How about a resolution to Be Yourself? (a.k.a. – a Proverbs 31 post)

You are more precious than rubies.

You are more precious than rubies

I am reading a new book that I’ve wanted to read for awhile now: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. I am enjoying it immensely. I avoided it for a while after hearing about it, because I expected a self-righteous written lecture about how to obey all the Old Testament legalities that most of today’s Christians consider unimportant. But it isn’t that at all.

Consider her “Proverbs 31” chapter, where she studies the chapter of Proverbs that begins “A wife of noble character who can find?” and continues with a long (looooong) list of all the things this exemplified woman does in her role of virtuous woman. I expected this chapter to make me feel “UGH”, but to my complete surprise, that isn’t how this author writes at all.

In this time of New Year’s Resolutions, I simply adore how Rachel Held Evans addresses the Proverbs 31 woman. First, she points out that no such woman ever existed. The chapter is not about someone who did in fact “do it all”. Also, in Jewish circles, it is not considered to be a list of things that all women should strive to master. In fact, the only instruction in that passage is given to other people – they are instructed to “honor her for all her hands have done”. Simply put, it is not a to-do list!

You are not blocked from being a valorous woman if you can not sew. You are not blocked from being a virtuous woman if you can not cook. You are not blocked from being a woman of noble character if you are not married. Not at all.

So what if you work, and purchase the clothing you wear from another person? The Proverbs 31 woman had servants, surely she didn’t sew every single item she wore, so if you work honestly and spend your money honestly, you are still clothing yourself and are a valorous woman.
It doesn’t matter if your method of cooking is opening a can of soup or ordering pizza. The point is that neither yourself nor your family is going hungry because you ignore them. So you are still a virtuous woman.
And since our society today does not require a male person to be the sole representative for his family in matters of law or policy, so if you are a single or widowed or divorced woman, you can still can be a woman of noble character without a husband today.

It’s not a to-do list, folks. You can use the strengths God already gave you, to be the best you can be, without trying to copy anyone else. You don’t even have to copy the non-existent Proverbs 31 woman.

So enough with the resolutions to change. Enough with the resolutions to be “good enough”. Enough with the resolutions to be more like someone else – whether that person have a model’s figure, an Olympian’s strength, or the homemaking instincts of Martha Stewart. Enough.

God made you who you are. How about a resolution to Be Yourself this year?

For my part, I ordered a unicycle. Yep. A unicycle. If I were to rewrite Proverbs 31 for myself today, “makes others laugh” would be part of it, I’m sure.

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The horror of mirrors in movie theatre bathrooms

Mirrors. Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with mirrors. I use one to apply my makeup, but ignore the tiny wrinkles at the corners of my eyes. I use one to style my hair, but carefully avoid looking at the grey hairs while doing so. I use them to adjust my clothing, but don’t want to see the size of my waist.

Looking at a beautiful image of myself in new clothes or with a new hair color is worth it. Noticing that the person next to me looks better makes it worse.

So why oh why do they put such LARGE mirrors in the restrooms at movie theatres???

It never fails. I go to the movie – one I’ve been waiting to see for some weeks. Fully half the people in line are teenagers, rowdy and flirting with each other to some degree, as teens do. Every one of them is gorgeous, because when you’re over 35, you realize that everything you thought was ugly as a teenager is actually just a uniqueness, and that every healthy young person is actually stunning. The shiny hair, the bright complexions without wrinkles, the effortless movements are all graceful. I get my ticket and proceed to the theatre to watch the show. Then on the screen, every woman is skinny and beautiful with flawless skin, impeccible hair and makeup and clothes. That goes for the commercials, the previews, and the feature movie. Of course they’re skinny and beautiful, they’re paid to be. Of course the hair and makeup and clothes are perfect, they have a whole staff to make it that way. If they were normal they’d be in an office, not on a movie screen.

So full of images of beautiful teens and women by the end of the movie, I proceed into the restroom, where in every movie theatre I have ever visited, a whole wall is dedicated to one of the largest mirrors I have ever seen. It starts at hip level, even with the skinks, and extends over my head. I glance in the mirror as I pass, and am immediately struck by one fact –

I look nothing like all the images of teens and women who have filled my eyes and mind in the past few hours.

