One of Boundless’s bloggers, Chelsey, recently became engaged and is now thinking about writing a series for the blog entitled “Bridal Battles.” In Bridal Battles: Part I, Chelsey talks about all of the stresses she now has due to becoming engaged. Among these stresses is one that she considers completely unnecessary: losing weight.
In support of this opinion, she cites her friend’s advice to her:
Before I was even engaged, one of my best friends gave me some awesome advice: “Chelsey, just never forget that he loves you for who you are. Promise me you won’t be one of those crazy brides who tries to lose 20 pounds and order your dress four sizes smaller.”
But that attitude definitely does not permeate the bridal industry, as she experienced:
Last week I tried on a dress that was a little too small. Logically, I turned to the attendant and said I would probably need the next size up. She stared at me like I was the bride from Mars. “Well, what do you plan on doing for the next eight months? You could probably lose a few pounds and get this one.” I stared at her, took the dress and hung it back on the rack. Then, the next day I received an email from theknot.com: “Dear Chelsey, congratulations! Your wedding is only eight months away! Now it is time to get in shape….”
As if there isn’t a big enough pressure on women to be thin on an average day of their life, why not pressure them into losing even more weight for one of the most important days, right?
Okay, why is it that I always feel like churchly arguments about looks always tend toward the extreme when citing rebuttals to “the world’s view” of beauty? If you put yourself on a diet, you’re going to have an eating disorder, or you don’t value God’s beautiful creation, or whatever. (Similarly, if you drink alcohol, you’ll become a divorced, homeless bum. If you see a picture of a naked lady, you’re going to destroy your marriage with a porn addiction. If you smoke, you’ll get lung cancer. Etc.)
Yes, there is pressure on women to look good, and there always has been. These days the bar has been raised very high due to increased wealth of the average person and improvements in and affordability of diet, exercise techniques, and plastic surgery/rejuvenation treatments. And we all know what we could possibly look like due to constant exposure to pictures of beautiful people in magazines, TV, film, and advertisements. So I get that there is a perception that there is an “unrealistic standard of beauty.”
However, unless you live in a mecca of beautiful people, such as Los Angeles (and even here the homely are not exactly nonexistent), genuinely highly physically attractive people are more the exception than the rule. It’s kind of like when you get older and then you look back at your high school yearbook and wonder how everyone could have thought so-and-so was so devastatingly gorgeous, when in reality she was just a big fish in a small pond. The truth is that Hollywood levels of beauty are really only found in…Hollywood. (You will never find a place with more attractive waiters.) So in my opinion, all the wah-wahing about unrealistic standards is a hamsterism for possibly more unpleasant actualities.
Going back to Chelsey’s beef about the pressure on women to be thin…welllllll…there might be pressure on women to be thin, but how many of them are pro-actively dealing with that pressure by keeping themselves in shape? Some people are just naturally thin, but any cruising around the average mall on a Saturday reveals a lot of women for whom the pressure to be thin doesn’t seem to be registering. So do we laud those women for their nonconformity, or do we ascribe to them even more pressure because they’re obviously incapable of attaining a Hollywood body despite their wishes to be thin and beautiful? I see both responses being used by the “I’m beautiful just as I am” crowd.
And then Chelsey regurgitates the standard evangelicalisms about looks:
Sisters, please don’t believe the hype. I’m not saying you can’t try to look great on your wedding day; I’m just asking that you don’t let society convince you to be someone you are not. No. 1, you are a daughter of the King and, therefore, made in His majestic image. And No. 2 (for those who are engaged) your fiancé should love you for you.
There are so many other important things that should be done during engagement, and it breaks my heart to see how our culture eats up all that time with improving physical appearance. I challenge all the engaged couples out there to step back today and remember what this stage is all about. Ask yourself, “What would God want me to prepare for right now?”
Regarding the first point: Okay, seriously, how many women are killing themselves trying to be unrealistically thin for their weddings, versus how many women are buying plus-size dresses for their weddings? (Has anyone seen Say Yes to the Dress? That show regularly features plus-size brides-to-be and has even devoted an episode exclusively to plus-size women.) How many women are REALLY spending the majority of their engagements exercising and eating bird seed instead of doing all of the other prep work that goes into putting on a contemporary $25,000 wedding? And does God’s majestic image really include, say, a size 22?
Regarding the second point: Yes, obviously the man loves you if he’s willing to marry you, but that isn’t a license to ignore your body ’cause it just isn’t your thing. If you’re a size 6, and he’s marrying you, then it’s not important to him that you become a size 2. So you can stop worrying about that. But if you’re a size 12 on your wedding day and you blossom into a size 24 by your tenth anniversary, are you really doing right by the man who loves you for you?
I just think that in this culture, people have lost grip on reality and realistic standards of attainability. The self-esteem culture has really seeped into the church, and now we strive to equalize the beauty of every woman. But the truth is that some women are just more beautiful than others, and no amount of “you’re beautiful at any size and shape” or “God sees your beautiful heart” is going to give a 4 and a 9 the same standing. I think if we were more willing to accept our limitations and work to make what we do have the best it can be within realistically attainable standards, there would be so much more happiness and contentment among women. Ironically, in trying to bolster women’s self-esteem, the whole “everyone’s beautiful” movement just makes it harder for women to have any self-esteem.