In Which the Cocks are Still Displaying their Plumage

“Yes, I too think there is lots to be said for being no longer young; and I do most heartily agree that it is just as well to be past the age when one expects or desires to attract the other sex. It’s natural enough in our species, as in others, that the young birds should show off their plumage — in the mating season. But the trouble in the modern world is that there’s a tendency to rush all the birds on to that age as soon as possible and then keep them there as late as possible, thus losing all the real value of the other parts of life in a senseless, pitiful attempt to prolong what, after all, is neither its wisest, its happiest, or most innocent period.

I suspect merely commercial motives are behind it all: for it is at the showing-off stage that birds of both sexes have least sales-resistance” (C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady Aug. 1, 1953)!

Very little time elapses before I’m regaled yet again with the notion that Christian women ought to keep themselves up so their husbands won’t stray. I’ve heard it from pastors. I’ve read it in Christian marital advice books. When I was a newly-married wife, I can’t tell you how often I heard this: “If the barn needs painting, paint it.” This is an actual quote from a mega Christian pastor, or multiple ones supposedly, though I’ve never heard it from the horses’ mouths [if women are barns, then, by deduction. . .], just the perpetual repetition of it.

I can no longer abide this doctrine. Don’t take me wrong–I was never okay with it, but I’ve finally reached the saturation point. Demanding that a woman maintain her looks is a burden that God never meant for her to carry. This preaching is a sign that American Christianity is immature, and I’m brought to frustrated tears by the kinds of comments I read on blog discussions of this topic, comments that are so hateful toward women who–gasp!–put on weight over the years that I want to vomit. I want to vomit at the image these Christians are thrusting at us of disrespectful, overweight wives shoveling donuts in their gaping maws, then swallowing all the fat and carbs down to their distended gullets.

That’s right–didn’t you know this? According to many Christians, wives who gain weight or who wear ragged clothes or whose skin isn’t forever glowing with youth and health are DISRESPECTFUL to their husbands.

Let me be honest. When I was in my twenties, I cared far too much about my appearance. I cared because I was immature, not because I was a respectful wife. Now I’ve passed on to a better stage of my life in which I’ve stopped caring with such fervency. I’m nearly forty, for heaven’s sake. Why should beauty be my primary concern? I have a husband to love, four children to feed and clothe, friends who need my hospitality, books to write. I’ve moved on to better and bigger issues–the ones God always wanted me to care about primarily.

Did you read the C.S. Lewis quote above? I’m far from thinking that Lewis is a prophet or the arbiter of the gospel, but when he wrote that letter, he was a few years away from death, and he expressed the wisdom of age in his words. In fact, he was wise in a way that I wish the church would be. It’s time American Christians moved past the stage of displaying its adolescent plumage. We have many more important concerns. Oh, wait, we always have had more important concerns.

Women aren’t barns. They’re living, breathing human beings. If you want to paint a barn, head on over to your neighbors’ farm. Then, you might actually fulfill the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, rather than the nonexistent one about loathing your wife [or if you are a wife, yourself] because her [your] skin isn’t as dewy as a newborn babe’s.

***I’m editing in to add some of the real reasons women are prone to putting on weight that have nothing to do with disrespecting their husbands:

1. Women have more estrogen than men. Estrogen attracts fat cells.

2. We are bombarded with chemical estrogen and estrogen mimickers through pesticides and packaging and birth control, and that’s in addition to what women already have naturally.

3. Many women have broken metabolisms for many reasons, including thyroid issues. Fluoride may strengthen teeth, but it destroys the thyroid. Women have much bigger thyroids than men have.

4. Women put on weight for childbearing, and many women don’t lose it. This wasn’t a crime in the past. It was expected, as it should be now.

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2 comments

  1. Joel (hubby) doesn’t care what I look like, either, and he’s only a partial heathen. I’m talking about the culture of church–pastors preaching this drivel.

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