Nothing. The differences stand out to me. The haircolor that needs retouched. The wrinkles that are now showing because the tissue (used in laughter or tears at the emotion of the movie) removed some of my makeup. The waistline that is flat or convex where every other waistline I’ve seen in the past few hours is concave. All my faults – real and imagined –  are displayed to me in this mirror. They stand out all the more because of the differences between the images I so recently put into my mind vs the images I see in this mirror.

Somehow I never remember to avoid looking in that mirror.

Why do they need those mirrors to be so large? Other than dressing room mirrors, they are the only ones I see in public that show so much. I mean, they are low enough they are below my hips! Why? Large mirrors are expensive – more expensive than tile for that much of an area. I have no idea why large mirrors in movie theatres are so prevalent.

I can’t imagine that the large mirrors bring them any business, and they just might be keeping some business away. (Especially in the snack area – who would buy snacks after seeing themselves in that light?) One of life’s mysteries I guess. For me, the mirrors in the bathroom would be a good feature for a horror film!

Have you had an experience like this? What are the mirrors in your movie theatre like?

My Mii is fat!

There’s a story behind this. Of course.

It started with last fall’s challenge to myself. I wanted to improve myself, to do things I would not normally do, to work on making myself a better person. Sounds good, right? Well one of the things I did was join a gym and start going regularly. And one of the results of going to the gym was that I became annoyed with the fact I did not lose any weight.

None. Not one single ounce.

I was working out, working hard, sweating buckets, improving my strength and flexibility, but I did not lose any weight at all.

Coupled with this was a doctor’s visit for something innocuous. But while I was there, I was stuck in the office for a loooooooooong time. So I was reading the charts on the wall, one of which was a BMI chart. And I discovered that according to my height and weight measurements, I was obese.

Obese. Me. Seriously?

I’m strong. I can lift 50-lb bags of livestock feed. I don’t lead a sedentary lifestyle. I am outside every day with the animals. I don’t ignore my health. I eat natural foods made from scratch, with plenty of vegetables. I’m healthy. I work out 2-3 times a week, strenuously. I can touch my toes. Heck, I hiked up to the top of Pikes Peak mountain in Colorado less than 2 years ago! In my mind, none of those things are congruous with being obese.

Was her chart incorrect? No, I went home and Googled other charts, and there was no difference. It took a while for the knowledge to really sink in, but it finally did.

I am obese.

Even my Wii gaming system knows it. The little icon representing myself (my “Mii”)  on the Wii Fit is fat. They automatically take my weight and height and make my Mii proportional to that.

I hate it. Instinctually I know I do not look like it does, but I also acknowledge that I do not look like I did when I was 29 either.

Obese just doesn’t look like I once thought it did. One doesn’t have to be in a wheelchair, incapable of walking more than a few feet, before they’re considered obese. One doesn’t have to sit on the couch all day eating fast food, to end up being obese. It can happen slowly, in a healthy and strong person. It can creep up on you when you think all is as it always was.

I am not plagued by any of the health issues that often accompany being obese. My blood pressure is great. I’m hardly ever sick. I don’t have trouble doing exercise. I just have the extra layer of fat over parts of my body. And for that I am thankful.

But in what ways might my life improve if I were no longer obese? I bet I would have better flexibility if I had less fat to maneuver around. I bet I could pick up 75 lb bags of livestock feed if I got rid of some of the weight I’m carrying inside my skin. I’m sure there are more, those are two that came to mind most quickly.

I don’t know what the future will hold now that I have internalized this realization. But I’m not happy with the way things are, and I will change them.  I have not made any lifelong changes yet. But I will.

I think I look forward to seeing my Mii get skinny as much as anything! Sometimes the small things matter. 🙂

On body image and beauty

How do you picture yourself? In your mind’s eye, how do you look? Does what you envision match what you see in the mirror?

My husband is a sociologist (pursuing his PhD), and a lot of things that his classmates talk about includes how people see themselves and others. A lot of the world’s problems – and solutions – have their start in that little issue of perception. Today I’m ranting about body image.

