Archive | beauty

I’m a Perfectly Normal Person (with Trichotillomania.)

One girls story of plucking, praying and finding peace.There is something I have never told anyone outside my immediate family and a very, very small circle of friends. As a matter of fact, as I once heard a little girl say, “I haven’t even told myself.” Or, I hadn’t until not long ago. Turns out, “telling myself,” and then others, was the absolute best decision.

There’s this thing I’ve dealt with nearly my entire life that I thought was just me. I thought I was alone in this, I thought it was a character flaw. I thought I was just a freak, and I used to cry myself to sleep over it, frequently. Good girls don’t have character flaws like this. They control themselves. They get over it. They grow up. I told myself.

And grow up I did. And yet, this thing stayed with me. As a matter of fact, it grew with me. It grew until it had me in a tizzy. It had me on my knees in prayer, it had me staring at myself in the mirror asking hard questions and (don’t laugh,) googling “what is wrong with me?!” Now, I’m not claiming to have been officially diagnosed. I have not sought psychological, professional help (more on that later,) but I know that I have Trichotillomania, because I live with it every day.

What is that?

Trichotillomania (trick-o-till-o-mania) is related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It is a disorder that causes people (like myself) to obsessively, compulsively pluck their own hair. According to the inter-webs, it’s “chronic and difficult to treat,” the peak age of onset is 9-13 years of age, it may be triggered by depression or stress, but this is unknown. It is estimated to affect 2-4% of the world’s population, and out of those, 80-90% are women.

When did it start?

The first time I can remember plucking is when I was about four, but my mom tells me I started earlier than that. I became extremely aware of it when I was about seven. Ten and eleven were awful. Periods of stress during my teen years were also traumatic for my hair. I always thought it was just a bad habit, so I tried my best to stop, but I couldn’t.

Why do I do it?

Well, it’s an obsessive compulsion. For me, it’s primarily my eyelashes that take the hit. I used to think stress was my biggest trigger, but I think boredom is an even bigger trigger. Do you ever mindlessly scroll through Facebook or Pinterest when you know you should be sleeping? You just keep scrolling and scrolling, even though your mind is half-asleep. You are in a bit of a trance, and you’re decision-making is dulled. That’s exactly the same state that finds me pulling my eyelashes. We revert to these self-comfort, mind-numbing activities frequently when we’re stressed, so stress is related, but it’s the trance-like boredom that triggers the mania.

And by “mania,” I mean that quite literally. I go on plucking sprees against my better judgement. I often start without realizing it (especially when I was kid,) and then I have irrational thoughts like, “I’ll just get one more, then I’ll be done.” But you know how your brain is in that state. There’s never just one more. You have to put your foot down, or it will go on and on. And I desperately want to put my foot down, but I’m arguing with myself. Like you might say, “Gosh, I have to go to bed. This is ridiculous.” But your body just stays on the couch, flipping through the channels.

I sometimes cry while I’m plucking because, 1. it hurts! 2. I know, deep down, that I’m going to regret this “spree” in the morning, but I can’t bring myself to stop. But the more I pluck, the more sore my eyelashes become, and the more sore they are, the more I feel the urge to remove them. Some folks with Trichotillomania report an irrational notion that certain hairs are “evil” and must be removed because of this. For me, it’s more like, I just don’t like that one and need it gone and think I will feel “all better” once I pluck it. Of course, I don’t. I feel deep remorse and a stronger urge to pluck.

I have spoken to people with O.C.D. who cut themselves in this same way. It is not the result of self-hatred. It is more like scratching an itch, only the itch is in my mind. We simply have a irrational notion that we will feel relief if we cut or, in my case, pluck. And, in a way, that relief is there. Sometimes I even convince myself that it’s a good idea, in this “special case.” That’s why it’s a mental disorder. But I wake up the next morning and look in the mirror and cry, because no woman wants to go to work or to hang out with friends and have no eyelashes. It’s painful to see yourself and think, “I made myself hideous.”

What helps?

