My 10 and 12 year old daughters walked into the kitchen as I was plucking the leaves and outer petals from the flower on the right and exclaimed in horror, “Mom, what are you doing?! You’re going to kill it! It’s going to die!”
Inside I was nodding… yes, yes it will. The insides will rot and fester, the flower will start to wilt and droop, and if I were a porn producer I’d either add more paint, get someone new to paint and alter or use surgery to perk things back up and put them back into whatever place I thought they should be. In the case of flowers rather than humans it would be wires and props to hold the aging/dying thing upright.
My daughters asked, startled, why I would do that to the flowers I’d just bought, why was I ruining them? I told them it was for an art project. I asked them what they thought of magazines and images they see in the world. Without hesitation they started talking about the women they see on magazine covers and in commercials. I hadn’t even specified what magazine I was asking about. The magazines we purchase and have in our home are Highlights, Animal Tales, and Country Living, sometimes Real Simple. And yet they immediately thought of the ones they’ve seen in the few minutes we spend at the checkout aisle in stores with women altered with hair and makeup and wardrobe and poses to look completely unlike the women they see in real life.
I asked them as I plucked, why do women shave the hair from their armpits (plucking a leaf out and holding it up to show them as I said the word armpits), shave their legs (hold up another leaf I’ve just plucked), pull out parts of their eyebrows (another leaf) and that’s considered the best for us? I dropped the now bare flower next to one unharmed and asked them, “Honestly, which flower do you like better?” They each picked up an unaltered flower from the bouquet to admire and said, these ones! As they held the flowers to their nose to smell I started to paint the bare flower and we talked about makeup. I told them how I wished I was brave enough to just be me without feeling like I should pull out hair from my body or smear products on my face but that I wasn’t there yet and that I hoped that they would forever love how beautiful they are the way God purposefully created them to be.
I left the analogy with body hair and makeup as they don’t know about porn and how in that industry the pressure and expectation for women is to also alter themselves surgically and with tanning and bleaching and maybe many others things I have no idea about.
And for what? Why are we altering ourselves? For who? Do we really need to? Is that flower on the right pretty to you? Is it ideal or better than?
I am in love with the flower on the left. I wish I had the nerve to be that natural flower and not even do the few things I do to conform to someone else’s beauty standards. I’m working hard to look in the mirror after a shower, just me and my skin and my face and my body and see a beautiful flower instead of all the ways I’m am so unlike the altered version everyone seems to desire.