Monday, February 13, 2006

dress this

Several years ago, before we moved to Nashville, Brandon and I attended a church retreat with a class of young married couples. Besides the fact that I came down with a sore throat, our cabinmates abandoned us, and Brandon was reprimanded for playing his guitar during worship, the retreat was actually fun. The speakers were good, the material was helpful, the hikes in the rugged country were peace-inducing. But the best part – and I mean THE…VERY…BEST…PART – was our Sunday morning wrap-up. I don’t remember much from the morning…I was in a sickly stupor…but I do remember one guy saying something to the effect of: “I’m sure this is going to ruffle a few feathers, but ladies, come on. Put some makeup on. Wear a dress every once in awhile. Look nice for your husbands.” (As if a woman couldn’t look attractive wearing pants and lip gloss…) Yes, that was definitely the best part of the whole retreat. I would do it all over again, the sickness, the cabinmate abandonment, if I could only hear this 30-something man impart his wisdom once more. Just ask Brandon, who is always very good about unruffling my feathers!

I have often heard this mantra preached in the church: wives should “look pretty” for their husbands. This theory is usually based on the idea that men are stimulated by sight, thus wives have a responsibility to appeal to their husbands’ line of vision. But like the old saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” So what’s attractive to one husband is not to another. Some husbands prefer high-maintenance, tailored, manicured wives. Some prefer low-maintenance, flip-flop-sporting, ponytailed wives. And some just prefer their wife, no matter what she looks like. So to tell a group of women to “put some makeup on” and “wear a dress” is pretty goofy, in my opinion.

In addition, just as men are generally stimulated by sight, women are generally stimulated by touch. So why haven’t I heard it preached that husbands need to be giving their wives daily headrubs, back-scratchings, foot massages? Hmm. Interesting.

The “always look pretty for your husband” train-of-thought plays into our American society’s twisted thinking that a woman has to look a certain way to be met with approval. Hair must be fashionably styled, eye shadow applied like so, legs waxed, backsides firm, and so on. No, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with makeup or hairspray or flattering outfits. But really. If God had wanted us to have thicker eyelashes, don’t you think He would have brushed them on to begin with?

And while we’re on the subject of God, doesn’t some of the oldest wisdom in the world say that it’s the INSIDE that matters? It sure does, right there in I Peter 3: "Don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within...."

I guess it all boils down to what works for you and yours. If the only way your husband is happy is if you’re wearing leather pants and stilettos, and YOU’RE OKAY WITH THAT, then so be it. If your husband expects you to wear makeup from sunup to sundown, and YOU’RE OKAY WITH THAT, then so be it. But if there’s conflict in your relationship because you don’t look like a supermodel all the time, if your husband has a problem with the fact that you simply don’t have time to shave your legs every day, a friendly discussion might be in place.

Well, Brandon will be home soon. Guess I should put on some deodorant.


Blogger elizabeth said...

You crack me up! I have always disliked hearing the "dress up" for your spouse sermon. Sure, sometimes, it may be a good idea. But, come on....I have no time to dress up! And, don't you know that wearing nice clothes is like wearing a target for spit-up and leaky diapers?!

By the way, I think I found your blog through my sister-in-law. She lives in NY and I think you guys have mutual friends. Crazy, huh!

1:33 PM  
Blogger Mary Alice said...


You may not remember me - my name is Mary Alice - and I am a former Otter Creeker. I think we met a couple of times and I have been been reading your blog for some time now after I linked to it from goodness knows where and I really enjoy it!

I am really interested in this particular topic, so I thought I would become a first-time commenter. While I agree that there is a time and a place for getting "fixed-up" (I have a son pretty close to Rowan's age, so I know there is usually just not time), I have also been questioning my attitude lately in my reluctance to make myself presentable for my husband every day. After all, he has been at work all day, working hard to provide well so that I can stay home with Jack, which has always been my dream. He then comes home, takes over baby duty, always gives Jack a bath and oftentimes puts him down to sleep. During all of this, he listens attentively to me as I regurgitate my day to him, as I am usually starved for adult attention! On top of that, he does laundry and somehow finds time to volunteer at church! And yet, I expect him to be OK with the fact that I probably haven't showered since the last time I left the house (which might have been a couple of days), my hair is in an unkempt ponytail, I am wearing no makeup and it's quite possible that I might even smell! God is teaching me that it's all in the attitude and the effort, rather than in a certain definition of beauty. Because you are right, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder!

I am leading a Bible Study at our church based on the book "Do You Think I'm Beautiful?" by Angela Thomas. The premise of the book is that we, as women, are created to desire beauty. We innately want to be beautiful. Inside and out. We were created to enjoy pampering ourselves and being pampered. Now I know that outward beauty to some (as you said) is flip-flops and jeans and that's great. However, I know that most times when I Let Myself Go, it's because of something deeper within me that tells me over and over that I don't deserve to be beautiful. Because if I can find the time to blog, and comment on someone else's blog, I can certainly find the time to slap some lipstick on and brush my hair in order to make myself feel better and to make Phillip feel like he's coming home to his wife, not a scary monster (because me without makeup is terrifying!).