Like I said, I haven’t been “officially” diagnosed, but reading about the disorder has already helped me more than words can say. The most helpful thing I read was that this isn’t a character flaw, but a disorder and I’m not the only one who struggles this way. That may seem overly simplified, but it’s true. It helped me in leaps and bounds. The second-most helpful thing I learned is that triggers are very real. I try to avoid that mind-numbing twilight time when I’m most likely to start plucking. I try not to be alone during this time, because it is embarrassing to pluck in front of people and, if I catch it that early, I am still “in my right mind” enough to take heed.

Another thing that is helpful is keeping my finger nails long because it’s very difficult to pluck anything that tiny with long nails! Simple and almost silly, but very real for me! Also, wearing mascara, as finding the mascara under my nails grosses me out and tips me off that I’ve been plucking. Touching my eyelashes every once in a while, without plucking seems to help. I think about my eyelashes, I acknowledge them physically, and instead of plucking, I think, “Wow, it feels like my eyelashes are getting really long and thick. That’s great. Let’s keep it this way!” And move on.

The other thing that is hugely helpful is refusing to abuse myself for my own self-abuse. I used to get stressed or bored or what-not, start plucking, go on a plucking spree and wind up bawling my eyes out in the middle of the night, thinking about what an embarrassing failure I was. I felt ugly and out of control and deeply ashamed of myself. Now that I know it is a disorder that lots of other people have, I still sometimes pluck, but then I think. “Okay, I wish I hadn’t done that, but it happens sometimes. I’m not going to dwell on it. That will only cause more stress. I am going to move on and put that behind me. Maybe next time I’ll be able to resist.”

Other things you should know:

It helps me give myself some slack when I think about how many other people have Trichotillomania. I mean, I don’t want anyone else to go through what I go through, but seeing them live normal lives helps me live mine. Or their not so normal lives. Many famous people have Trichotillomania, such as actress Megan Fox. She has been treated in-hospital on three occasions and is very open about her disorder. Singers Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry have both “confessed to being trichsters” in interviews. (At least according to the internet…I’m not that great at keeping up with celebrities!)

There is not a defined way of treating Trichotillomania, such as a pill, but because it is thought to be a type of or closely related to OCD, help can be found in various types of therapy and anti-psychotics.

One girls story of plucking, praying and finding peace.

The rest of my story…

After years and years of struggling with Trichotillomania and not even knowing it, I finally made a Google search that changed my life and learned that I am not a freak. At this point, I talked to my sisters and, later, my parents. They all knew I had struggled with plucking as a child, but didn’t realize it was a disorder or that I still struggled with it as much as I did. (Though there were definitely times when the results were very noticeable, more often than not I was hyper-aware of how my eyelashes looked. It wasn’t as noticeable as I thought!)

At this point, my parents talked to me about getting help and, if recommended, medication. As of now, I’ve opted out. After all, this doesn’t really have a negative effect on my health and I am better controlled now than ever. I still pluck, but I don’t freak out when I do, and I think I do it less and less. I have thought about wearing false eyelashes, but I haven’t had a serious bald spot in a long time! For now, I want to do three things:

1. Blog about it and raise some awareness and simply let people know that I’m a perfectly normal person (with trichotillomania.) There is no shame in being diagnosed with a mental disorder, because it has nothing to do with the awesome person you are. My sister is diabetic, my brother has asthma, I have trichotillomania. If anyone has more questions for me, please feel free to leave a comment! If you are a fellow “trichster” who wants to talk, leave me your email address.

2. Donate to Wigs for KidsBecause the hair on my head happens to go untouched by my disorder, I have plenty of it to spare! I have donated my hair several times and, most recently, to Wigs for Kids. I chose them because they donate wigs to kids who experience baldness due to trichotillomania. Yes, I think it’s very sad when children lose their hair due to cancer treatments, but I also find it very sad to think of the shame a little girl feels at pulling her own hair. It is self-inflicted, but also unwanted, and those kids deserve wigs too!

