Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Womanhood is a Marathon

My mouth dropped open when I saw the article teaser.

“Woman runs marathon without tampon to raise awareness.”

Awareness? Of what exactly?

With eyes squinting with disbelief, I clicked the hyperlink and read the article. So the story goes that this woman trained for a year to run a marathon and got her period the night before. She said that she had never run a marathon during that time, and since feminine products are uncomfortable, she dreaded using one. Then she decided to turn the event into a declaration of a social issue.

Here’s where I’m confused: raise awareness. That women get their periods once a month? Oh, dear sister, we know. HOW WELL WE KNOW. How well my husband knows. My children. My former co-workers. As Stacey once told a church packed with people, “Everyone in this room has been affected by PMS. You’re either on the giving end or you’re on the receiving end.”

Admittedly, I was raised through the efforts of three southern ladies. When I got to the age of needing such information, my mother gave me the 411 with no sugar. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s gross. Yes, feminine supplies are uncomfortable. 

And then she gave me the glass-half-empty news that it would definitely come on birthdays, Christmas, beach vacations, and school dance days. Didn’t she speak truth? Who’s reading this blog who has gotten it during all of those moments and more? On happy days, like the first day on the new job; on sad days, like the day you broke up with your boyfriend or the day you had to have your cat put to sleep. 

Or the day you were all signed up to run a marathon.

This publicity-loving girl also says that she wants to raise awareness that women in poor countries don’t have access to feminine products. Does anyone else feel a little insulted? I’m well aware of how fortunate I am that I can run to Walgreen’s to get the items that I need. I’m also fairly certain that if women in those poor countries had products available, they would joyfully use them. 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m growing weary of a culture that constantly tells me that I’m ashamed of anything that I don’t discuss in public. Being quiet about something . . . having discussions with your husband and your closest girlfriend in hushed murmurs . . . sometimes that’s a matter of being ladylike. Showing discretion. Putting up some boundaries and insisting that some matters stay discreet. Maybe it’s also a matter of being raised to be proud of being a lady by acting ladylike. 

I have a young daughter, and I affectionately call her my “Velcro baby.” She stays close to me and imitates my habits and mannerisms. She’s captivated by all of my personal rituals. She sticks close enough that she knows when I’m not feeling my best. She’s also seen me drag out my beloved heating pad from time to time. I prefer not to tell her that I have a tummyache because then she’ll worry that I’m sick and ask me if I’m going to throw up. So I’ve told her that the little box where she used to live hurts from time to time. In a couple of years, I’ll give her the scoop—and I’ll be as honest as her Mee Mee was, but I’m going to add a little sugar to make that medicine go down. Yes, it hurts, but it also means that your body is getting ready to carry a baby someday. Yes, it comes during undesirable times, but it’ll teach you some valuable lessons in life about staying prepared, being tough, and carrying a big (cute) bag. 

I’ll also tell her that there will be many occasions in life where womanly mysteries will arise. Should I call that boy? If I buy the same necklace that my friend has, will she be angry? She can trust me to tell her all about her period (and how to keep it private), and she can also trust me to guide her in other areas as well. But she will never be taught to be ashamed of that glorious little body that God created. 


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cover Up

A few months ago, I saw an article about a school that held a swimming event. The school requested that girls wear t-shirts over their bathing suits for the event.

One mother publicly protested the rule because she felt that the school was going to make young girls feel ashamed of their bodies.

During my pre-teen and teen years, I was a member of the most amazing youth group—in fact, I still talk to most of my fellow members on a regular basis. We had a youth director who was quite aware of the age group he was dealing with. We went swimming on multiple occasions, and the rule was always that we were to wear t-shirts over our bathing suits.

I don’t remember feeling ashamed of my body. I don’t remember pondering, “Hmmm, what type of message does this rule send to me?” Uh—the message was something to the effect of, “Wear a t-shirt over your bathing suit and be ready at 1:00.” Period. It never occurred to me (and certainly not to my mother) to question that rule (or any other rule that he made for that matter). Frankly, knowing me, I probably had picks on the seat of my bathing suit from sitting at the edge of the pool last year anyway, so it was probably a relief. I don’t remember the details. But I do remember that all I could think about was a whole afternoon of swimming with my friends. Put on a t-shirt? Okay. Will there be brownies there like last time?

My daughter is in the pre-school age range now, but when she enters the pre-teen years, I hope she’s fortunate enough to have a youth pastor who is as protective as the ones I had. I PRAY that she does. I will urge her to cover up that little body of hers. Out of shame? Absolutely not. I want her to know that her body is a precious treasure. 

Come on, girls. No matter what size we are, deep down, we know the value of our bodies. Didn’t ol’ John Mayer call us a “wonderland”? Putting a t-shirt over a swimsuit is a little like an artist who puts a drape over his painting until he chooses to reveal it at his art show. Is he ashamed of it? Or is the painting so precious that he’s a little picky about how and where and when it’s revealed—and to whom?