“Brainstorm take me away from the norm,

I’ve got to tell you something.  This phenomenon, I had to put it in a song.  And it goes like

Whoa, Amber is the color of your energy,

Whoa, Shades of gold display naturally…”

-311, Amber

I have a confession to make. I am actually a very open person. My Mom calls me her “Open Book” because I will tell anyone my thoughts, feelings, my shortcomings, my insecurities. (No this isn’t the confession, I’m getting to that). And it’s true. In real life I have no secrets. I start spilling my guts to people even when I’m just getting to know them. This baffles my husband who is much more private by nature. What I’m beginning to realize is that while I’m open in real life and share everything with people I interact with in real life, I am uncharacteristically private here. In this format, on this blog. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because it would be documented in word. In print. That kind of makes it more revealing and people tend to remember what they read more than what they hear (not a scientific fact, just my assumption). Maybe it’s because this place matters so much to me. It matters more to me than I thought it would when I started blogging. It is possible that I’m worried that if I reveal too much of the real me that I will sully this place that I love. I will ruin what I’ve started and what I have grown to love. So, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and making a confession(finally). I am vain.

This is the part where I’m going to try to make that sound not so bad. I am not vain in the “I think I’m awesome, I look awesome, everyone look at me” kind of way. I am vain in the more quiet, fly under the radar way. I am vain in the “Ewww, don’t take a picture of me” kind of way. I am vain in the I want to view myself with the fuzzy, memory infused haze of how I used to look instead of the reality of what 41 years and three kids have done to my appearance. (Yes, I just blamed my precious children for ruining my looks.)

It’s not that I hate the way I look.  I’m generally o.k. with my appearance.  I’ve accepted certain things (I will always have dark circles and bags under my eyes) and other things I actually like.  Probably  a better way of putting it is I accept and even like my appearance, it’s grown on me over the last 41 years. But it wasn’t easy arriving at this place.  I was a dorky, awkward kid.  My awkward phase was unusually long.  There are times that I still see myself as that dorky kid with big teeth and Greg Brady hair.

I would love to tell you that my looks don’t matter to me.  For the most part they don’t, but there is a small part of me that really cares.  We are often our own worst critic.  I have torn myself down visually on more than one occasion.  My critical eye doesn’t extend to other people.  I see beautiful people everywhere.  In the carpool line, at the grocery store.  I don’t look at others and even consider applying the standards of “conventional beauty” to them.  I think society’s ideas about what is beautiful is bullshit.  I always have.  I think confidence and humor go a long way in making someone beautiful.  I have always been more attracted to someone who is interesting and unique looking rather than your typical good looking guy.  I was the girl who fell for the guys that left some of my friends scratching their heads.  They didn’t always see what I saw in some guys.

It’s also worth noting the difference between pretty and beautiful.  Pretty is someone who was given the genetic makeup to fit into society’s idea of what is attractive.  You know- tall, thin, perfectly symmetrical features, high cheekbones…  Beautiful is a different thing altogether.  Beauty comes in many different shapes, colors, sizes.  True beauty is something that shines form within.  It can be a smile, a laugh, a sparkle in the eye.  It can be a flair for being mischievous, it can be a spirit of adventure, it can be wit and humor.  It can be the way someone carries themselves, the way they tilt their head or the way they walk. It can be so many different things. I see beautiful people all around me.  Everyday.  And many of them likely don’t think of themselves as beautiful. Many of them would never make it on the cover of a magazine.

All of that being said, my vanity is not based in logic.  I know that the way I look is not important.  I know that people in my life don’t like me because of the way I look.  But vanity and insecurity, like so many negative emotions aren’t rational.  But it’s there.  I am acknowledging that it resides deep inside me and I’m not particularly proud of it.

I recently heard about the #feministselfie project.  The idea behind it is for women to take a selfie every day for a year.  The point is for women to put themselves in front of the camera, to show themselves.  Show themselves glammed up or au natural, in joy or in pain… however they feel or whatever mood strikes them.  Social media will be flooded with pictures of real women, positive selfies.  And ultimately, through this exercise of seeing themselves and seeing other women embrace themselves, some of that will infiltrate our subconscious via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram….  We will hopefully see real beauty.  Not the commercialized watered down homogenized version of beauty that is thrust in our faces every day by the media and by our society.

A lot of fellow bloggers are participating.  I saw their pictures on Twitter.  I was impressed.  I was intrigued.  And I was a little envious.  I scrolled through their selfies and I saw women who looked confident.  I saw women who looked comfortable in their own skin.  I saw women who were fearlessly putting themselves out there for the whole world to see.  And I saw women who were beautiful.  I read some of their blogs.  I realized that some of them were not so comfortable in front of the camera.  They were stepping outside of their comfort zones.  And many of them said that as they went through this process, they started to view themselves differently.  They weren’t as critical of every picture.  They started to embrace the beauty that each and everyone of them uniquely own.  I sighed with resignation knowing that I should participate.  This was something that scared me, which probably meant it would be good for me.  I am going to do this for those fellow bloggers.  For the women who are tired of only seeing the perfection waved in front of them as an unattainable and unrealistic goal.  For my daughters so that maybe the public conscious will eventually shift and they won’t grow up in a world that places priority on the sameness and the superficial.  But I’m also doing it for me.  I want to be in my family’s photo album.  I want to be in front of the camera once in a while.  I want to not care about what the version of me in my head says I need to be.  I want to take myself when I’m glammed up or au natural, in joy or in pain.  I want to take myself for better of for worse.