3. Live my life without stopping every five minutes to worry about not having enough eyelashes! Like I said, I have more control now than ever, but I will probably struggle with this for the rest of my life. I might as well make the best of it and learn to live with it, rather than to constantly fight myself about it. Avoiding triggers, helping myself when I can and, when I can’t, not beating myself up about it—these are the things that keep me going. Life’s too short to worry about if my eyelashes are. ;)

“Even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30

resources:

The Trichotillomania Learning Center

Wigs for Kids

What Christians Need to Know about Mental Health by Ann Voskamp

Any and all kind and helpful comments are welcome. I would love to hear from folks who have overcome this or similar struggles! 

 

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how to be the fairest of them all

I open the box the mailman just delivered and begin to grin. I pull out a beautiful bronze necklace and hold it up for my sisters to see. I think it’s charming, so I plan tomorrow’s outfit around it. I wear my new necklace to the office, post it on Instagram. necklace from FTFThe jewelry, along with the tote bag, are all handmade by women in developing countries. They create these accessories as a way to support themselves and their families. In 2007, The Ministry of Women and Child Development reported the presence of over three million female sex workers in India. 35.47 of these “workers” are thought to enter the trade before the age of eighteen. An estimated 1.2 million children are kept as sex slaves in India, though all prostitution is technically illegal there. Dignified work is hard to come by.

New jewelry complements my nice outfit, including the t-shirt I bought at Forever21 before I knew that Forever21 knowingly uses slave labor to manufacture their merchandise. Something new to wear can make you feel like “the fairest of them all,” but when I look at the dimly-lit image of my torso, toting those three pendants, my heart begins to beat a little harder. I think of the tawny hands, pressing those clasps together. The pendant reminds me of coins dropping into a worn palm, being carried to the market to buy food for her babies, her elderly mother, herself.

Sam Levenson Quote

Fair Trade Friday isn’t a gimmick, because 100% of the profits go straight to the hands of the artisans. If you believe in teaching a man to fish, do you also believe in teaching a woman to sew? Most of these women do not have a man in their life to support them in anyway, some of them were sold as slaves as children, all of them face extreme sexual discrimination, and those are the girls who survive the “gendercide.”

I’ve talked before about what fair trade means to me, and I still lie awake at night, shaking my metaphorical fist in the air, complaining that “life is not fair!” But what is fair? Paying for what we’re getting is fair. Being paid for your work is fair. Being able to use your wages to support yourself and your family is fair. There is a great shadow over our planet, but there are sunspots on the path, little spots of hope, little spots of justice, little spots of fairness.

FTF club tags

My fair-skinned hands hold the same cords that were crafted in the hands of my Indian sisters, Hem Lata, Yogesh and Karma, and didn’t Solomon say that a threefold cord is not quickly broken? So how about you become part of the cord? The three folds can be you, the Fair Trade Friday Club and a hardworking woman across the ocean like Hem Lata, Yogesh or Karma.

Does that sound fair? 

The Fair Trade Friday Club exists to empower the women at Mercy House Kenya, as well as women in Ethiopia, Zambia, Costa Rica, India, Uganda, Rwanda, Honduras, Bangladesh, Haiti, Swaziland and Nicaragua. 

When someone says, “where is that necklace from?” we answer with the name of a store, and maybe a quick mention of what a great deal we got on it. But that’s not where your necklace is from. We’ve long-been wearing slavery around our necks, donning oppression and adorning ourselves with exploitation. We have bought the poor for a pair of sandals, not stopping to ask how those sandals could cost us so little. The truth is, we aren’t paying full price.

The single mom in India is paying your share. The nine-year-old slave in Bangladesh is paying your share. The woman with AIDS, the woman who is pregnant again because her customers refuse to use condoms, the woman who just buried her fifth child—she is paying your share, and that isn’t becoming. It doesn’t wear well. It doesn’t flatter.

It’s time we paid for our products. Next time you see a great deal, think of Proverbs 22:16, “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” And when you see the true price of the product you want to buy, don’t balk. Think about Proverbs 14:31, “But whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him.”

A beautiful hand is one that reaches out and gives to the poor, a beautiful eye is one that sees the dignity in another, a beautiful body wears justice and the woman who doesn’t cheat and steal for the things she wears, she is the fairest of them all. 

