Friday, April 25, 2014

Theory 39: There is no such thing as natural beauty.


Just after I published Theory38: Orthopedic bras aren't sexy. Part DDDD, then H, then J, I went for my first mammogram. You know, when you turn the perfect age of forty, you get to go on all sorts of adventures; medical personnel get to squeeze and probe parts they’ve never squeezed or probed before. Yippee!

I’m not going to lie. I was nervous. I am not na├»ve, nor am I immune to tragedy. Sometimes I panic about certain things because those things have actually happened to me. I’m no better/different/more important than the three co-workers who have survived or are battling breast cancer. Susan G. Komen Foundation is a marketing machine; pink is everywhere. Everywhere. Even Tall Child’s best friend, Character with Character, said, as he lay in his bedroom, dying from colon cancer, “I am sick of those pink ribbons. Where’s the stuff about colon and stomach cancer? Huh?” My dear friend Baton Swiper works year-round to fundraise through our local Komen office out of respect for her beloved later mother-in-law.

So, on Good Friday, I spent the morning at the local breast center. I handed over my insurance card and turned to find a seat with other pensive patients. I saw a glimmer of hope in a framed, signed photo of none other than my hero Dolly. Right there in the lobby. I had just written about her that same morning! The queen of boobies, creativity, and positive energy was there. I felt better, calmer, until the x-ray technician squeezed Pacific for just a smidge longer than she had Atlantic and said, “I just want to make sure I got a really good picture.” Gulp. Thence came a wave of anxiety. I cried all the way to my car. I knew it.

During my drive to the breast center, I had felt a strong premonition that I’d be back, long before mammogram 2015. My premonition was accurate.

Nurses called me Monday and asked me to come back. The MOMENT I walked into the lobby, I ran smack into my young teaching colleague who is fighting breast cancer. The first thing I thought when I saw her was, “Beautiful.” She wore a head covering, so all I could see was her face. Her skin was flawless. Beautiful face. We enjoyed a quick academic discussion of school, causes of cancer (speculation), and her treatments. Beautiful brain. She cheered me on when I explained I’d been called back in for a second look. She cheered me on. Beautiful spirit.

The routine mammogram machine is like a plastic Panini maker; it’s a gentle squeeze for someone my size, but not too grilling. The “call-back” appointment was a bit more involved, with two distinct procedures. The first is like a George Foreman Grill: it optimizes health, squeezes out the fat, and focuses on one big chunk of meat. Think slow, deliberate hammer to red clay. The second procedure is like a pasta-maker. Dough ball to a grinder. I had to lean over and drop Pacific down between to plastic boxes. The x-ray technician got under me and tucked and pulled Pacific into place. I said, “I wonder whose view is better. Yours or mine.” The boxes pressed together and turned the dough ball into an egg noodle. Ouch.

I was also nervous about my just-scheduled breast reduction surgery. On my way out, I visited the “Complementary Boutique.” It’s a lobby gift shop that sells all things girly and cancer patient (earrings, blouses, wigs, swimsuits, orthopedic bras, devotionals). The clerk asked me how she could help me and I said, “I know this sounds shallow, but do you have a fake C breast I can see and feel? I’m getting reduction surgery soon and just want to see how I might end up.” I continued, “I just don’t want to look in the mirror and think, ‘Who is that?’ or ‘Where’d I go?’ or ‘I look crazy different.’” She didn’t have any fake breasts lying around. She had something better. Peace of mind. She said, “I used to look in the mirror and see everything that was wrong with me. Now I look in the mirror and say to myself, ‘Look how strong you are.” She’s a cancer survivor. She asked who was doing my surgery. I told her. She said, “He is AWESOME! He did my reconstruction and he is a perfectionist.” That’s what my friend Flower Child calls a God Wink – when you are worried and wondering and God answers in a quick, poignant sign. Dolly’s photo was a God Wink, too. I left with confidence in my surgeon and a renewed admiration for womankind.

34J-long-story-short, I’m okay. I texted workplace BFF, Red Hot Backspace (who is a breast cancer survivor), that my doctors found one tennis shoe and a six pack of Miller Lite. Truly, I have a cluster of cysts near the Jersey Shore and one rogue cyst flying solo in the South Pacific.  

The sales lady at Complementary Boutique and my sick, but strong teaching colleague exemplify today’s theory: There is no such thing as natural beauty. Okay, we are born with certain attributes, yes, but I’d like to address this theory through the mix of three human aspects: physical beauty, academic beauty, and spiritual beauty. It takes many years to become a pretty person!

As my grandmama, Buddy, used to say, “Pretty is as pretty does.” Behavior relates to attractiveness. Delicious used to counsel me, regarding dating, “If you start liking him, he’ll get cuter.” So true!

