All the girls had to wear it, and if it was too many inches above the knee, you were called into Sister Mary’s office to give a reason for dress code violation, or get ready to be sent home. What the dress code did reveal was who had “It”, and who didn’t. The “It” was perfect beauty: “Brick House” bust and figure, warm-tone skin color, flowing hair, flawless make-up. And, who didn’t want “It”? Sure, the uniform skirt had to be no more than 4 inches above the knee; the white shirt had to be completely buttoned, only the approved, loosely fitting blue sweater worn, and the proper class-color tie snug around the neck. But the “It” factor couldn’t be concealed under some school dress code.
Maddy was the prettiest at my all-girls high school. She had perfect skin, silky hair, shapely legs and beauty to die for. She was a perfect 10. Everyone wanted to look like Maddy, and so other girls made counterfeit attempts. But, Maddy was the real deal. I knew I couldn’t compete with Maddy’s looks. Going to an all-girls high school was quite challenging when it came to self-image mainly for this one reason: boys! After being with girls all day, the sweet attention of boys was all that one desired. Every day, there was the anticipated after school experience. The ritual went this way:
- Boys arrived just before school bell rang
- Boys parked their momma’s cars along the front entrance
- Boys got out and coolly leaned against the cars
- Boys waited
They waited to see all the pretty girls file out of the school in hopes of making an impressive move and go home with at least one girl’s phone number.
I never got the impressive moves worked on me. Always one of the tallest in the group, skinny, shapeless legs, hair that required a lot of attention to manage, dark skin, and an immature bust line, I wasn’t one of the girls these guys were after. By the end of my sophomore year, I stopped going home through the front entrance and started escaping through the back.
Deep into adulthood, I measured my physical appearance against the memory of my high school classmates. No matter what, I never measured up. Images on television reaffirmed my self-image: “You just don’t measure up.” I couldn’t quite look as lovely as the mothers on television. When I did laundry, I didn’t dress like a sex kitten. My hair was never neatly in place during dinner preparations. When I was a stay-at-home mom, smelling fresh and pure was a luxury I could rarely afford.
The standard by which I measured myself was, inadvertently, the standard by which I measured my children. Three of them are girls which meant that I had a lot of daily work to do to make them look perfect. Fixing hair, softening their skin with creams and lotions, finding the cutest clothes, hiding any imperfection I thought they had. I wanted them to look just as good as or even better than their peers. One day, one of my daughters spent an unusual amount of time getting dressed. We were on our way to a special event and I needed her to hurry up. Once she was fully dressed with her hair combed, she came to find me. Giving me that characteristic look of, “Do you like what I’m wearing, Mommy?”, she twirled in front of me. Without thinking I said, “You don’t look so good in that. Take it off and try something better. And what’s up with your hair?” Humiliated and heartbroken, she ran back upstairs and changed. Did I think I was a 10? No, not by a long shot. Did I think my girls were a 10? Not yet, but with my fixin’ they would be. What was the message I was sending my daughters? “You‘re not pretty enough. You aren’t a perfect 10.”
My self-image, like most moms, was signed, sealed, and delivered in my early teens. That image remained with me well into motherhood. And you know what? That’s just ridiculous. That’s too long! I got tired of feeling torn up inside every time I thought of myself not measuring up; every time I saw someone else who looked more perfect than me; every time the television or magazine pictures would remind me that without “this” kind of beauty, I am invisible. Even more, I was ashamed at imposing my perception of beauty on my girls. Likely, they would impose the same on their girls one day. I had to fix this sick perception I had about beauty, and I had to fix it fast.
I decided to search for a new, more realistic, more attainable standard of beauty and I found it. I found it within. Once I did find it, I boldly rejected the images of perfect beauty I had grown up with, that appeared in my world, and that I allowed to define my self-image and that of my children.
A Perfect 10 is a mother who reverences the God within her. A Perfect 10 is a mother who partners with her God in her physical, spiritual and emotional renewal. A Perfect 10 is a mother who speaks words of life to and about those around her. A Perfect 10 is a mother who receives God’s unlimited forgiveness through her daily forgiveness of others. A Perfect 10 is a mother who, when her lipstick needs to be refreshed, or her hair needs a trim, or her clothes need a splash of color, or her waist, hips and thighs need a little tightening, she takes care of these things without losing focus of what true beauty is. A Perfect 10 is a mother who is perfectly imperfect.
This is my alternative standard and I like it better than what the world offers. Now, to be honest, there are days when I feel completely unlovely and unloveable, and not feelin’ this Perfect 10 stuff. Those are the times when I run to a sacred place where I find comfort and reassurance that I am a beautiful woman and mother. That sacred place is nestled in the melodic words of Song of Solomon:
“Come with me from Lebanon, my bride.
Leave Lebanon behind, and come.
Abandon your wilderness seclusion,
Where you keep company with lions
And panthers guard your safety.
You’ve captured my heart, dear friend.
You looked at me, and I fell in love.
One look my way and I was hopelessly in love!
How beautiful your love, dear, dear friend-
Far more pleasing than a fine, rare wine,
Your fragrance more exotic than selected spices.
The kisses of your lips are honey, my love,
Every syllable you speak a delicacy to savor.
Your clothes smell like the wild outdoors,
The ozone scent of high mountains.
Dear lover and friend, you’re a secret garden,
A private and pure fountain.
Body and soul, you are paradise,
A whole orchard of succulent fruits-
Ripe apricots and peaches,
Oranges and pears;
Nut trees and cinnamon,
And all scented woods;
Mint and lavender,
And all herbs aromatic;
A garden fountain, sparkling and splashing,
Fed by spring waters from the Lebanon Mountains.”
Oh, yeah! I got it goin’ on. If that is not the description of a Perfect 10, then I don’t know what is.
You, Beautiful Mother, are a Perfect 10. If that is hard for you to accept or believe, why not meditate daily on this passage from Song of Solomon? Allow it to set a different standard of what a Perfect 10 is for you. When you start believing and behaving like the Perfect 10 that you are, the rivers of life that flow from your heart will be sweeter, and your children and others will flourish as they take a drink.
Until next time, let your beauty “rain”.