Audrey Hepburn Quote

Would you consider partnering with us in this three-fold cord? The Fair Trade Friday Club is run by a handful of folks, so please forgive the fact that a waiting list is currently in use. Sign up now, and you’ll be notified when you can be accommodated. Also consider joining our Earring of the Month Club or donating to the empowering work being done at Mercy House Kenya

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Cinderella: Heroine or Doormat?

Cinderella: Heroine or Doormat?Earlier this week, I went with my sisters and mom to see Disney’s Cinderella in theaters. I can’t watch anything these days without questioning what it is teaching my ten and eleven-year old sisters. I had heard various reviews of this latest princess movie and was eager to develop my own opinion.

The question is simple: is Cinderella a good role model or not? However, folks have been drawing various conclusions since the trailer for Cinderella first released last year. The first controversy I heard was over the size of her waist. Some people were offended that another female protagonist would succumb to the “skinny fever” that seems to run rampant in Hollywood, but I don’t see it that way at all. Cinderella is set in the mid-1800’s, a time period in which corsets were the custom. The girls are all obviously wearing corsets in the new movie (there’s even a humorous scene involving lacing a corset) and that is only historical accuracy. Cinderella looks healthy, lively and petite, not emaciated. So as far as the body type issue, I have no complaints.

The second controversy, which has surrounded princess movies of all types in the recent years, is of course: is she a strong, female lead? This is a loaded question, because “strong female lead” is not a Webster’s dictionary definition, but a matter of opinion. However, my blog is a place just for that, so, in my humble opinion…

Some movies cast an undoubtedly bad light on women. I actually refused to go see the latest James Bond for that reason. For centuries, woman’s main source of power has been seduction and I don’t want to support that idea for another decade. Women are immeasurably creative, resourceful and resilient and I would love for my little sisters to see that reflected in movies.

So let’s dissect!

(Spoiler warning for the 2% of the world that doesn’t already know this story.) The movie begins with Ella as a baby and young girl. She is full of joy and surrounded by love. From a young age, she is quite the conservationist, often caring for seemingly forgotten members of their household, especially the mice. True to the fairytale, Ella’s beloved mother falls ill and dies while Ella is still young. As she lies on her deathbed, she gives Ella this piece of advice: No matter what happens, always be kind and have courage. 

This simple advice becomes Ella’s mantra and a main theme in the movie. When Ella’s father remarries and brings the Lady Germaine and two stepdaughters into the home, Ella reminds herself to be kind and have courage and is able to treat them with kindness, even though they are rude and insensitive. The new “family” doesn’t start off seeming cruel or abusive, but rather like many real blended families start off. Things are awkward, the kids don’t get along well, everyone has to adjust to a “new normal.”

Ella and her father appear to have a mutual understanding that these three new family members are more than they bargained for, but are both hopeful things will smooth out. When Ella’s father leaves for an extended business trip, things take a turn for the worse. The stepmother starts to show excessive favor to her own daughters and begins to belittle Ella. When word comes that her father will never return, Ella is the only one who grieves him. All her stepmother seems to care about is the loss of income. The household is released and the work is left to Ella.

Is Ella submissive? Yes. Does this make her a bad role model? Not necessarily.

Ella evidently clings to the last wishes of both of her loving parents: to be kind, to have courage and to try to make this new family work. When it becomes clear that she and her stepfamily will never truly be a family, Ella continues to keep her promise to her mother, but she does not cower or give up on her own dreams. Ella continually makes the most of what she has, remains hopeful and goes to great lengths to improve her own life while still being kind to her cruel stepfamily.

Ella is submissive to her stepmother, not because she thinks she has no value or is too afraid to cross her. Ella’s courage is unwavering throughout the entire movie. She is submissive because she promised to be kind. She is submissive because she has the courage to love the unlovely people in her life.