I have learned that approximately one third of adults in the USA misclassify their own weight. (That is, given the categories of “underweight”, “correct weight” and “overweight”, their perception of themselves does not match the category their BMI actually puts them in.) A THIRD. That is a lot of people. And that’s only considering what the people actually say about themselves. How they feel can be even further separated from the truth. (This is the study I am paraphrasing:  Self Perception Of Weight Appropriateness in the US.)

And I have learned there is such a thing as “phantom fat”. It is sometimes experienced by people who have lost large amounts of weight. They may know that according to the scale, they are now an appropriate weight. They can state out loud that they are an appropriate weight. But they don’t feel that way. In their mind’s eye they are still overweight. They still are concerned with fitting into chairs. When shown clothing, they think the larger sizes will fit their body, instead of the smaller sizes that actually fit. The fat they have lost still sticks around in their memory and in their perception of their looks. (Here’s the story: “Phantom Fat” can linger after weight loss.)

Personally, I have the opposite issue. When I was several years younger, I was a lean size 6 and looooved my collection of short skirts. I took ballroom dancing lessons and got to wear those outrageous dancing costumes at the competitions. And in my mind’s eye, I still look that way. But that was 8 years and several clothing sizes ago. I now wear the same clothing size as the average American women, but because of the image I have of myself in my mind’s eye I still look the way I did then. I can tell you my weight and size and the fact I am in a doctor’s opinion, “overweight”. But none of that changes how I view myself or how I feel about myself. I feel, and therefore act, sexy, confident, and sure of myself. This is in spite of the fashion industry trying to convince me I need control panels in my jeans and push up pads in my bras.

There have been a lot of things in the news lately about body image and beauty. I like very few of them. Here are two of the more notable losers:

Ralph Lauren hires first Plus Size model. When you read that headline, what size of woman do you think she is? Maybe a woman who wears plus-size clothes? (Which is a horrible term on its own, but I’ll complain about it another day.) Nope! She’s a size 12, the size that half the USA adult female population is larger than. That is NOT “plus size”. That’s AVERAGE size. Of course she’s larger than most models. But she is not larger than most women. This is a very good example of the disconnect that exists between the fashion industry and the American public. Calling a woman “plus size” when she does not wear plus sized clothing is a misnomer that will affect every person who looks at photos of her and connects her with that term.  Here’s a link to an article with good statistics and good photos of the woman:  http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/72708166.html

Skinny Disney Characters. Seriously??? We’re skinnying down children’s cartoon characters now? It’s not Disney itself doing it, it’s a clothing manufacturer. I dislike the idea of it, but I hate this sentence the most: “The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress”. It was said by the manufacturer’s creative designer. And he has it completely backwards. It is the Lanvin dress that would not look good on Minnie Mouse. It is clothing that is supposed to look good on the wearer, not the other way around. It is clothing, its design and its fit, that should be criticized, not the person. And the sooner clothing manufacturers realize that, the better. Here is the article with the best (worst?) photos I could find: http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2012/08/skinny-disney-characters-minnie-mouse-daisy-duck-and-goofy-go-high-fashion.html 

It’s difficult to counter so many messages telling us that we are not tall enough, skinny enough, or pretty enough. Even men have to wrestle with these issues. Even my husband has had struggles with how he believes people perceive him. (And he’s gorgeous, by the way.) A small snippet of his struggle is listed in the first half of this post: Marathon Training Day 11: In the gym with younger, stronger, faster people.

But I am going to end this post on a good, happy note. Not everyone falls victim to the fashion and beauty and weight loss industries telling them there is something wrong that they need to fix. Some stand out from the crowd and empower others to do the same. Lada Gaga is one example. Her response to those viewers who criticized her recent weight gain is refreshing. http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/25/showbiz/lady-gaga-body/index.html

Here is one such video, with no apparant connection to stars or fashion icons. I definately encourage you to watch it. I’d love if this video and ones like it were shown in every classroom in the USA, every year. If only we could reach children and teach them they are beautiful before anything infringes on their ability to believe it. And amazingly, it includes a series of photographs of beautiful women that, for once, leave the viewer feeling as beautiful as they are.  It’s title: On Real Beauty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOz0DHoMsq8

Don’t let others put you in a box with any unsatisfying label on it. Ever. You are beautiful. You are handsome. No matter what.