I probably read entirely too many blog articles, and of those, entirely too many blog articles that get me a little fired up. I know, I know, I'm a little defensive and truly, I'm working on it. That doesn't stop me from having an opinion on something or about thinking about how that opinion translates into my daily life. Yesterday, I read this article which purports to expose the lie that supposedly exists within the Church requiring women to always remain beautiful. She takes issue with marriage books suggesting that a wife should maintain her appearance as a sort of preventative measure against a husband's infidelity. The title - "Thou Shalt Not Let Thyself Go?" brought to mind something Dave and I have talked about frequently and that is important to our marriage.
Throughout this past year, our community group has been going through Emerson Eggerich's Love and Respect DVD series. Dave and I were able to do this marriage series during our first few years of marriage; out of all the marriage books I've read and the marriage advice I'm heard, this series made the biggest impact on us. The fact that we had the opportunity to have the study led by our very busy senior teaching pastor and his wife made it more amazing; how many people in a large church get the chance to get to know their pastor on a one-on-one basis? It's an entirely different blog post to discuss the central themes and applications of the series - go check out the website and find some video clips on YouTube (like this one).
Anyway, several weeks ago, Dave led the study and handed out homework - each spouse was to go home and ask their husband or wife one question: "How did I show you love/respect this week?" Or "How can I do a better job showing you love/respect?" Since Dave was the one who handed out the homework, of course we did it ourselves! I don't remember what I said to Dave, but when I asked him what I do that makes him feel respected he said two things: 1) "When I call to tell you I'm going to be late or have an appointment and you don't question me [i.e.nag, complain]." and 2) "You exercise and stay in shape to stay attractive for me." It's the second statement that I'm stuck on.
Before I say anything else, let me say this. My point in sharing this is not 1) to drudge up sensitive beauty-related issues or insecurities or 2) to come down in judgment on anyone for whom this aspect of marriage is not an issue. My point is just that the article reminded me of something that is important to Dave and I. I don't think every couple thinks about it or even needs to.
I can't speak for anyone else's marriage or for anyone else's husband; I know there are lot of men who just simply do not care what their wives wear or notice their wife's hairstyle. When Dave leaves the house in the morning, I am Comfy Mom. I just throw on clothes and deal with the morning chores, exercise, feeding kids, etc. Because I'm such a girly priss, it bothers me to wear those clothes all day long so I manage to take a shower, style my hair, put makeup on and wear a decent outfit 95% of the time. Personally, I just don't feel confident or competent as Comfy Mom.
Growing up, I noticed that my mom - despite homeschooling six children - always had on a nice outfit and most of the time had makeup on. I even remember her putting lipstick on sometimes before Dad came home. I remember asking her once why she was putting lipstick on and she told me it was because she wanted to look nice for Dad. That has always stuck with me. When I asked Dave if he appreciates that when he comes home from work, I'm not wearing sweats and I have makeup on (most days) he told me that, "yes, because my mom always did that." In fact, my mother in law recently told me a story from her early marriage (and I hope I get it right). During their early years of marriage, one of their friends' husbands was killed. The wives all drove over to visit the new widow who, among other things, was stuck on the fact that the last thing her husband saw her wearing was her cruddy old bathrobe. All the other wives reassured her that, no, I'm sure he was remembering much more positive things about you. However, as soon as they got back in the car to go home, rather than driving home, they all drove to the department store and bought new bathrobes.
I just think I need to attempt to please my husband by my appearance. Yes, part of the attempting to stay attractive comes from my own desire to look decent, but a lot of the fitness aspect comes from respecting the fact that is very important to Dave.
I think women - maybe Christian women in particular - have a hard time accepting that their husbands value their wives' beauty as highly as many men do or understanding how visually stimulated most men are. I think many of us think (and someone correct me if I'm wrong) that our husbands should love us no matter what we look like. I do think love should be unconditional and I would hope that husbands would not put undue pressure on their wives to look like Heidi Klum and wear stilettos and pearls while wiping noses and mopping floors. However, it is really really easy to take that for granted and allow it to mean that I shouldn't have to do anything to stay attractive. Personally, I don't think it's fair to send my husband out into the working world to see beautiful, made up, fit, fashionable women and come home to dumpy little ole me who cannot be bothered to put on a pair of jeans instead of sweatpants or spend 5 minutes applying makeup.
I admit that it does make me want to stay fit, toned and in style when my husband does the same for me. He runs, plays soccer, swims or lifts weights at least 6 days a week. I know he monitors his weight, drinks lot of water and takes vitamins to stay healthy as well. There's just no double standard here. It also helps that Dave's "standard" (and this isn't any official decree or anything) is pretty low. Actually, his favorite outfit on me is a grey sweatshirt, dark jeans, a white baseball cap and sneakers. It further helps that Dave is a very complimentary husband and especially since I've had babies, has made a point to frequently tell me how he thinks I'm attractive to him.
I'm a little worried about how all of this is going to work once Baby #3 arrives. I have gained 40 lbs with both of my past pregnancies and I have managed to lose 37lbs of that. I've always managed to figure out when I could work out whether it was during naptime or cribtime or whatever. Somehow there's always a space of time for me to take a shower and put makeup on. But what about when there's three kids to juggle? This is all important to me, so I've got to figure it out, but it does worry me. I guess I'll just have to wait and see?