I think what is really bothering people about having Cinderella as a role model, is not that she’s weak, but that she’s good. We’ve come to associate bravery with rebellion. I think many people want to see movies with main characters more like Lady Germaine than Ella. As Jo March says in the 1994 Little Women, “Women should have a vote, not because they are angels, but because they are people. Men do not vote because they are good, they vote because they are male.” Women are exhausted of feeling our only character choices are goodness and seduction. There is so much more to 51% of the people on this planet. And because of this, we’ve fled from “goodness” and replaced it with so-called onscreen equality.

Lady Germaine is clearly a hurting person. She has been widowed twice and is greatly disappointed in her stupid daughters. She is afraid of her penniless future and obviously harbors a deep envy of Ella. In order to feel she has any standing at all, she must continually put Ella down. At one point, she actually cracks a little and rails at Ella for being young, beautiful and good. She cannot stand Ella, purely because Ella is everything she wishes she was. She particularly hates Ella because Ella does not hate her back.

But, of all her strengths, this is Ella’s greatest. She is perhaps the bravest of Disney princesses because she does not give in. She does not begin to hate or even to flee. The world may very well not be able to see her as a role model, but as a Christian, I think she’s a heroine. She loves, she serves, and, in an extremely touching scene toward the end, she forgives. Lady Germaine scarcely seems to comprehend the words, “I forgive you” but they make quite the impact on the audience.

Does the prince save Ella? In a sense, he does. But the future he is able to provide Ella with is more of a reward for her good heart and hard work than an avenue of salvation from another hero. “Kit” (as the prince is called) is dazzled not only by Ella’s beauty, but the ways she contrasts with the other girls. She is humble, brave, has a mind of her own and isn’t afraid to speak it. Kit clearly marries Ella because he loves her, not because he pities her or wants to promote himself.

In the midst of her trying home life, we see Ella blowing off steam (which is when she meets Kit) and defying her stepmother’s wishes (attending the ball.) She does not decide that this is her lot in life, or resign herself to “her place.” She is tempted to believe the things that are said about her, which we can all relate to, but she chooses to believe what the people who loved her said about her. 

When Kit finds out who she really is, we don’t have that awful fifteen minutes of miscommunication onscreen love stories usually give us. She comes clean completely and boldly approaches him as “Cinderella,” as if to say, “I know what they say about me, but I’m not afraid of that identity. My life has not been easy, but it has only made me stronger.” She asks if the prince would take her just as she is, and he asks the same of her. If that’s not equality, I don’t know what is.

Finally, Ella does not seek revenge on her stepfamily on any level. She forgives them and moves on with her life. Justice is served outside of her hands. The “happily ever after” feels like a fitting reward for a resilient, brave, and yes-good-woman. And Cinderella feels like an anthem for the virtues movies seem to have forgotten lately: quiet courage, bold love, firm perseverance and humble happiness. It’s a reminder that we really do want the good guys to win and we really aren’t tired of happy endings.

Cinderella provides everything your little sister is hoping for: glass slippers, fairy godmothers, animate mice and a dashing prince. What they might not expect is to be inspired not only by the ballgowns, but also by the morals of this famous princess. As a sister, an equality advocate and a movie-goer, I give Cinderella five stars.

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3 {real} reasons to dress modestly

3 real reasons to dress modestly

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10 KJV

I’ve heard it said that the 1 Timothy 2:9 call for women in the church to “adorn themselves in modest apparel” is probably more in reference to not spending lots of time and money trying to look better than each other, rather than a reference to how much skin they were covering (after all, I’m pretty sure even the gentiles of that day-and-age wore pretty discreet attire.) It should not surprise us that Paul would be inspired by God to write to women about focusing on things above, rather than vain, exterior things.

It is ironic, however, think of how this applies to us in 2015. Obviously, we should not be so shallow as to spend all of our money and time competing with one another on who has the latest, trendiest clothes. But also, in our culture in which we compete over who has the longest legs, smallest waist, most toned arms or most shapely this-or-that, our competition almost takes us back to the old understanding of the text: that women should cover our bodies.

Let’s take the sexual aspect of it out. Say there were no men who might “stumble” depending on how you’re dressed. Say that were a non-issue. Would you dress modestly, or would you still try to tout certain features as a way to compete with other women?

