Again I thank the Lord for Heidi’s heart throughout this article. In this second part, Heidi says just what she would’ve said to her sister, if she had seen her before she took her own life.
She speaks on the trap of comparison for young women and the freedom of embracing the body God has given you.
I hope you will be blessed and encouraged by Heidi’s openness. I know that this was no easy thing to share.
Oh, Katrina. I’d give a lot to have a sister chat with you again. I miss those. We were such good friends, but now you are gone, and all I have left is to write to you as if you were still alive, which is not much comfort.
I sent your journal entry to Amber recently, and this is what she wrote back, “How will you handle four more months of life with me, Katrina? That sentence hurt worst of all, I think. It is true that I felt alienated from you during our time together. However, I thought it was completely my fault. I felt insufficient to be your friend and roommate. Your relationship with God seemed amazingly strong. You had a great and supportive family back home. You didn’t wear makeup or seem to care about fashion. After growing up competing in various dance competitions and pageants, I felt often guilty and embarrassed at putting so much emphasis on my own looks and superficial things. I felt too uncomfortable with myself to go out without wearing makeup. I admired you for being so sure of yourself and comfortable in your own skin.
“You had true talents and could play piano like an angel. I remember watching you play in chapel and thinking how musically gifted you were. I felt inferior to you in many ways, so to hear that your jealousies were my insecurities was very surprising.
“I am truly sorry that I didn’t know how to convey some of these more honest feelings with you during the time we spent together. I treasured our devotional time together and learned a lot from you. I think that given the chance of time and maturity, we would have had a strong and life-long friendship. I think of you often and who you may have become. You are a beautiful woman, and I call myself lucky to have known you.”
Did you catch that, Katrina? Your jealousies were Amber’s insecurities. Something to think about when we envy externals, and wish we had some other woman’s fuller chest or wider thigh gap. Do we really want her entire package deal? Because along with the features we covet, there is a whole life history we know little about. You can’t separate the two; they are intertwined. Did you really want Amber’s sense of inferiority along with her closet full of style? Her sense of worth defined by pageants along with her slender gracefulness?
God shapes us, inside and out, for what He has called us to do here on earth. He has purposes specific for each of us. Beautiful sister, your 5 feet and 8 inches of person were just right for what He created you to do! You didn’t want Amber’s beauty because you thought it would make you more effective at fulfilling your role on earth. You wanted it because you thought her beauty and things met the cultural demands for a perfect person. You wanted to be that person.
Comparing and envy drive a gradual wedge between us and others. Our envy can keep us from developing close friendships, because we don’t feel complete when we look at the beauty we wish we could have. You made it through those four months with Amber, and came out of it without much of a friendship, because you often neglected or politely ignored Amber.
You want to compare? Let’s do some healthy comparing, then.
There are two standards of beauty I’ve observed: the gold standard and the glitter standard. Which one is better?
Marilyn Monroe, America’s sex icon from the 1950s, would rate a 10 on the glitter standard of worldly sex appeal. For this reason, she was tailed by men lusting after her, people jostling to photograph her famous body, and cold-shouldered by jealous women. The men took momentary pleasure from seeing Marilyn’s curves, but they didn’t appreciate her insecurities from a past of rejections, or her yearning to be completely accepted for who she was. In their eyes, she was an object, not a person. The jealous women also missed seeing Marilyn as a whole person and instead viewed her as a threat, competition for their man’s attention.
Not an enviable place to score 10 on the glitter beauty standard. Let’s face it – by this standard, us women have a brief window in our teens and twenties to rate high. But even then, our bodies are always changing through ordinary hormonal cycles intertwined with metabolic fluctuation, not to mention bigger variables, like accidents, illness, abuse, pregnancy, even depression.
I don’t know where Marilyn would rate on the gold standard of inner beauty. The watching world never took the chance to find out, because the spotlight on her never probed deeper than her skin. She died young and alone. She hasn’t had a lasting impact on my life, except as a cautionary tale against pursuing the top of the glitter standard. I feel sorry for her hopelessness. Trying to have high sex appeal means we have to spend more time on superficial improvements and less time on inner development.
Blink, and the window of worldly sex appeal is gone.
Or is it?
It is if you are just seeking to make your body fit those impossible proportions culture demands from you. Our culture is fickle, its standard of sex appeal a gradually shifting one. Women used to pad their bellies and butts because that was considered attractive. In centuries overrun with deadly disease, being fat was desired because it was a buffer of health against sickness. If you had reserves, you were more likely to make it through the diseases you were constantly exposed to. Corsets (think: rib cage crushing contraption) became popular, creating breathless hourglass figures with the yank of some strings. Not a whole lot of exercise happening for the women toddling about in those bone-crunchers. Yet when women liberated themselves from the corset, they walked right into new enslavement: thin and shapeless. In the early decades of the 20th century, women began to bind their chests so they would look more boyish, and tried to conceal the womanly curve of their hips.
Full-bodied figures, typified by Marilyn Monroe, were the coveted shape of the 40s and 50s. An ad from that era states, “If you want to be popular, you can’t afford to be skinny.” Another weight-gain ad shows a woman, who could be classed as an anorectic today, looking enviously at another woman who is admiring her full figure in a mirror, and the “anorectic” thinks, “I wonder how she did it… she was skinnier than I am!”
To be continued . . .
For more posts from Heidi, she blogs over at Purity and Truth with her husband Jesse.