Ok, so my Facebook posts tend to range from fun family stories, to something provocative, meant to tap a nerve, shake things up. My latest post derives from the fact that my 43rd birthday is next week. The grays are coming in. I'm not as able to leap a capital T with a single bound. A few weeks ago my back went into apoplexy just by trying to serve a tennis ball (never mind the fact that my competitor, my 70 year old Dad, consistently beats me). Anyway, given the ingrained, cultural fear, if not indignation of "matters-aging," I can be playfully instigating about it all. So my recent post was simply:
"Steph and I were talking today... sharing our admiration for women in particular who let their hair go natural. It's one of those ways one declares to the world whom their (hair) Designer is. No judgement here for those who modify, but just admiration for those who don't (literally) buy it..."
Within a few, short hours... a good number of comments and "likes," all from women, affirmed this culturally unorthodox view. They shared concern with the pressures felt in this culture. One, however, did take offense, essentially challenging the point that what one does with one's hair does not make them any less of a Catholic/Christian. Point well taken.
My follow up:
"Clearly, everyone here recognizes the 'courage' it takes to go au-naturale. Bottom line-- agree or disagree, it's worth raising the question - the degree to which one should allow a multi-billion dollar industry to 'fashion' (pun intended!) one's image/look... that goes for all of us... clothes, hair, styles.... For my part, I'm affirming the God-created beauty of women... against the predominant 'Cover Girl' pressures of this culture...."
Another of the women then commented:
"Greg, I totally understand the 'unconditional' love between mates. We love the aging process as it appears. But, ask Steph how she feels when she gets a new haircut or a 'Mary Kay' under eye concealer or a little blush, or a cute new dress to wear to church, etc. It's not vanity at all. It's just a woman thing... it gives us self-confidence and 'that' enhances the beauty within for our Lord. I hope you compute what I'm trying to say!... "ME" thinks 20 years from now you'll have a different opinion! luvnprayers..."
Before sharing my reply, for those who perhaps can't read between the lines up to this point-- let me note, emphatically, that I am not trying to advance some kind of controlling, fundamentalist, "cosmetic litmus test" for Christianity. That would be grossly presumptuous. Rather, I am wanting to raise a point that often evades our consideration, but has important implications. It matters not so much what one does cosmetically (etc.), so much as that they have both (1) a firm grasp of their truly beautiful, unsurpassable value/image in God, AND (2) that we are mindful of the real "image pressures" imposed upon us by culture, and the potential effects on the soul.
So my comment:
"You must know, sometimes I just like to shake things up and make people think. There are important implications here for one's self-image/worth. There's a call for balance in all this of course, yet I'm suggesting the cosmotized image is in no need of advocacy... it's assumed, lived, breathed, unquestioned; the corrective does.
"As a marketing professional, who also happens to be tuned into culture from a faith-perspective-- I'm struck by the fact that there is an understanding among industry professionals, particularly where it concerns women, that if they can associate an image with their products... engender insecurity - they create 'product need,' they'll be able to make millions... the cost to women's REAL self-worth and value where it really matters (their core/ spiritual identity) is, in my opinion, catastrophic.
"On a personal level-- along with the other boys/men of my generation, I inherited a pronounced 'Cover Girl' vision/image of what type of women are attractive. There's a book in the making here. From high school through college I dated many women who more-or-less fit this physical profile. While all of them had a faith dimension, my point is that (my) vision/image was crippled by being overly influenced by 'Cover Girl' professionals, and I note almost all of those women suffered from the pressures associated with that image... put them at a real distance from themselves, and others... constantly struggling for a self-purpose/realization they could not find in any amount of cosmetics, or clothes.
"Seriously, think of the cultural/industry-appointed 'beautiful women.' Out of the spotlight (where it really matters), do these ladies ever really 'arrive' at the point of peace about their beauty? When? For how long? And what is it dependent upon? We all know the answer. And yet we're 'made' to chase that standard, to allow it to order our inner lives... why?
"Look around. Magazines. Television. The lived-culture of younger girls and women. Ask psychologists. Tell me we don't see an entire culture under the spell of big-industry. They've set the stage, and many are buying the script... to the detriment of their own, inner sense of (true) beauty and value. If we're honest, we're all fighting the battle in varying degrees. The search for real value, real beauty, has to be anchored in truth... in God's design. We're all getting older. Is that standard really worth chasing? How much is lost in the chase? Doesn't all this real experience punctuate that enduring self-value (and real worth!) is more than skin-deep... and shine a bright spotlight on the (false) inadequacy many women (and men) are made to feel?
"So, I knew something was out of kilter, but didn't quite know what. Through a season of intent prayer, reflection, growth, while discerning priesthood in seminary, I experienced transformation... stripped of false conceptions so to speak, which was precisely the basis that I found, and fell in love with, my wife... in whom I discovered (and am continuing to discover) the real meaning of 'In His Image'... a priceless gift from God... way off the pages of Cover Girl society... with a beauty I think is truly physical, but transcending... connected at such a deeper level. (By the way, for me as a man this has involved coming to embrace, celebrate in fact, God's less than 'buff' design of me!).
"Keeping it all simple- as a father of daughters, I need them to know the culture inundates them with a very false sense of their value and purpose... engenders insecurity... spins many women around their finger, none of whom are any more fulfilled, any more peaceful about who they are as a result of embracing their manufactured image; their REAL image - in God - can not be surpassed or improved upon!
"I have to believe if most women (and men) were honest, they would acknowledge, and resent this pressure. It's incumbent upon Christians to see it for what it is... and take it head on... seek transformation of vision: 'Open the eyes of my heart Lord....'"
[After writing this, I discovered an award-winning documentary on the subject that dramatically showcases the reality of many of these points. It's called "Cover Girl Culture" (http://www.covergirlculture.com/). Below is a trailer. Please note-- no nudity, but there are provocative images that make the point].
We all fall short. That's where we need a Savior... where He enters. Let's be in prayerful communion with one another in striving for it.
Please join us for our next Catholic Men's and Women's Gathering.
God bless you and your family this day.