Not sure where this is going but I know that if I don't spill this stuff out of my brain it's going to fester. Ramble with me?
I want to talk about superficiality, about the rot inside the shiny outside.
I've never exactly been a beauty queen. My (well intentioned) mum once suggested that I undertake cosmetic surgery on my face. A common taunt at school was 'Fritha no chin'. I spent my whole life until I was twenty four single, loving boys who wanted to be best friends but not lovers. Rom Coms have informed me that this situation is bad, for girls should be sexy first, and funny/strong/loyal second. I have not, am not, and at this mum-of-two stage it looks unlikely that I will ever be, a swishy flouncy head turning hottie.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not asking for sympathy, or for affirmation, or for effusive compliments or hugs or 'you are so pretty'. Save your breath, for I do not need it.
I am not who I was then, and if I could buy a time machine (or borrow one because lets face it, I'm on a missionary budget) I would tell my younger self to hold on, keep going, because in a decade or so you will be confident, loved, adored, cherished, partnered, happy to look in mirrors, happy to wear party frocks or pyjamas, happy to adorn yourself in whatever you fancy and every day what you fancy will be your husband. Not a super model but unlikely to frighten children with your face.
Speaking of children, John and I made a female one and she is three years old now. I currently want to put her in a bubble made of youth and oblivious joy, because the country in which I live wants her to be just like them. And I will not allow it. I will not allow it. I will scream at the wind until it changes, for I am mummy and you will keep your crap away from my daughter.
What am I talking about?
I'm talking about culture, about world view, about women starving themselves to please any man who might marry them or even just notice them, to inspire the envy of their peers, I'm talking about feeling judged judged judged and I'm talking about being a woman.
I don't want to cause hurt to my Ukrainian friends, and if I was in England I'm sure the same issues would come up they would just be in different forms. But it's tough here. I've had my weight, nails, hair, make up, clothes etc discussed relentlessly, baldly, as if it's acceptable to maintain in one's mind a running assessment of the appearance of your friends. Size ten girls are known as 'chubby' or 'fat', the medium size jeans are a UK size 6, if you have dirt on yourself someone will tell you, loudly, in public. If you go for a manicure the woman will inspect your hands and tut. TUT. As if cuticles matter (could we get some perspective, ladies?) The baby clinic is full of women who gave birth a month ago and today are wearing leather jeans and thigh high boots and sequins, I kid you not. I have never seen most of my friends without make up on. Oksana told me that girls starve themselves to afford dresses, eating bread and mayonnaise and shopping. I've been asked how I plan to lose the baby weight, when it's already gone. I've been told I need to lose the baby weight, when it's already gone. My friend tells me that 'oh yeah I judged women who didn't wear make up out of the house, every one does'. My other friend informs me that the reason you don't see tiny babies out and about is because the mums don't leave the house until they've deprived themselves thinner than you.
There is an assumption going on in all of this, and that assumption is this: You do not look good enough. Or maybe: You need to look good.
Is there anything less Holy?
To be obsessed with shiny on the outside, polishing and polishing and chiseling and carving and spending and starving and all the energy, all the focus, all the time, all the hope invested in something that is temporary. Fading. Fleeting. Rootless. Powerless.
And He is ignored.
You will never be thin enough, or pretty enough, or stylish enough to stop trying. And while you were trying you were obsessing over yourself. I have wasted so many thoughts on myself since moving here, on my waist or my make up or my dresses. So self obsessed.
So. Self. Obsessed.
And He is forgotten.
And we dress it up as if dressing up is harmless, as if it's just part of being a girl, as if we're celebrating instead of hating.
But we're not, we're comparing and fighting and competing. Hating ourselves, relentless in our criticisms.
And He is silenced.
I have spent too many years seeing the outside of people, seeing the outside of myself. I have spent so many years unsatisfied.
I want to be free of this, because I have a daughter and I want so much, so hard, for her to be free of this. So it starts with me. How to protect her from the world screaming at her to hate herself better looking, to lose focus on the beauty around her while loathing the beauty she thinks she lacks herself.
Oh, we are so very fallen, and we so very much need the love of God to help us, but my heart has big hopes and I believe that we can do this. If we stop undermining each other and start acting like sisters. Men aren't oppressing us half as effectively as we're oppressing each other.
I'm not a head turning hottie.
I've never been a beauty queen.
My prayers are turning into something different though, because I'm starting to realise how fun life would be if I didn't care. To be absolutely covered in dirt because I've been washing feet, to be smeared and sweaty from carrying those who can't walk by themselves. To be unfashionable because I've forgotten to pay attention, preoccupied by loving the people around me. Covered in cake batter from toddler hands, dancing like an idiot in the lounge, mismatched when I open my door to guests because I've been teaching my children the value of kindness shown in a please or a thank you. To bring my husband joy in my smiles, to cry with him in his hurts, to grin at him without shame or worry or insecurity. Baby vomit on my shoulder because yes I ran out of the door because yes I was lying on the carpet talking da-da-da instead of applying foundation, eye contact for hours because he's only going to be as small as he is today for the rest of today and every 24 hour cycle is precious and I will not waste it ironing my bras. And I will eat the cake. Because cake is yummy and there should be no shame in yummy. There should be no shame in being a woman - my hands that can hold, comfort, create, support, make miracles. My body that's changed post baby making but it needed to get bigger to hold all the new love. To wear a tonne of glittery eye liner if I feel like it, to wear a tonne of nothing if I don't.
To teach my girls not to care about what they look like, to wear whatever makes them feel powerful and free, to give them the walls against their judgy peers, to call out their confidence. Every selfie swapped for a kind word to a friend.
I'm so far from healed in this, and I wish I wasn't, I wish I was some amazing Jesus woman to write you an inspiring and uplifting tome on spiritual growth, but there's enough of them on the internet. Google 'Christian woman' and learn how to flower arrange/ diet/ dress up for Jesus.
'Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised'. Fearing the LORD has a lot more dirt and tears and dancing than I've been led to believe.
I'm not a beauty queen.
But I know the King.