Yesterday, I woke from an afternoon nap with crazy dreams about moths and butterflies, held my hands in the air above my head and saw my red nails. Red nails at the end of plump, pink fingers. How strange. So many years spent pretending that nails and hair did not matter and that I didn’t care if I wore make up or not. Pretending that it didn’t matter how I looked. Doesn’t hurt, you see, if it doesn’t matter. And now just look at those red nails. I’m already pondering the next color.
It’s all part of one of my New Year’s resolutions. Now I know you, gentle reader, are preparing to roll eyes and launch a feminist tirade.
And believe me when I say that I have breathed every syllable you are uttering. But this isn’t about shallow facades or pretending princesses. It is about being flesh and blood. After all, it’s what all of us are. It is about identity—who I am.
It’s what’s on the inside that counts. That’s what they tell fat girls. That’s what they tell plain girls and ugly girls. And it is true, of course. The inside does count. You are not merely how you strike the eye of others.
It doesn’t matter how you look. It only matters how you think. Your personality is all anyone should care about.
That’s great. Really. Except that I am not a disembodied personality. I am not a fleshless mind that hovers through the world exuding philosophical beauty with every turning thought. I am not mere spirit floating gracefully through life. I am also flesh and blood. Real flesh and blood.
My theology teaches me that God became flesh and blood in order to redeem it. The leaves, wind, spiderwebs, cat fur, smooth rocks in the water, my fingernails and all of creation matter to God. The inside and the outside matter. Maybe the inside and the outside are not separate at all.
So I am painting my nails not because I need to look a certain way but because I want to honor my fingertips. I brush my hair and put on make up not to look different but so, with each stroke, I can tell the body it matters. And it is loved. By God and by me.
I have learned a lot about what it means to be me in the mind and the spirit and the will. I know a good deal about what my heart feels like. Most women my age are beginning to see their insides for the first time in years. I, my outsides.
Once, after a long night of consistent drinking, a brilliant but esoteric friend of mine spent a great deal of energy and time explaining the word beautiful. In the philosopher’s language, beautiful includes the whole being. I asked if it meant pretty or if it meant something better than appearance. He said it meant the whole being. Flesh, bone, blood, breath, light, life, thought, memory, heart, grace. Beautiful is the whole being.
The whole—and inseparable—being. Beautiful.