Friday, April 30, 2010

Cool to be Hot–or Tragically Unhip?

Painting: Turner, Steam ship in an ice storm

A few years ago—all right, decades—Huey Lewis and the News sang “It’s Hip to be Square.” The point of the rock ‘n roll song is that he now lives a more sedate life than in his youth.
I used to be a renegade, I used to fool around
But I couldn't take the punishment, and had to settle down
Now I'm playing it real straight, and yes I cut my hair
You might think I'm crazy, but I don't even care
Because I can tell what's going on
It's hip to be square

Now he’s more mature than sophomoric, he’s looking at fitting in with what’s “normal,” and that means changing his tastes, how he dresses, and how his favorite bands (who have also aged) now dress in business suits.

In this society, it’s cool to be hot. To be “hot” is to be the ultimate in cool. But in most cases, it’s used to mean sexually desirable. Sex sells. It sells products, and it clinches the deal when a couple is even slightly attracted to one another.

What are the differences between "beautiful" and "desirable"? I am the former, but evidence and experience say I'm not the latter. I figure that if I were desirable, there’d be something to show in the way of a dating past. Either men don’t ask me out, or when I work up the courage to ask them out, they’re suddenly very busy being busy, and are very regretful that they’re leaving town. I’ve been praying for the Lord to take those withered, atrophied places in my heart and make me whole again.

Where I feel weakest, the most vulnerable, is that no matter how I improve my mind, or develop my talents and skills, no matter the quality and quantity of my work product, no matter how I treat other people with respect or compassion, no matter how well I dress or groom myself, I am apparently not "enough" to satisfy my father (who says he’s disappointed in me), or my former boss (who made work life extremely difficult), and certainly not a potential boyfriend. I’m always the friend, but never the girlfriend.

I'm never going to be slim or athletic or be able to take back the accident that disabled my knee. I'll never be able to join the bubble-headed flirty girls' club because I have integrity. I find it impossible to be silly or superficial.

I feel like I'll always be the sisterly, platonic friend described variously as a sweetheart, trustworthy and loyal, dependable, brilliant and witty, dresses beautifully, is easy to be with, great for the ego, amazing, awesome, funny, lovable, sweet, precious, blah, blah, blah, but ultimately, not desirable. I’m not arm-candy. I’m not someone to show off to male friends to prove he’s “still got it,” or that he’s so cool that he can get the “hot” chicks.

This feeling deepens when I see advertising on television, or anorexic models used in print or online ads. But the worst is when I see that the relationships don’t go to women like me—they go to the size 2, fashionable women for whom appearance is at least a part-time job. Shopping for new fashions, doing the nails every two weeks and hair every other month, having cosmetic dentistry and surgery, massage or facial treatments… there’s a huge time investment beyond the money (surely not cash, but credit cards), when it comes to having the right look to attract men’s attention.

The electronic and print media constantly emphasize that you're nothing without a partner. Because you haven't been chosen. Everything is about love and romance and being validated by others. Intellectually, of course, I reject that. But my heart has totally sold out to that idea.

Further, dressing modestly (I’m not talking a nun’s habit), without putting everything on display for free, doesn’t get or keep male attention, either. Men are visual creatures. They think of sex every few seconds. So if their attention is fixated on that high-maintenance woman, I don’t stand a chance.

Recently, though, I’ve had several compliments in Facebook, from complete strangers. Single men, actually. (Oh, yes, I checked.)

“Even though you and I haven't actually spoken yet, I friended you because I was completely struck by the beauty and kindness in your face . . . the world needs more of that, and it is often found in our most fragile people :-) Remember that someone up in the cold, damp Northwest is smiling when he thinks about you :-) ”

“I apologize if I may seem out of line, but I saw a post you had on a friend-of-a-friend’s page about her being prettier than you. She is just pretty in her own way. You have some very appealing qualities yourself. I really like your hair BTW, it is original and attractive on you.”

