Thursday, December 5, 2013

What is "Attractive"?

In college/high school, it seemed every pic on FB that I was tagged in I was eating something and/or looking stupid.

I used to periodically beat up on myself for not being "cute". For wearing classy pulled-together clothes, wearing my hair (brushed) and in pretty ways, etc etc etc.

I am a dork. When I fell in love with my husband my sister figured out I liked him because "Hannah, you must like Josh, you're brushing your hair in the morning".

So, a sloppy dork.

At least now I brush my hair every day.

I was basically the girl in clashing sweater and the camouflage maxi-skirt worn over 2 layers of long johns, whose wet unbrushed hair was making a pontytail icicle down her back, racing to class 2 minutes late just so glad I answered all but half of one of the homework questions...written on printer scrap paper I fished out of the scrap bins because it was free.
I marveled at the girls in college who managed to put on makeup and take showers and turn their homework in and show up to class 5 minutes early with their crisp notebooks. It made me feel better to say their majors weren't as hard as mine. But then there was the flag-bearer Physics major, my year, who always got good grades, was socially smooth, and always had makeup and brushed hair....and was incredibly sweet to boot.

I would periodically compare myself to the other girls at college, and feel bad. Especially when I gained 20+ pounds my freshman year. Every Saturday morning I would stand in front of the mirror and tell myself I was fat, to motivate myself not to over eat. Heh.
Girls on my hall were always talking about the terrifying "freshman fifteen" and discussing strategies to not fall prey to it.
Numbers on the scale filled me with dread. Surely the scales were broken.
I mustn't fail. I mustn't be a loser, a fat, overweight, unself-controlled unnattractive slob.
There was a harrowing incident involving a messy room, a crash diet ending in me hunched on the floor in a darkened messy room, stuffing my face with a greasy cheese-steak when my classy thin hallmate accidently opened the door....
I felt like such a loser, as all the classy attractive girls "aced" this test of not-gaining-the-freshman-15, while I failed. But I kept telling myself the scales were broken.

When freshman year was finished and I got home, my little brother (who had lovingly called me fat my whole life) and I went to the YMCA. I measured myself on that scale, and saw, yes, I had indeed gained 20 lbs. As we left the building I was crying.
"Hannah, what's wrong?"
"I gained 20 pounds. I'm fat"



My little brother lovingly told me not to change.
Then he told me I was a dork.
"I thought you told me not to change!"
"Yeah." he said, staring at me, unruffled. "What's wrong with being a dork?"

This is me, after realizing that all the pix of me on FB involved food or weird faces (see above for sample) deciding I needed an an epic selfie album. This is me trying to look epic in a selfie FB photoshoot with a sword. Note the neglected sib in the background.
From the same selfie photoshoot, I recruited a 5 yr old sibling to take the pictures, and tried to look deep.
And my husband fell in love with the aforementioned dork, with a greasy knot-bun of unwashed hair, raving about Bernard of Clairvaux and rambling for an hour with pointless anecdotes of each of her 8 siblings when asked how she was doing...

So, after we started courting, I brushed my hair. I even put on lipstick when I remembered too. I tried to wear non-clashing clothes. When we were engaged I went so for at to buy some NEW $18 DRESSES AT A STORE. I googled "cute dresses" and tried to get an idea of what I should wear. I WORE BIG EARRINGS.
Not that Josh noticed. At all. I just wanted other people to think "Josh is marrying a pretty wife."
And a month before my wedding I went on a major self-beating-up-session about my dorkiness.

I was going to get married. I had to be cute. I WANTED to be cute.I  bought a bunch of tube top dresses and brightly peasant dresses to be pretty on my honeymoon. With the vague idea I would be wandering down Carribean beaches in them, with tropical flowers in my hair. Not the 10 day camping trip in the mountains that I had planned....

I never did wear those dresses on my honeymoon. I wore men's XL T-shirts with pants and a belt with a waterbottle hanging off it and felt medieval and awesome.
And to this day, the smell of bug spray reminds me of my honeymoon.

But after that those tube top dresses sat unworn in my drawer...I never did wear them...they weren't really "me".

me = dork.

And that was all.

But even dorks get epic engagement photoshoots when their little sisters are really talented. Ignore the sneakers.

But after our marriage, I would still periodically try to be cute. Sometimes randomly watching lots of hair tutorials, getting out my make up kit, vowing to change, to organize my wardrobe, etc etc.

Once I was standing in front of the mirror, rearranging a cute belt, fussing with make up, when my husband asked me, "who are you trying to impress?"
I brushed him off. "You  might not notice I'm not wearing makeup, but other women do".

I want be "classy" to look "pretty", spending hours perusing vintage blogs and saving pictures of cute vintage dresses...
I want to look attractive, I say. I want to look pretty

But who am I trying to impress?

My kids? How did I feel about my mom? She is classy, hands down. And gorgeous. Other women envied her figure, her poise, which was completely effortless on her part. But was that what made an impression on me growing up? Those things that made my mom so amazing as a small child?
No, what I remember, those moments hearing her singing "Morning Sun, light of creation..." while her hand gently stroked my hair. Or hearing her pray on and on as we dozed off at the end of family prayer, as she prayed for the world and repentance and each one of us and our lives. Or how she would always comb and fix our hair. I remember telling my twin, at around age 6, that mommy had 2 kinds of prettiness, the kind with make up and going out of the house, and the kind when she was in the house in jammies, and visualizing her in jammies, smiling down at me.
Would my kids care if I was wearing that cute vintage ensemble with cinch belt, or a frumpy house dress? Not really. They'll remember my hands, my voice, the books they bring me to read to them.

My husband? He's such a nerd, he can't tell the difference when I put on make up or not. To him every dress looks the same. And he fell in love with the dork. So...yeah.

My sisters? Yeah, they'll be impressed that I look like 'Anthropologie' or a blogger etc (If I can every pull it off...). Yeah, my little sis told me I dress Amish.
But they'll care a lot more that I was there for them. That I called them. That I care about what's going on in their lives, matters orders of magnitude more to them than that I'm wearing pulled together outfits and know how to apply make up.

Women at church? Maybe. Yes, it would be cool if they said "that woman is classy" to themselves when they looked over at me. But to what end? Why does it matter to me so much?

Who am I trying to impress?

Myself? To finally prove to myself, that despite my completely dorky highschool and college experience, NOW I can look attractive, show all those cute girls who watched as I bumbled around that I could've been attractive all along if I had wanted to, so there!

But to attract what?

A husband? He loved dork me anyway, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Guys? In Amy March's words "You only need one".

Other womens admiration? I think we're getting to the core here, Admiration. "She's classy", "She's pretty", "She's pulled together" will echo through their minds when they look at me. I think that about other women all the time.

But What kind of admiration? When I'm 50, to make them think "wow, she looks 40"?  When I'm 80 "She only looks 65!" ....It's nice if they thought me pretty. But what If they remembered someone who told them that they were beautiful, who saw the beauty in them.....instead of desperately wanting to impress them with how beautiful she was without looking like she was trying. Or something.

Myself? So I can finally feel like I'm "pretty" and "cute". To what end? To finally approve of myself? On what grounds?

Right now, as I fuss with my hair as Isaiah yells for a 5th reading of "Thump and Plunk" it doesn't seem so bad. But what about 10 yrs from now? 15 years? 25 years?

Who am I trying to impress? What do I want to become?

Edit: So I found out who cares. My mom. So I will try not to wear jammies under my long dresses to church, or mismatching socks. I will even put on make up every day. (E.L.F fits my budget and my philosophy...) I might even put in earrings before going out. I am turning over a new leaf.

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