Warning: This Body/Face/Skin/Female is Not Perfect
So, I read recently that a French Parlimentarian and 50 other politicians want a “health warning” on airbrushed pictures. Because of the how unrealistic body images are and the eating disorders that are raging against our young women, all enhanced photos would be accompanied by this line: “Photograph retouched to modify the physical appearance of a person.”
Under the proposal in France, a company that didn’t include the warning on their retouched ads would be slapped with a fine of a $54,930, or up to 50 percent the cost of the advertisement. I thought French women “never get fat,” or so they’ve wanted us to think :-). I’m all for honesty in advertising. I’m just skeptical that it will work.
There is an “art” to fashion and part of it is an appeal to perfection. We know it is impossible, but do we believe it? I mean deep down, do we know it? I know I’m a sucker for all the packaging that presents the perfect eyelashes, moisturizer, and Michelle Obama arm toner. I want to be perfect, not human.
We long for it, shame ourselves that we’ll never attain it, and, ultimately know that love requires it. Those longings are not fulfilled, but the perfection in advertising keeps teasing us that it can. If we let it, though, the longing for perfection can serve to remind us again and again that we need to be covered by perfection personified.
Only perfect love casts out this fear that we’ll never live up to the demand for flawlessness. This demand tempts us to hate our humanness. Only perfect love beckons, “Come to me, my beloved. Let my perfection cover you.” (Klimt’s “The Kiss” comes to my mind immediately.)
And as we enter into a story bigger than ourselves, the beauty of someone else eclipses the need and promises a covering. It says, “I’ll live the perfect life–the requirements you can never meet–and with your invitation, I’ll cover you. Hide in my perfection and allow me to give you the power to resist that inner demand. Rest in me, in my perfect love.”
This is the story I want in me, labeled on me loudly. As my friend Angel reminded a room of Lakeland, Fla., ladies this weekend, I want the story told to me again and again. She used the beautiful word picture from Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. The set up: August (the eldest of 5 sisters, honeymakers) and Lily (a teen runaway who finds herself in the home of the caring sisters) are in the honey house placing labels of a Black Madonna statue on the honey jars. Lily asks, “How did you get the statue in the parlor?” August tells what she knows and how the statue came into the possession of her grandmother’s people.
The quote: “When I was younger than you, me and June and May –-and April, too, because she was still alive then–all of us would visit our grandmother for the whole summer. We’d sit on the rug in the parlor, and Big Mama–that’s what we called her–would tell us the story. Every time, when she finished, May would say, ‘Big Mama, tell it again,’ and off she’d go, repeating the whole thing. I swear, if you listen to my chest with a stethoscope, what you’d hear is that story going on and on in my Big Mama’s voice.”
“I was so caught up in what August was saying,” says Lily, “I had stopped wetting labels. I was wishing I had a story like that one to live inside me with so much loudness you could pick it up on a stethoscope, and not the story I did have . . . . ”
Like Lilly, our hearts demand a story that is a bigger and more beautiful and more perfect story than we know. That’s what the gospel is to me. I join Angel and the saints of the ages in asking “Big Daddy” to tell me the story again and again.
Tell me again until you could pick it up on a stethoscope, so loud and so clear, you need a warning label.