We will always have “designer” this and “the latest” that to use against each other, and to don as medals of fashion victories, but we’re probably even more obsessed with sizes than brands.

There are some unhealthy reasons to dress modestly, the topmost being that you are ashamed of your body. You are a designer piece, handcrafted by someone so enamored with you, He calls you His masterpiece. Your body belongs to God and He, in all his pure glory, finds it fit to dwell in. The body is celebrated in scripture as beautiful, sensual, strong and sacred. Take care of your body and don’t be ashamed of it!

The second most common unhealthy reason for modesty is the idea that women are to blame for men’s lust issues. This is somewhat complicated, but in a nutshell: we are sexual beings who should be and will be attracted to one another, no matter how we dress. However, being attracted to someone and committing the sin that is lust are two different things. We are all, men and women alike, prone to lust and responsible for our own actions. With that said, we would do well not to tempt anyone, be it our brother or sister, into any kind of sin, whether that be lust or envy or malice or gossip.

Proverbs warns continually agains “the temptress” who lures men into her web, no doubt by immodest dress, word and action. Don’t be a temptress…to anyone!

With that said, I still think it’s important that we dress modestly in the traditional sense which is, covering our bodies. What that means exactly (how long, loose and dull must our clothes be??) is not for me to say. For one thing, I have not received any special message from God about that. For another, it really is, as much as we hate to admit it, a matter of culture. As I’ve written before, it’s a also matter of personal convictions. 

With that said, here are three real reasons to dress modestly:

1. Modesty says, “I am dignified.” 

Few things have remained true throughout the centuries, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the association between modesty and dignity. Though advances in woman’s stance in the culture have (thankfully) led to fewer restrictions on what we wear, we cannot fully associate immodest dress with liberty. In many ways, showing the world our bodies says, “Don’t objectify me, I’ll objectify myself!” No matter our motive, we are still showcasing our bodies as mere sexual objects when we purposefully dress in a way that’s seen as revealing. So yes, it’s liberty from corsets and dragging hemlines and the “rules” that governed both, but it’s not true liberty. True liberty is found in Christ, and when we acknowledge that, we no longer need the attention that comes along with dressing a certain way.

If we are going to continue fighting for gender equality, let’s make sure our dignity as women is at the frontline. I don’t want to be “liberated” so that I can use my hips and waist and breasts and legs to entice, but so that, like men, I can be respected for my mind and heart and ideas and strengths. Gender equality will exist when we’re not disappointed in “plain” women who do amazing things! Einstein wasn’t “a looker”, but I’ve never heard that mentioned…

To dress modestly says to the world, “I am honoring my own body by keeping it to myself. I don’t need your approval of my measurements, thankyouverymuch.”

2. Modesty says, “I am not competing with you.”

As I said at the start of this post, our biggest method of competition between women today is not brand names (though that could still be an Olympic sport) but body type. Just click on Pinterest once and you’ll see thousands of girls pinning tips on how to have that bod. If we needed one more reason to put our clothes back on, it could be as a bit of a olive branch to the fellow woman. Maybe your body fits this year’s qualifications of “perfect” and maybe (probably) it doesn’t, but women are said to look at each other’s bodies even more than men do, so stop worrying about lust and start worrying about envy. Love your body, enjoy your body, be happy with your body and, by all means take care of your body, but don’t ever use your body to put someone else down.

3. Modesty says, “I am more than a body.”

No one should ever feel they have the right to take advantage of your body, no matter how you’re dressed. It’s yours (and more importantly, God’s) and never “up for grabs,” whether you’re wearing drapes or nothing at all. However, the way we dress sends a message, be it true or false. Wear a burka and I’ll assume you’re Muslim, wear a habit and I’ll assume you’re a nun, wear a suit and I’ll assume you care, wear a stains and holes and I’ll assume you don’t. Call that “judgmental” if you wish, because it is in a sense–but it’s also sensical.