As a child, I didn’t have all the clothes I thought I needed. I didn’t really want to shop, but I did want to fit in fashion-wise. Instead, I wore flannel shirts and thick Lee jeans from Goody’s store in Sevierville. In my sophomore yearbook picture, I’m wearing a Les Miserable t-shirt tucked into hand-me-down pants (handed down from a junior at my same school). A few years ago, Tall Child and I were in a personal recession brought on by the following: a tornado (new roof), female problems, infertility treatments, Sharky’s battle with the gym floor (his two permanent front teeth lost that fight), college expenses for me to get certified to teach, and finally, adopting Gnome. Anyway, my wardrobe and our home took a beating. In that time, I stumbled across one of my favorite Bible verses:

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:27 (KJ)


Lily near the barn on The Crippled Beagle Farm.

I needed that verse in high school. So many girls need that verse in high school. Do I say it to students? I’ll never tell. Actually, I did in Theory 23: God and prayer are most definitely in schools. Nowadays, I’m looking for a uniform and just try to look clean and covered. Ha! I’ve evolved.

Delicious has always battled her weight, but she’s also extremely confident. I pondered this unique aspect of her personality and asked her for clarification. She explained, “Bug, I think that when you have a pretty face, you don’t really notice how fat you are. Take a look at all those runners on the side of the road. They are skinny with big noses and need lipstick. Delta Burke is beautiful and she is almost as fat as I am.”

Red Hot Backspace co-wrote Theory 29: There are right ways and wrong ways to date online because she felt a kind need to help singletons navigate cyberspace romance. A few days ago, she said, “Dating at my age [of 50] is not easy.” She referenced scars, both physical and emotional, that must be explained. But I see her in a different light. I see her as someone who has learned great lessons, triumphed over tragedy, and holds three degrees. Her sense of humor is the light in my day and she is SMART. What a lovely package! No explanations needed.

Here’s the deal: Beauty grows from tragedy, experience, and education. Life may wear our bodies down, but it makes us spiritually beautiful and of much more service to one another. If that doesn’t summarize today’s theory for you, maybe Sharky can help.

Sharky is a gangly pre-teen 12. He was a bit mouthy in the car last week. I asked, “What is wrong with you the last few days? Why are you being such a smart [mouth]?”

He said with a sigh, “I think my pheromones are coming in.” Say what?
Definition (via athenainstitute.com – those Greeks knew everything):

Pheromones are naturally occurring odorless substances the fertile body excretes externally, conveying an airborne signal that provides information to, and triggers responses from, the opposite sex of the same species.
Well, Amen! Sharky’s airborne signals trigger a response for sure, like my hand across his behind.

Since he was so in tune with “pretty is as pretty does,” I decided to interview him for this theory. I used my cell phone voice recorder. This is the exact transcript:
Bug: When I say, “There is no such thing as natural beauty, what does that mean to you?”

Sharky: You can’t just grow up to be beautiful. You have to transfooorm.

Bug: What else

Sharky: That’s all I know.

B: What else? What do you mean transform?

S: You have to process through it.
B: Through what?

S: Stages.

B: Stages of what?
S: Stuff. Physical. Mental.

B: When you say process through stages, what do you mean?
S: You have to process through them to become a real person. Turn this off!

B: Nobody’s going to hear this but me. [Bazinga!] Do you mean a child is not a real person?

S: No, you process to become an adult and have a good life.

B: In my article, I’m writing about physical, mental, and spiritual beauty. What do you have to do to become physically beautiful?
S: Moisturize.

B: What do you have to do to become emotionally beautiful?
S: You think on the bright side. You decide you are pretty.

B: I like that. What can you do to be mentally beautiful? Academically? What can you do to become a beautiful thinker?
S: That’s not my sort of subject. You’re gonna have to ask a girl on that one.

B: What about spiritually beautiful?
S: Hmmm. I tell you what, boys and girls, that’s a tough one.

B: What does spiritual mean?
S: You’re gonna have to go with a girl on that one, too. Ask God if you are pretty?

That is right, Sharky! And I know exactly what God will say.

Readers, that brings us to another spiritual topic, inspired by Flower Child, “Elaine,” Red Hot Backspace, Delicious, Bop, Dogwood Deb, and many others. Join me next week for Theory 40: Contributors are happier than consumers.
Spring in East Tennessee defines "Natural Beauty." I took these photos either in the mountains, on The Crippled Beagle Farm, or in my Glen Cove yard. Enjoy their natural (supernatural) beauty. Happy spring!








See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn.
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Also, visit Amazon.com or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

Author website: www.jodydyer.com


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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...