I’ve dug my heels in. But I may not be winning.
I make a conscious, daily effort to take a stand against the cultural norms of our day in the area of body image. Yep, that’s me: middle-aged, suburban rebel. Americans worship youth and beauty, thereby shackling women (in particular) with concern over their appearance. We pay thousands of dollars, and spend countless hours, “managing” our bodies as measured in pounds lost, grays dyed, wrinkles stretched/treated/injected, breasts implanted, cellulite extracted, teeth whitened, and the like.
I want something different for my daughters and the young gals for whom I lead Bible study.
I want them to believe God’s Word when it says that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:4)… carry the image of God (Genesis 1:27)… that beauty is a quiet and gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:4)… that their value doesn’t diminish with age and its outward expressions (2 Corinthians 4:16).
I speak of these issues often with them, and occasionally write about them here. I’m trying to live it, too: I wear an unruly mop of rampantly graying hair. I’m upfront about the number of times I’ve orbited the sun. I don’t have a bathroom full of anti-aging wrinkle remedies. When they were younger, my kids asked if I “ever brushed my teeth” because they are naturally yellower than the peroxided versions they saw on others. Parts of my body sag despite an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits. But I refuse to express disdain for my body… my girls are assaulted every day with that message and I will not add my voice to strengthen it.
Don’t get me wrong: I wore braces. I apply makeup. When I need to purchase a new outfit, I look for something flattering… something that “accentuates the positive.” I haven’t escaped these snares completely. It’s a battle. But it’s one I’m committed to fighting.
I had my first encounter with basal-cell carcinoma skin cancer when I was just 29. My second at 33. Both were on my face and were removed via MOHS surgery. My sister once suggested we think of those surgical scars as a patina: something made beautiful by wear, age and exposure. I like that idea. I’ve had numerous other basal-cell lesions on my chest, shoulders, back and legs that were treated topically.
I’ve worn sunscreen every day for fourteen years. I sit in the shade at the pool on summer afternoons… usually fully clothed. I’m irked by the notion that somehow spray/lotion tanning is better than sun exposure. To be sure, it doesn’t carry the same risks of UVA/UVB-induced skin cancers and aging, but it does nothing to alleviate the malignant underlying belief that we are less valuable if our faces and bodies aren’t of airbrushed quality. (And puh-lease don’t feed me the line about “just feeling better about myself when I’m tan.” That’s a cultural infection, too: being tan used to imply poverty because it meant one worked in the fields; porcelain skin was preferred and esteemed. Obviously, the culture has shifted, which only proves the point that we’ve all bought the lie The Man is selling, instead of embracing the complexion God has given us.)
I was just diagnosed with skin cancer. Again.
This time baso-squamous. Not the life-threatening melanoma that I fear will one day be the reason for my physician’s call. But this one’s a bit more aggressive than mere basal-cell. MOHS surgery, round three. My lesion is right at the edge of my lip.That means I will lose part of my lip during the surgery. I have no idea how much of it. I don’t know how she will reconstruct it or how it will look.
If I can be completely candid with you, it’s messing with my head. I’m afraid.
- Will my kids let me kiss them? Will my kiss feel different… to them, to me?
- I’m a speaker. Will my “new” mouth be distracting to my audiences?
- Will I be ugly?
God is giving me an “opportunity” to put my money where my mouth is. (Mouth. Get it?) Do I really believe that my beauty is inward, not external, as I’ve so often said? It’s time to walk the talk, which is why I’m letting you in on this new development in my life. I’m going need the gentle, loving accountability that comes from expressing fears and being open about our struggles. I need courage to face the damaging rays of our culture every day.
Frankly, I’m not worried about the cancer at all. I’m relatively certain it won’t be the last time I have it. This type doesn’t spread and it will be completely removed through the surgery.
I just wish the cultural inputs could be so easily excised from my heart and mind.
Standing with me in this battle? Click below to let me know!