Dressing in a way that is seen as “modest” in whatever culture you find yourself in, gives people the message that you are not looking for a sexual partner or any sexual attention. It invites others to look you in the eye and get to know you–not just your shape. It says, “I have a body, but that’s not my most important feature.”

Lingerie has a place in this world, and it’s under your clothes. When you’re in public, think about what message you are sending about Christians by what you wear. Don’t obsess over it, don’t panic about it and don’t go to extremes out of fear of failure or sin. Our clothes are merely the shell of a shell. God looks at the heart and that’s way, way more important than the dress or even the body.

I love the end of of 1 Timothy 2:10, especially in The Voice translation,

“Women, the same goes for you: dress properly, modestly, and appropriately. Don’t get carried away in grooming your hair or seek beauty in glittering gold, pearls, or expensive clothes. Instead, as is fitting, let good works decorate your true beauty and show that you are a woman who claims reverence for God.”

It’s refreshing to think that this verse which has been, quite honestly, used to put women in the church down for many years, begins with “the same goes for you.” Paul wasn’t writing to Timothy’s church to segregate the sexes and put women in some legalistic box. He was writing to encourage them all in “good works.” He says that primping and brand names and glitter are all fleeting and unimportant, but that a woman’s true beauty is found in her reverence for God. That’s a win for gender equality if I ever saw one!

Put on your clothes, put on your honor, but “above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony,” (Colossians 3:13) because, when your heart is beautiful, you’re already a complete masterpiece.

4

in which I discover a super weapon against racism

While I’m voraciously reading about the Ferguson issue (and all the issues that have spawned from it,) Sam is reading To Kill a Mockingbird for school. The irony is a little much.

It’s his first time, so I try to warn him, but when he closes the book he says he still wasn’t prepared. And yet, he says it’s his favorite book he’s read for school so far. Considering the fact that he and three of our other siblings are black and my parents, four of our other siblings and I are white, race isn’t a topic that gets brought up too often at Eyrie Park. It’s become a bit of a nonissue because of the community we are a part of. When I say “school” I mean Classical Conversations, and our campus is about as diverse and accepting as they come. Our newest little sister would be “caucasian” on a census, but she comes from a country where she, as a Roma, was considered a racial minority among white people. As a matter of fact, Romas have been greatly discriminated against in Latvia and the “token” black person is usually met with a readymade fan base, they’re such a novelty!

My friend Diane is a white mom to black children. She recently shared a Youtube video with me of Jane Elliot’s “Angry Eyes” experiment conducted at a college. Basically, students are split into two groups, those with brown eyes and those with any other eye color. The brown-eyed students are instructed on how to treat the “blueys” when they enter the classroom. There is to be no respect toward them. They are to assume certain things about them and blame it on their eye color. The experiment is well worth watching (to the very end!) and left me with lots to think about. I found myself wondering how the experiment changed those particular students. Was that group more likely to marry outside of their race? Were they more understanding of others, even later in life?

Then I started thinking about my siblings and I. What sort of changes could we bring to the world based on our unique upbringing and family situation? Sam and I both get a little choked up talking about the last chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird. We feel mutual feelings about the ending. I get the sense we’re better prepared for a diverse world than the average teenager and twenty-something, but it’s not because of Harper Lee’s excellent novel. It’s not because we’ve had so many conversations about race. It’s because we live with each other, we’re used to each other and we love each other very much.

"love and diversity" two sisters walking to school

If we can be comfortable with each other in our own home, why couldn’t we be comfortable with…anyone?

I was recently in line for about four score and seven years at the utilities office. There were two ancient black ladies in line behind me and they shared their entire life stories with each other while they stood there. They never spoke to me and I never spoke to them. To be honest, we had little in common. They had both lost children to cancer. They went to the same church. They were about a hundred years older than me. And still, I had the urge to turn around and put my hands on their wrinkly arms and say, “Just so you know, I am not intimidated and I am not trying to intimidate you. I’m just a quiet person and I don’t need to butt into your conversation. But I’d be happy to talk to you. I actually love old black ladies.” You will all be happy to know that I did not say these things. There’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to be seen as a lunatic.

