Try, Try, Try

Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim
So they like you. Do they like you?

Colbie Caillait 

Even if you take away the BIG stuff- the violence, the political inequality, and the economic oppression… Being a girl in this world is exhausting.

When we go out on a date, I guarantee I spend 20 times as long getting ready as my man does.  He showers, shaves, puts on nice clothes and is done- and he looks handsome, and he knows it.

It takes FOREVER for me to get ready.  My hair, bless it, is a situation.  I tend to try on half of what I own, before I settle on an outfit.  And then I change my mind.  There’s plucking, and moisturizing, and makeup.  And then I will still second guess myself.

And yes, I understand how shallow and self involved that sounds.  I do.

My friend Glennon wrote a stunning essay about the way the Universe whispers to little girls.  I am an unabashed feminist. I rail against the impossible beauty standards, I do everything in my power to keep my daughter from internalizing them.  Everything except set a better example, I guess.  The Universe successfully inveigled its way into my noggin as a young girl, and those messages are HARD TO DELETE.

Get your sexy on
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong
So they like you. Do you like you?

I remember my Favorite saying to me, early on in our relationship, I love you like this- no make-up, just natural.  You’re so beautiful. 

My internal reaction?  He thinks he’s seen me without make-up.  Bless his heart.

He has now, for the record.  And the world did not end.

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

It’s interesting, the relationship I have with my appearance.  If anyone ever talked to one of my sisters, or my friends, or my daughter, the way I talk to myself, I would be on the warpath.  I don’t judge other women harshly for how much they weigh, or what they are wearing, or whether or not they hit the genetic jackpot.

Get your shopping on,
At the mall,
Max your credit cards
You don’t have to choose,
Buy it all
So they like you. Do they like you?

I think part of it, for me, is a pattern of trying to fix the ugliness I felt inside by focusing on the outside.  I’m not sure I ever even believed that I COULD feel good about who I was, so I turned my attention, instead to how I looked.

Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?

That’s a really lonely and tiring way to live.  Nothing about it fills you up.  Not in any meaningful way.  It’s draining on your soul, your time and your bank account.  And we get rewarded for it. The most positive feedback I have ever gotten about my appearance was when I was starving myself.  When I was wasting away. I was unhealthy, I felt sick ALL the time- and I heard on a daily basis how fabulous I looked.  From women.

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

I was trying so hard.  Just not at the right things.  I was spending so much time on hair, and make-up, and clothes and not eating- but what really needed tending, what really needed my attention, was my heart.  My soul.

You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing

Reconnecting with my faith during that awful time really saved me, I think.  I have always believed in God- it was never that- I just didn’t trust him.  And, y’know, people- they were pretty sketchy, too.  When my best friend became desperately alarmed for me, she dragged my ass to church.

Thank God.  And Angela.

There’s a reason her name is front loaded with the word angel.

We started going to the church down the hill from our neighborhood.  It was the first church where I really exhaled.  It was the first, Come as you are church I’d ever been in.  It was, and is, such a loving place.  A place where you can show up broken.  Where you can sit and cry and no one looks at you awry.  Which is good, because I did a LOT of crying there, initially.

One of the great gifts of that church was that it helped me relax into God’s love for me.  It helped me to understand that God isn’t interested in the shiny, happy version of Laura that I presented to the world.  God is ON TO me.

Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don’t you like you?
Cause I like you

When you know that, when you BELIEVE it, what other people think of you matters a little less.

Now, I’m not going to lie.  I still care about my appearance.  I still love clothes, and make up.  I still struggle with judging myself for my weight, and the ways my face insists on telling the truth about my age (rude.)  But less.  So much less.

I’m more focused on trying to fix the inside stuff.  As I’ve said before, I was like one of those money pit houses on home reno shows.  And the couple who bought it want to talk about tile and paint colors, and the poor contractor has to tell them- You’ve got wiring issues.  The plumbing’s a mess.  Raccoons in the attic.


We all want to spend our time and money on the sexy, prettying up stuff.  And God is our General Contractor, gently reminding us that we need to make our ‘houses’ safe and healthy to live in first.

18 Comments on “Try, Try, Try

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  2. Oh, I love this song–I have two girls about to become teenagers and I teach at an all-girls school–I wish I could have this song gift-wrapped and presented to all of them! I knew a girl once in college who would go to sleep in her boyfriend’s bed with a full face of make-up, and set her alarm for an hour earlier than he would be waking up so that she could get up, wash her face, reapply her make-up, so he would never see her without it. It breaks my heart. Beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a middle school daughter who this year has been at school 30 minutes or so away — with no carpool. We listen to music a lot. This is one of my most favorite new songs because it allows me the opportunity to initiate conversations and hope that the song’s message sinks in. It is so incredibly tough out there to be a teen girl.

    Social media has taken what as been an age long problem of women/girls feeling badly about themselves and put said problem on steroids, John Green tweeted out last year that he wondered how history would judge the social internet. He thought harshly. I agree.

    As always, a beautiful blog piece. Have a fabulous weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you- you too. I am grateful every day that Facebook did not exist when I was in middle school. It was brutal enough without that kind of help.

      And I love John Green. Madly.


  4. Gorgeous, true, and REAL.

    This reminded me of a scene in the the movie “Bridesmaids” where Kristen Weig sneaks out of bed to fix herself up before her lover wakes. It was so familiar. It was hilarious but so sad at the same time.

    Another great one, cousin.

    Love you like mad!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Funny, I was just having a really good feminism conversation with some male friends last night. Items discussed: yes, you can still enjoy feeling pretty and be a feminist. I think that’s true – so long as you are doing it to fill yourself up and not to get an external reaction. Self expression is important. The little choices we make about our appearance do say something about how we want the world to see us, because hopefully, we are really proud of what we have to offer – clothes and the make-up can make us feel great when they act as magnifying glass windows of the light inside, and not like curtains or walls to hide what’s inside. My friends and I also chatted about equality in careers and opportunities – my one friend’s wife is one of very few female physicists in this country, and she does talks at universities about women in physics, which I think is very cool. However, I also think if we really want gender equality, it should be in terms of opportunity and not outcome – I don’t really care if the end data says that we have an equal number of men and women in powerful positions so much as I care that each individual gets to do what he/she is called to do. To that end, I think we should spend just as much time recruiting male social workers and daycare providers as we do women scientists to bring a shift to the values in this country. I’m going off on a tangent now, but you caught me in the middle of some spinning thoughts. xoxo
    Great post, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love your writing, your subject, and your message. There were many sentences that struck me, but this one stuck out: “My internal reaction? He thinks he’s seen me without make-up. Bless his heart.” That and the God–He’s ON TO me one. Lovely post!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I will continue to smile and tear up in response to your writings because of how I relate. Thank you for being the voice for so many of us:)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can relate to this on so many levels. Also, my husband has been “Favorite” since we were dating, so there’s that. Thank you for your words.

    Liked by 2 people

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