even wanting to look a certain way. They may start out as a means of slimming down, but they become an external and measurable scale of self-worth that offer a means of coping with fears and insecurities. Mine was primarily about being in control. I want to teach my girls to fill up on the Lord rather than turning to weight or improving their looks as a way to fill a void in their lives. I want to help them recognize Truth and beauty and these, I believe, can be found in Our Blessed Mother. Hence, my reasoning for writing the article.
So what do you think? Go mosey on over there and chime in with your own thoughts of how we can achieve real beauty. It’s an important discussion.
*As a footnote: Forgive me, dear readers, for ranting about a topic quite similar to my most recent Faith & Family LIVE! feature on banishing postpartum body blues. As a mom to three girls, I frequently find myself thinking about body image and beauty and finding a balance between caring for ourselves and not becoming obssessive about our looks. My thoughts, not surprisingly, often pop up in my columns and on this blog. I didn’t realize, however, that these two bits of writing would be published so close together. Hey, at least I’m not babbling again about my primary obsession (sleep or lack thereof).