The only time I’ve lived in a place where I was the minority was in Haiti. Though white people were seen as important, rich and arrogant, we were definitely judged but the color of skin. It was like we had a special place at the top of the food chain in their eyes and yet they weren’t afraid to mock us. I was often referred to as “ti blanc” (“little white,”) and gawked at. However, we literally lived at the orphanage. I had about ninety black friends all of the sudden (and zero white friends.) Though we were “missionaries” and they were “orphans,” I still got to experience being the odd one out. I remember keenly a time when I was about eleven, sitting on the cement playing “jacks” with little pieces of chicken bones with a large group of Haitian girls, thinking, “Wait, wasn’t there something different about y’all when I first came?” I could recollect the uncomfortable feeling of stepping out of the van and being a white girl surrounded by black people, but the feeling had gone away. I will never teach kids to be colorblind. It’s a silly concept born from white privilege that indicates we need to overlook something about black people in order to accept them. However, when you’re a kid, colorblindness (even to yourself) can sometimes occur naturally. It might have helped that I had no mirror and literally did not see my own white face for months at a time!

I tell these two stories to admit one thing: I have been ignorant. Jane Elliot said,

“White people’s number one freedom in the USA is the freedom to be totally ignorant about those who are other than white… And our number two freedom is to deny that we’re ignorant.”

I do not have much experience with diversity or racism. Ninety percent of my friends are white. However, I have had the unique opportunity to grow up in a multi-racial family. Just as I wondered hopefully about those students in Jane Elliot’s experiment, I wonder about my siblings and I. Will we be the minority in the world by seeing everyone as truly equal? Will we be the ones who see color and don’t discriminate? You see, ending racism isn’t about stopping the hate (though that does indeed need to happen.) It’s very much about realizing how ignorant we are about other people and seeing ourselves as they see us. It’s very much about equal opportunity, not just to vote and work and run for offices, but to interact with folks of other races as we do with folks of our own race. For the white girl to sit next to the black girl at the dentist’s office. For the black guy to be able to ask the white girl out on a date without feeling like a joke. For children’s books featuring hispanic kids to not have to have their own section at the bookstore. For Asian actors to be the star in movies, not just a supporting role.

The reasons why many adopted kids are black and many adoptive parents are white are sad ones, which I won’t go into right now. But the power of this possibility is a strong one. As is the power of any other race combination, whether through adoption or marriage. The same power is possible for anyone who lives their day-to-day life with someone of another color. When we truly accept someone of another race without having to “overlook” our differences, but actually celebrate them, we create a super weapon against racism.

I used to think ignoring racism was the best way to snuff it out. There are definitely times when “disengagement” is the best policy. However, I’ve learned that racism isn’t a candle that merely needs the oxygen of conversation to live on. It’s a cancer that feeds on people’s minds. Now I realize that intentionality is necessary. I never thought I’d be quoting Chris Rock, but in a recent interview the comedian said something very poignant.

“But the thing is, we treat racism in this country like it’s a style that America went through. Like flared legs and lava lamps. Oh, that crazy thing we did. We were hanging black people. We treat it like a fad instead of a disease that eradicates millions of people. You’ve got to get it at a lab, and study it, and see its origins, and see what it’s immune to and what breaks it down.”

Though I wouldn’t make Mr. Rock my role model, I agree with him on this point. Racism is an age-old problem, but that doesn’t make it “okay.” And his proposed solution isn’t a passive one. It cannot be passive because racism itself is not passive. It isn’t a fad. It’s not Kim Kardashian’s latest photo or Jennifer Lawrence’s latest tweet. It’s not something that will naturally blow over.

But with an unnatural intentionality, with a persistent effort, I believe in us. I believe we can do it. In your home, in your school, in your office. In your city, county, state and in the U.S.A. and then, perhaps, the world.

My newest little sister with the hazel eyes looks up at me and says, “If I marry a brown man, I gonna have brown babies?” I explain that her children would look a little like her and a little like him. “Oh, then I want to marry a brown man!” She exclaims. “I love it, brown people!”

 

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