Real Women

I’ve had something on my mind: Real Women.

Look around you sometime at the grocery store, or gas station, at work or at the gym.  Look at the real women around you.  How many of them look like the women on cover of magazines, in commercials or at elite fitness competitions?  I propose almost none.  There was one woman today who I saw at the gym who legitimately looked like a elite fitness/pin-up model.  Maybe she was one.

Our sex-crazed culture is so perverted in it’s message about what a woman should look like.  Most of us real women spend way too much time, money, thought and energy into trying to achieve some semblance of that air-brushed, artificially-preserved image.  To clarify, my point here isn’t let yourself go, throw healthy diet and exercise out with the dirty bathwater of trying to look like the perky-disproportionately-large busted, thin-waisted, flawless-skinned, whitened teeth, stylish, muscle-up repping, 7% body fat, tanned-skin woman we are being told everywhere is what a beautiful woman should look like.  The thing I want to say here is real women everywhere who care about a healthy diet and who exercise their bodies to keep them healthy are all shapes and sizes and have varicose veins, hemorrhoids, postpartum depression, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, migraine headaches, fatigue, acne, heavy periods, irregular periods, infertility, eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles, freckles, moles, birth marks, scars, cow-licks, curly hair, straight hair, thinning hair, no hair, brown eyes, blue eyes, blind eyes, glaucoma damaged eyes, are near-sighted, far-sighted, lactose intolerant, have Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis, cancer, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, auto-immune diseases, amputations, skin-grafts, transplants, hearing loss, joint-damage, injuries… I could go on and on.  My point is, none of those things that real, beautiful women live with every day show up on that cover of Fitness Today, or in the friggin’ Carl’s Jr. commercial with the seductive woman nearly orgasmic over a hamburger for goodness sake!

I have the privilege of talking to lots of women.  Most of them in the hospital for some malady that has plagued their lives or some injury or trauma that has drastically changed it forever.  Their ages range from teens to 100’s.  Some of them are strikingly beautiful-  if you saw them all cleaned up and made up and in their best clothes and their best health in the best light you’d be like, “Whoa!  She’s beautiful!”  Most of them though wouldn’t probably catch your attention on the physical beauty radar, but that’s just the thing.  That’s MOST of the women in the world.  There are stunningly beautiful women, no doubt.  But most of us are in the girl-next-door beauty category.  We might have beautiful eyes, but our jaw line is receding, or our nose is crooked, or we have an acne problem or we’re pear-shaped… and supposedly those things make us not very beautiful anymore according to the media message we are barraged by.  And I just want to say bologna!!  BOLOGNA!  Real women are really beautiful for many reasons including, but not limited to their bust, waste and hip measurements.

I feel so passionate about this right now, I want to start a hashtag campaign for #RealWomen to take pictures of their real selves and post them on social media.  (I just looked up the hashtag RealWoman… don’t do it.  It’s already being used and perverted… So much for the hashtag campaign idea.  I guess I’ll just post an obscure blog.)  I wish we could flood the media with what real women look like and see how beautiful we are with our various struggles and body types.  This passion rises in me as a 42 year old, six-foot tall, blonde, fair-skinned, fairly thin woman who has been told most of her life by various people, “You should be a model!”  All my life I have really dreaded hearing that from people.  I mean I know they’re being nice and all, but being a model isn’t the pinnacle of feminine beauty and it’s certainly not what I want to do with my life.  Unless, I could be a model and show the extra roll of padding that has formed around my waist-line in the last 10 years, and the varicose veins that have disfigured my legs, and the painful-bloated abdomen that bothers me about 2 weeks out of every month simply because of ovulation and menstruation.  If I could show the world what I really look like no modeling agency would have me, because, well, I’m a real woman.  I have a real body with real fat and muscle and bone that don’t conform to the cover of Vogue.

So I’ll never be a runway model, and I never want to be, but I do model for my husband and sons and co-workers and nieces and nephews and kids at church and in my neighborhood what a real woman looks like and what makes her beautiful.   So what does make a woman beautiful?

The design of the feminine physique is un-mistakeably a thing of beauty.  No doubt, God made a woman as a display of beauty unchallenged by the rest of his creation.  In fact, the physical beauty of a woman is the reason the perversion, molestation and objectifying de-humanization of it is such a thriving industry both in the sex-selling advertisements used on everything from cars to hamburgers, and in the get yourself air-brushed, lifted, tucked, waxed, tattooed, slimmed, dieted, toned and trimmed messages we hear on advertisements everywhere.  We are being told constantly that the female body is beautiful if it makes a man want to engage in sexual acts with it, and if it is physically fit enough to compete in a modeling or fitness competition.  But the truth is, the female body’s beauty isn’t just like an exotic flower that’s stunning and visually alluring for a time, and then, eventually wilts and fades.  It does wilt and wrinkle, fade and age-spot.  But the physical allure of a woman’s body is also like fine wine and a timeless piece of architecture- it’s beauty develops depth and variety and character over time and gravity and arthritis.   It really does.  The secret to the beauty of a woman that endures time and brokenness is not found at Ulta or the gym.  It’s not confirmed in a man’s arousal or an elite-fitness award.  This is where the God part of my soapbox on #RealWomen comes in.

I can’t avoid it.  This is the thing about thinking through a line of reasoning.  If I leave God out of it, I could say a real woman’s beauty comes from good character and trying to stay healthy.  No God needed.  But the motives behind the woman’s good character and trying to stay healthy are the real light shining out of the lamp of that woman’s life and if the motives are self-actualization and self-fulfillment as defined by other women and men in the world, then the light is a deceptive allure to a dead end.  But if the motives behind the woman’s good character and work towards good health is the imaging of God’s beauty and worth then she shines a light so bright it breaks through the thickest fog of depression, cancer and loss a real woman lives with, giving her the hope of also becoming a stunningly beautiful woman.  The light that shines from the life of a woman who’s hope is in God, not in men or women or society, drives out the darkness that comes with sagging skin and hearing loss and clears the path for women with silhouettes and shapes of all kinds to walk the way of #RealWomen beauty.

God in Christ is the standard of #RealWoman beauty.  He’s the creator of it and it’s to him I look for what real beauty is, not magazines or what the world around me says.  He says real woman beauty is a gentle and quiet spirit.  He says real woman beauty is fearing no one but God alone.  He says real woman beauty looks fear in the face and laughs, cause nothing can drive out the unapproachable light of God’s truth and his good plans.  He says the really beautiful woman knows she’s a child of God, and like Christ, lays down her life- submitting to others willingly, and standing firm in the truth unwaveringly.  

I want to look to him for what beauty is and spend my time and energy striving after those things with the strength he supplies.  The physical maintenance of my body and the painting of the house must be done.  But they are not the methods I want to use to achieve beauty.  They are outward, temporary maintenance not inward lasting beauty.

Are you a real woman?  How do you define feminine beauty?