Anyway - I would encourage you to check out that book. And not because I think you are wrong at all - in fact, I agree with many of the points you made. I always enjoy reading what you have to say because you make me think! Another book I would recommend, which is sort of on this topic but covers other issues as well, is "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" by Dr. Laura Slessinger. That book completely transformed the way I view my husband and the sacrifices he makes for our family. I know that it has meant a lot to several of my friends as well.

On another note, I write a blog as well, mainly about my life as Jack's mom. It's not a public blog (because I post lots of photos and personal stuff), so if you do remember us and want to check it out, just email me at jacksonsmommy at comcast dot net and i will send you the address!

Take care!

2:07 PM  
Blogger Jana said...

Elizabeth - Hey girl! Thanks for commenting. ;)

Mary Alice - I do remember you, and I completely disagree with your statement that you are "terrifying" without makeup! You are beautiful! (BTW, where are you guys going to church now? Never mind...I'll email...)

The last thing I want this post to do is to encourage women to slob out! I would hope showers and deodorant are a daily occurrence for everyone who has access to running water. My point is that I think it's arrogant and improper for a man (or a woman) to make a blanket statement about women wearing makeup, dresses, etc.

Thanks for chiming in, Mary Alice, as well as for the book suggestions.

2:32 PM  
Blogger DigiGirl said...

Wow. If I was there I would have given that man a whoopin' strait out of a movie. (Complete with blood, gore and exposing of panties).

I can't help but get a mental picture of the man who said that. I picture a short man with a beer gut, who always wears his favorite t-shirt with the BBQ stain on it. Probably sells used cars for a living and often uses the phrase "Woman, what's for dinner?" So maybe I have an over-active imagination...

I agree that it's important to take care of yourself and not let yourself "go down hill", but it goes both ways. Seems to me like the sermon should be modified so it speaks to BOTH partners, not just the woman.

3:53 PM  
Blogger jettybetty said...

I pick you for the speaker at our next retreat--you have some great stuff here--Brandon can bring his guitar along as far as I'm concerned, too. You will not be allowed to get sick in any way ;-)

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Sharla said...

Hey Jana! I thought I would mention two things: 1)I LOVE Angela Thomas. I have read all of her books and find them very encouraging. 2)As I was feeling guilty that today was Valentine's Day and I did not even put on make-up, my good friend stopped by at 7pm (both of our husbands were working tonight)with sweat pants and no make-up. She said well, this is how I have been all day and I said me too. We both have two small children. So I am right there with you. Sharla

10:45 PM  
Blogger Mary Alice said...

Jana, You are WAY too kind, but thank you for your sweet words!

I re-read my comment and I really hope I didn't sound condescending or preachy, which I'm afraid I did. Lord knows, that was not my intent at all - like I have any room to preach! It's just strange that you posted this, as it has been a subject close to my heart for a while now. Mainly because I had become a wife who not only rarely dressed up, but because I truly had let myself go and God has been tugging on my heart to figure out why and let Him heal me and change me. For Him, for myself, and for my husband.

But I can honestly say that had I been at this retreat with you, I would have probably wanted to knock out a few teeth myself!

It's good to re-connect (or connect, really) with you!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Little Light said...

Hey Jana, if it makes you feel any better, I was (am) in a funk and really not caring about how I looked and I had no excuse except that I figured no one would notice. That is, until a co-worker told me I'd have to buy a new wardrobe, so I abandoned that plan.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Malia said...

I'm terribly curious over what prompted this post. You gonna give it or not?

BTW - the boy is REALLY sick, I'm very glad we skipped the library this morning...some viral infection in his throat, ugh. But all we can do is treat the fever and keep him hydrated until it passes, maybe by Friday, double ugh!

1:10 PM  
Blogger Jana said...

Sharla - Hey friend! Long time, no talk. Let's chat...maybe when the kids are all in kindergarten?!?

Malia - I'm sorry about the baby boy. It's wearying enough taking care of someone who's sick but then when they can't communicate their frustration to you...even harder.

Nothing in specific prompted this post. My mind is just always going. It never rests. I think I was remembering the incident and it inspired me to write the post.

And just so everyone knows, I really do take showers and wear deodorant! Most of the time.

1:15 PM  
Blogger J-Wild said...

Wow so much to say here.

Jana, I have to say that I am surprised at the lack of sarcasm and biting wit in your post. Your wit comes through in the last line, but since I know you - I have to assume that you purposefully held back a bit. Maybe the south is finally domesticating you :)

I am SHOCKED at the shared experiences of people hearing this "women wear pretty things" sermon? Where is that in the Bible? Point out scripture where women and particularly wives are to present themselves as objects of beauty before their husbands. To me this statement smacks of the blending of scripture and self-help marriage books. Not that SHMB are bad, they just need to stay within their own context and don't need to be confused with God's call for mutual service and submission in marriage.