Both comments arrived at unexpected moments when I really needed to hear a spontaneous, unfished-for compliment that made me feel feminine and appreciated. Don’t get me wrong: I like the inward person I’ve become, and I strongly believe in looking beautiful on the exterior at all times, even when alone. But I have this deep hunger to be appreciated and loved as a total package, a whole human being—not for one or the other.

I guess I want a man to see my inner beauty and love everything about me. That's how many women think about men. In a woman's eyes, the man they love is absolutely gorgeous and becomes more so all the time.

People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

One of my friends said to me, “If God won’t change the circumstance, he will use it.” What do you think?


  1. LR wrote on Facebook:
    The most recent post was particularly timely, as just today a friend told me that my daughter "has such a pretty face, it's too bad she doesn't lose a few pounds."
    AGH! The audacity! I loathe comments like that. My daughter is pretty.....inside AND out, but frankly, as her mom, I am more proud of her character, her kindness, her intelligence, her sense of humor....etc.
    Thank you, your post made my day! And you may just inspire me to start blogging again!

  2. Wow, can't count the times I've been told I have "such a pretty face..."

    Then the voice trails off. Like the face is ALL that's pretty, and what a terrible shame about the other 99% of my appearance or brains or talent. It hurts far worse, and does more lasting damage, than if they'd never said anything at all.

    An anorexic (seriously, you could see her ribs front and back) Christian singer told me to my face that my Christian witness was compromised by my weighty appearance.

    She left me a card which read, "Everything that is mentioned is said from a heart of LOVE, so PLEASE remember that. I say this because as a sister in Christ I love you. If you want God to heal your weight (faith without works is dead) you must eat healthy foods and exercise DAILY. :) Jesus will go on loving you if you decide to remain the same, but just think how much happier you can make Him if you do as He did. He gave up everything for us. Let's not hold on to anything that will cause other Christians and also the worldly souls looking on to confuse them as to where we stand for Christ."

    What am I holding onto? A bag of Cheetos in one hand, and a half-gallon of Haagen Dazs in the other? What she never knew, and doesn't deserve to know, is the lifelong, daily war I've been engaged in, the surgery and fasts and programs and diets I've been on--and that my doctors are pleased with my strong muscles, immune system, and blood test results. I live an extremely healthful lifestyle! All that "eat less and exercise more" advice doesn't work for EVERYONE.

    Psalm 139:13-18: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

    Some things cannot be changed without divine intervention. And I'll take my spiritual peace of mind and compassion over her prejudiced ignorance any day.

  3. Christy,
    What everyone forgets is that we all age and change, that weight issues many times are beyond our control. Just because someone is overweight doesn't mean it is a result of overeating and not exercising. Life can be chaotic and difficult at times and not everything can be easily categorized and put into neat little boxes. I've also learned that many relationships aren't what they're cracked up to be, and that I'd rather be alone and more content than in a bad relationship. I've begun to think that maybe the medieval ages had a better foundation on marriages. Romance is a poor foundation for relationships. C.S. Lewis' essay "Allegory of Love" gives some good points on courtly love & its stupidity. As I'm on a BB, I hope what I've said makes sense.

  4. Thank you for commenting, Karen. I agree completely with what you've written.

    Another thought, though: What if it's not my weight that keeps the opposite sex away? What if I have some glaring personality defect or social handicap? What if I'm "too" intelligent or intimidating to men because of my lifelong independence and DIY lifestyle? No one has offered to support me financially, furnish my home, or pay my university tuition, and I had to do for myself. I'm not in desperate need for a man to "fix" my life or rescue me. Men love to be needed--but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

  5. Too often guys learn the hard way that Barbie dolls do not make happiness.

    I don't know what the secret is to companionship bliss- sorry! I get nervous when I see that those beautiful famous people suffer bad marriages, too. Remember Shania Twain, Christie Brinkley and now Sandra Bullock.



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