Friday, March 20, 2009

The Pretty People Post

So, I said over at Facebook that I was going to do a post on pretty people, and a good friend jokingly, "you don't have to do an entire blog post about me." And while she wasn't who I was thinking of (sorry, Maggi!), it did strike me how much perception plays into this.

Let me start by saying I'm as guilty as the next person of obsessing over pretty people. I used to read the celebrity magazines, read all sorts of stuff online, find pictures of an actor I adored and just gaze dreamily at him (or wallpaper my bedroom wall, but that's another story). And the sad bit is that I'm not talking about as a teenager. I'm talking about more recently. Like last week. I think.

But here's the thing. I look at the 'pretty people' (and for the sake of definitions, let's assume I'm only speaking about the folks given media attention, like actors, actresses, musicians, and the all purpose 'celebs (yes, I am talking about you, Paris Hilton)), I'm doing two things. Marveling over the look they've both achieved and maintained, either through fitness, plastic surgery, or God's own grace in giving them symmetrical faces, and wondering what's inside.

Because that's what matters, right? What's inside a person? Says who? Well, God does.

The Bible doesn't say,

"Create in me a clean face, oh God, and renew a right body in me."

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of you face."

"Above all else, guard your face, for it is the wellspring of life."

All a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the face."

Just in rereading all those adulterated scriptures its pretty clear how appearance doesn't work when you're talking about eternity.

So why do we do so? I know why I fixate on appearance. It's all around me. The notion of success as presented by the world is tall, thin, beautiful. By the standards that have been set by some vague select elite. (Actually, the modern standard of beauty is likely being set by fashion designers, most often gay men, who create clothes for women to showcase what they'd find appealing on a man. No breasts, no hips, no fat or curve at all. But I digress).

I also fixate because a part of me just wants to think that there might be something deeper to the image I'm seeing. That the person with the perfect lips, cheekbones, hair, eyes (coughjensenacklescough) might be more than just pretty in form, but pretty in spirit. You know?

We all know people who we'd describe as pretty/beautiful, inside and out. But the question I want to ask is this: Would we have gotten to know their inner beauty if we hadn't found the outside appealing? Do we get to know people because we hope their insides match their outsides, or do we get to know them irregardless of looks?

I honestly don't know. I'm as guilty of this thinking as the next person. And it stinks, because my self-image is such I tend to classify myself with the non-pretty people that often get left out. And I isolate myself on that same basis. Because I buy the lie that I don't matter if my face and form aren't up to the world's standards. That no one will see the real me inside my extra weight and screwy eyes and bad skin. That unless I change everything about myself to make my outsides match my insides, I won't matter.

I know we're all critical of our appearance. And we do so in terms of what other's think. 'I can't wear that dress, I'll look fat.' 'He'll never notice me in this top, I better change, and wear a pushup bra besides.' 'I'm too young/old for him/her.' 'No point in dressing to impress cause no one's looking.'

And it's everywhere we go. Not just in the secular world. I'm self-conscious every time I go to church, wondering if I'm dressed up just enough to fit in, or if it's too much, or if I should have worn more jewelry, or if I should have worn heels, and on and on. Mostly, I ignore those thoughts, because I'm not entirely awake when I get there, but by the time I leave, I'm aware of how I do, and do not match my surroundings. The absolute dumbest part? No one but me cares or notices these things.

I greatly admire the women who dress to please themselves and no one else. (Of course if I did that, it'd be a sheet over my head half the time). The ones who don't care what others think. Recently I wore what can only be described as a teenybopper t-shirt to my church's women's retreat. I don't have the body for those kind of shirts, yet I did it anyway. Wanted to have fun with it. And this time, I did get a response. Ranging from "Oh, Jen. Only you." to "That's a devil shirt!" (It said, 'I kissed a vampire and I liked it') So I pleased myself that time. And now I have to stop second-guessing myself the next time I go to church, because who knows what they'll think if I wear my new threadless (tm) shirt.

And in the midst of all this self-conscious thinking lurks the truth, well hidden by the lies we tell ourselves when we look in a mirror, and when we see billboards and commercials and people on the street who cause envy just by their very size two jeans. The truth that none of it matters. The truth that our face and form are not, as a lot of netspeaking teenagers might say, 'relevant to my (God's) interests'.

This is the truth:

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." (I personally like Judge Judy's "Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever" idiom, but this is also true ;) )

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

And by way of warning/admonishment to myself and others who fixate on looks:

"As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man."

I actually intended to write this as a more joking post, but the deeper I got into it, the more I realized how hard this hits me. I'm considered a smart and wise woman by my peers, yet I doubt it all the time because how can I have anything to offer? You see women in all career paths, even Christians, who have to bank their talent and intellect on their appearance. In my more spiteful and vindictive moments I wonder how a person so physically unpleasing by worldly standards could be happy/married/successful; could have peace/someone/success, while I don't?

Well, that answers the question right there. They have someone because they've gotten past the need for outward adornment. I know I haven't. But I'm trying to change. Trying to see that the only way I can be pretty outside is if I'm 'pretty' inside. And the only way I can do that is through the grace of God. Through his transformation. My face has to reflect my heart. Which I know is hard, far harder than I want it to be. But I believe that God will change that. Not sure how, or when or where, but I have hope for it.


Angie the hairy-legged feminist said...

:: trips over shoelace and falls face-first onto red brick road ::

I like your blog! I regret that I didn't visit sooner, as you have some very insightful observations posted here.

You posed a thought-provoking question in this entry: will people notice someone's inner beauty if outer beauty is not there to lure them? I think this depends on the observer. Some people fixate on outer beauty (however they define it), whereas other people are less concerned about appearances. I'll discuss this with you in greater depth over the phone or via e-mail.

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Hey Jen, glad I stumbled on your blog. Great post. It's so hard to get past the face - a good one or bad and judge the true character of a person. Just human nature.

Angie said...

When are you going to post on your blog again? I'd love to read another entry.