I would say to that guy who stood up that while he might find it 'good' that his wife presents herself in an attractive way to him, but equating a women's presentation to men as a reflection of a her spiritual responsibility is a stretch of enormous proportions. I further say that his comment, besides ruffling feathers furthers the unrealistic expectations that men and women have of each other in marriage.

Mary Alice:
It sounds like you have a great husband. I say that NOT because of the things he does, but for his willingness to serve his family. I would say that what he is doing is actually his responsibility and his call by God to serve his wife and child the way that Christ served the church. It's unfortunate that even within the church his service is something that is often viewed as unique and uncommon. I am not saying that he isn't to be appreciated. By all means he should be praised and equally served by you (which I am sure you do). I would never presume to tell you how to show your husband that you appreciate him or how to serve him, and if showering regularly communicates that, then shower. But I really believe that our call as husbands and wives isn't to just treat kindness with kindness, but to serve the needs of our spouses and our children.

Funny, I picture the guy being about 5'10", thin, with glasses, wearing khakis pants with a leather rope belt, brown shoes, and a tucked in stripped Tommy Hilfiger shirt. He is the guy who always raises his hands and thinks he has something brilliant to say, but in fact he reveals himself to be a bigger and bigger idiot. Ironically his wife is probably twice as smart and articulate as he is, but she is petrified of blowing him out of the water with her intellect. Further more he probably has one of those jobs that he THINKS requires him to clip a cell phone on his belt with the ringer on all the time, just in case the office has an emergency. It never does (I am thinking Dwight Schrute). He has never changed a dirty diaper in his this is an overactive imagination!

Finally, I am all for women being beautiful, and I especially like the times when my wife decides to dress up for a night on the town, but I don't need her to do that. And, as a hot sports opinion here, I question the motives of a man who NEEDS that from his wife. There are so many presentations of physically beautiful women that we are all bombarded with that it seems to me if a husband articulates that he has a need for his wife to emulate some of that beauty then he is setting an unfair expectation for his wife, or real life women for that matter, to live up to.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Chel said...

I'll be the odd-girl-out in this thread... I'm a working mother who wears make-up and heels five days a week to my day job before picking up the youngest at daycare and heading home. Most likely, I've run errands on my lunch hour, and I still have lots to do when I arrive home.

Once I get home, it's the family joke that there's usually very little that can stop me from immediately changing into my jammies. Then, once I'm comfy, I'm ready to tackle second grade homework with the oldest and make dinner and play Dora with the little one.

My husband doesn't care than when we go out together, I wear my comfy home/weekend clothes. And he doesn't care that by the time he arrives home most days, I've already put the jewelry and dress clothes away and am already jammied-up. The more relaxed and comfortable I am, the more enjoyable our interaction.

What works for one couple won't work for another. There is no universal right or wrong for this discussion. As God made each of us unique, our relationships will be unique, too. And that's the beauty of it, I think.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Tony Arnold said...

Preach on girl! Personally, I have more issues with women trying to look too good at church. Church is for worship, renewal--it is for us as individuals and for God. It is not for impressing or pleasing other humans.

I don't want to be distracted by exposed breasts, midriffs, glamor faces, etc. Don't mean to be harsh here, but modesty seems to be a greater issue than looking around wondering why the women aren't pretty-ing themselves up more.

I think women would look just right if they ask just two questions when getting ready for church. Am I honoring my myself with this? And am I honoring God with this?


5:15 PM  
Blogger Brooks Inc. said...


I linked to your blog from Christine Pinson's (Tine) Can I even tell you what a delight it is to read your words,to laugh with at your stories, to be reminded of your genuine heart for things that matter...

I am sure you have changed in many ways since college but, it is a delight to me to see all the things that were so great about you in college still remain! I pray the Lord continues to lead you and Brandon and walk with you through each day. You are a blessing to me!

Love- Becky (Jeffrey) Brooks
***Saw Rowan's pic in the ACU today awhile back. He is a doll!

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Adam Hogan said...

Great topic. To all that have any interest in it, you must read "Unbearable Weight" by Susan Bordo. It is a philosophical writing, but I'm sure we can all handle it. This is a profound book that argues that the Greek associations of 'mind/interior = good' and 'body/exterior = bad' taint our contemporary view of persons' bodies. Further, Bordo argues that Western culture has identified women with the body and men with the mind; she goes on to draw out some very compelling implications of this situation.
Concerning the man who maid this statement I offer the following: "Ah Bartleby, Ah humanity."

12:59 PM  
Blogger hr said...

Hi Elizabeth! Love the blog connections.

Is this maybe a Southern thing, or at least more prevalent? We Southern ladies do have a reputation for being more "primpy," and I've heard this plenty of times in classes and such there but, um, not since moving to NY. :) Of course, I've only gone to one church since moving, so maybe if I got out more I could get my daily dose of crazytalk.

10:57 PM  

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