My first one, writing this post….
My first one, writing this post….

This blog post  by a mom of teen boys has stirred something in a lot of people.  Some people are praising the message of modesty while others see disturbing ideals lurking beneath a mother’s warning.  I see a little of both sides and have my own thoughts on this mother’s tactics.

I understand her plea for modesty.  We all raise our daughters with the intention of producing confident strong women who don’t have to trade or rely on their looks to make it in this world.  I want my daughters to celebrate their intellect and humor and creativity.  I also recognize, however, that everyone has a little vanity.  Even those who proclaim complete humility and modesty surely secretly celebrate something about themselves that is completely superficial or cosmetic.  Maybe it’s a nice smile, graceful hands or shiny hair.  There’s no need to be ashamed of celebrating something about yourself that is god-given, purely the lottery of genetics.  Just because you didn’t earn it and were graced with it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear it proudly.  This is coming from someone who suffered through the longest awkward period known to adolescence and had to wear a horrific looking back brace for many years.  On top of that I was a dorky teen girl struggling with confidence.  During that time I learned to focus on other features that I thought were appealing and avoided looking in the mirror at anything below my neck.  This tactic got me through those years without feeling depressed or sorry for myself.  At the end of it all when I was brace-free and back to looking like a normal 13 year old do you know what I took from that experience?  That I’m tough, that I got through something extremely painful and humiliating and came away stronger.  So, you see, that little bit of vanity helped me get to the end of an otherwise difficult process.  My point is that while I don’t necessarily want to see my daughters preening for selfies with a pout on their face and their back arched, I realize that some of this is a normal part of growing up in today’s world.  I will certainly educate them on the perils of posting any pictures of themselves on the internet, but I am not naive enough to think that some of that will happen without my knowledge.

Other responses have referred to the comments that perpetuate the “rape culture” that sadly still exists in our society.  A girl posing in her p.j.’s without a bra on or in a bikini shouldn’t mean that this mom’s teen sons (or anyone for that matter) can never see her in any other way, “that once a male sees you in a state of undress that he can’t quickly un-see it”.  She goes on to admonish the girl saying “You don’t want our boys to only think of you in this sexual way, do you?”  That’s a disturbing comment on many levels.  First, I give my son more credit than that.  I’m trying to raise a gentleman who will respect women and can handle seeing his friends in cute bikinis and not view them as sexual objects forever after.  Yes, I know he will take notice and at some point ( a LOOOOONG time from now!) find it arousing on occasion.  But I trust that he will also be able to see girls at school or the mall and not just look at them in a state of mental undress.  Second, the notion that a girl should be responsible for how a boy responds to her appearance is insane.  It makes my blood boil.  I don’t care if she is posing like a Victoria’s Secret model, or wearing a mini skirt, that should not put upon her the actions or thoughts of others.  There is a culture that subscribes to the notion that women should not provoke men with their physical appearance, that men can not be expected to control themselves if the women is any way exposed.  Those cultures usually require women to wear burkas….

Finally, this whole method of parenting, of sitting around the dinner table with your teens perusing their friends’ Facebook Pages, struck me as counter-productive.  If I could teach one thing to my kids, it’s to trust their gut, their instincts, their inner compass…. whatever you want to call it.  I try to teach them how to recognize when your gut is telling you something’s not right.  If they can learn this they will avoid (hopefully) danger, poor choices, unsavory friends and multi-level marketing schemes.  I can explain this to them all I want, but at some point all they hear is “Wah wah wah” (insert Charlie Brown teacher voice here).  The only way they’re going to truly get it is by trial and error, by experiencing the pain of ignoring that little voice in your head warning you.  I think this may be the hardest part of parenting.  We spend so much time and energy wanting to protect them from everything, so it’s so incredibly difficult to cut the cord and let them try to navigate things on their own.  As they are going through their adolescent years, this is the crucial time for them to learn these lessons.  They may become friends with someone who’s a bad influence.  They may date someone who is unseemly, they may see things about their friends on the internet that are cause for concern.  Well, as much as each scenario scares me into wanting to move to Amish country, better that they encounter some of these things now and learn how to spot the bad seeds and how to extricate yourself from bad situations.  I would rather my kids confront these things while they are under my roof, with curfews and limitations that I set.  Better than learning the hard way when they go off to college and the consequences can be much more dire.  Better than when they are an adult and marry the wrong person who makes their life hell.  It’s going to royally suck to see my kids go through any such situations, but if they do I will be here to guide them, to comfort them and support them so they can learn from each situation and come out of it with more knowledge and self assurance.  I know this isn’t fool proof, and it is the scariest part of loving these people that we are responsible for raising, but I whole heartedly believe that insulating them and holding their hand on every little thing, including their Facebook viewing, will not lead them into adulthood with the worldliness and knowledge they will surely need.  Just my thoughts…..