We’ve been talking on my blog about feeling beautiful — with guest posters talking about what that means, attitudes we should adopt, and practical tips to feel more beautiful. Today I want to get a little lighthearted and dig into the humor of beauty.
Yes, the humor of beauty.
Because ladies, throughout history and various cultures, we gals have done a lot of crazy things for the sake of beauty.
Skin care and make-up. Um, yeah, that’s a picture of me — last night. In my defense, the clay mask was a free sample. Even more impressive, however, was my son walking into the room where I was reading and not even batting an eye. But yes, I did it all for the sake of beauty, or at least for better skin.
Taking care of your skin is a good idea generally, but we wives can go to great lengths with skin care and makeup. The United States cosmetic industry is estimated to bring in over $60 billion this year. That’s a lot of blush and mascara, y’all.
By the way, think about the ingredients we put on our faces. No, there isn’t any truth to the “bat guano in mascara” rumor, but the reality isn’t exactly comforting — cosmetics often use an ingredient made from fish scales. Throughout history, women have used such components as lead, copper, egg, ash, iron, butter, sheep fat, and arsenic. No wonder there’s been an upsurge in cosmetics that boast natural, organic, and pure ingredients.
I don’t think you need to freak out about what’s in your moisturizer or your makeup drawer. The issue I want to highlight is that skin care and makeup should be enhancing who you are, not covering up the authentic you. We shouldn’t aim to look like Cleopatra or a Kardashian. Let’s keep it real, ladies.
Shaving. Cultures vary on what women shave, from nothing to armpits to legs. I still recall the moment as a preteen when my siblings complained about my legs and informed my mother it was time for me to pick up a razor. And thus it began . . .
If you think about it, it’s a wonder any woman picks up a blade, scraps it across the taut skin over her leg bone, and survives. If you go the shaving route, you’d better have a great razor, surgeon-like skills, or a box of Band-aids nearby. I rarely cut myself these days, but over the years I might have nicked and sliced off enough skin tissue to make a whole other me.
For myself, if I’m ever a gazillionaire, I’m checking out that laser hair removal procedure. I have a friend who did it and swears by the results. No more armpit shaving for her!
Waxing. If shaving gives anyone the shivers, just wait until you think deeply about what waxing involves. I can just imagine that moment of a 13th century woman time-traveling to our era and landing right outside a waxing salon. She asks what it all means, and I explain that we take sensitive areas of our body, allow hot wax to be poured on, then someone rips the wax off — taking along with it unwanted body hair. That poor girl might think we’d perfected medieval torture in our era.
That said, I know many wives who feel better about their bodies because they can turn a unibrow into two brows, remove a how-is-this-faIr? mustache, and wear a swimsuit without worrying about being mistaken for a she-ape. It’s a personal choice, of course. But it’s more dedication to body beauty than I’ve had thus far.
By the way, if you have nerves of steel, check out threading.
Piercing. I’ve often wondered who was the first woman who said to herself, “You know what would make me prettier? If I took this needle, stabbed it through my skin, and then dangled jewelry from the hole. Yeah, that’s the ticket!”
Ladies have pierced everything from ear lobes to noses to belly buttons to eyebrows to places I can’t even mention (and make me cringe at the thought). What we pierce has everything to do with culture. For instance, the Bible mentions women wearing nose rings, with Rebecca receiving them as a gift and enticement to marry Isaac (“Then I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her arms” Genesis 24:47b).
Some places on your body seem more amenable to piercing than others. If the thought of it makes most of us wince, maybe you should reconsider.
Undergarments. I remember when the “Wonderbra” came out, promising to make every woman’s mammaries into amazing cleavage that rocked the world. Since then, we’ve seen the introduction of thongs to avoid panty lines, body-shapers, and butt-enhancing underwear.
In the past, there were corsets, girdles, petticoats, and bustles. Anyone else remember the famous movie scene in Gone with the Wind where Scarlett O’Hara’s maid was wrestling her waist toward a 18½-inch diameter? Makes a pair of Spanx look like comfy pajamas.
As much as I want to roll my eyes at the undergarment industry at times, I’m actually in favor of taking some extra care choosing underthings that make a gal pretty. You don’t have to go overboard with a undergarments that make you feel like you’re in traction. But finding things that emphasize your assets and downplay your not-so-lovelies can make a wife feel more beautiful about her body.
For instance, I recently changed the style of undies I wear, based on this video tutorial from Her Room. And women are notorious for wearing the wrong bra size, so figure that out. (Video links are NSFW and for women only!)
What does the Bible think about all this? Is any of it way too far?
The Bible talks favorably about some beauty tactics. For instance, God analogizes His relationship to Israel by referring to His people as a bride, and then says: “I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head” (Ezekiel 16:9-12). Obviously, adornment and beauty practices were just fine with God there. And Queen Esther endured “twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics” as part of gaining her crown and access to save her people (Esther 2:12).
But the next section in Ezekiel points out: “But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his” (16:13). Ouch, that hurts. And outer beauty is not all that got Esther her coveted position. She received the king’s favor again and again, for her demeanor with him as well.
Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” And the apostle Peter reminds us: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, 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” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Most beauty measures I’d have a hard time defining as morally wrong. But some are unwise.
Make sure your steps are to put your best foot forward — that is, beauty tactics that make you feel confident about the beauty God already made you to be. Remembering all the while that what matters most is the woman you are inside — a beloved daughter of the King of Kings.
“Let the king be enthralled by your beauty.” – Psalm 45:11a