“You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.” -Venerable Fulton J. Sheen
“I don’t want to look like a mom!” The young teenage girl cried out in the fitting room next to me. “I want to look like a slut.”
Her friends giggled. Soon I could hear each girl chiming in on what body parts looked good and which ones needed some work (or had to be hidden from the limelight).
Meanwhile, in my dressing room, I was pulling the soft, stretchy band of fabric over my nearly 25-week baby bump: “maternity dress slacks.” I didn’t need them; I wasn’t sporting a massive stomach yet, but I just wanted to see what I looked like as a full-blown out momma. I slipped into one of those scrunched-up maternity tops (the kind that draws all attention to your belly). I walked in front of the mirror.
Aside from my face, my physical reflection was entirely new to me. My once petite waist was gone, replaced by my sweet, growing baby. I almost giggled at the image: I looked like a long, lanky stick with a soccer ball protruding out of my midsection.
“UGH, this outfit shows off my cellulite!” The cries from the young teen squad filled the Target dressing room again, interrupting my thoughts.
“You think you have it bad?” The competition started to ensue in the dressing room next to mine: who had the worst body parts.
It was ironic. There I was, going for that “mom” look—deliberately emphasizing the life inside me— and next door were young girls attempting to reduce their bodies to sexual objects.
We were all playing dress-up.
I had no intention of purchasing the articles I had in tow; I was curious to see what “mom-mode” looked like on me. Those girls were also trying out different roles and scrutinizing their reflections.
But as their dialogue continued, I felt my glee dissipate. It was evident based on the conversation that the girls craved beauty. They want to captivate those around them, but the only way they know how is by “looking like sluts.”
“Society speaks through the clothing it wears. Through its clothing, it reveals its secret aspirations and uses it, at least in part, to build or destroy its future.”
— Pope Pius XII
Most women desire beauty. We want to give beauty. We want to be delighted in—we want to be cherished. Like a little girl who smiles in warm comfort when her father tells her, “you are beautiful.” This desire is much deeper than vanity; I believe it’s tethered to our maternal design, enabling us to receive and give in holy receptivity and generosity in a way that uniquely honors God’s creative plan.
Beauty captivates our hearts because we, too, desire to bring the mystery of beauty into the world.
The secular realm affirms this craving. Marketing companies know a woman’s desire for beauty and take advantage of it. They know how to advertise products as miracle workers to make women even more beautiful and rid them of nasty specks, wrinkles, dimples, and what have you. Even if you waltzed through life gracefully unaware of these matters, once the “beauty ads” and hyper-sexualized expectations affront you, it’s hard not to wonder: am I worth cherishing? “Wow, everyone must notice these ugly components of my body.” it feels like a fall from innocence: one day blithely content and the next, painfully self-conscious.
Likewise, the fashion industry knows how to capitalize on women’s insecurity; consider how many women feel obligated to stay au courant with modern fashion trends.
So many women find themselves trapped with an insatiable desire for beauty but turn to brokenness and objectification to fulfill it.
This kind of intense bodily focus is heinous. Suddenly, we fall into a separated understanding of the human person — forgetting the soul and finding all worth and importance in the body. The body that will one day return to dust. Our focus from maintaining a healthy body shifts into creating a sexual body. A body worth ogling over.
Hence, “I want to look like a slut” and not like a mother. A “woman objectified” will immediately capture attention. She will elicit drooling, fire, and heart-eyed emojis on social media. She will entice lust. But where is the cherishing in that? Where is the wholeness? Everyone just sees parts. And you are worth so much more than your parts.
Nicole M. Caruso writes in her book Worthy of Wearing, “Our dress can amplify or detract from the wholeness of who we are in Christ: persons worthy of love, with unique gifts and talents, made to change hearts and spend eternity in Heaven.”
Since when did objectification and NOT wholeness become our goal? We need to return to beauty — true, holy, God-given beauty.
Dressing reverently and with dignity blesses the body and exposes beauty. It enables people to see our femininity, our personhood, our worthiness — without any distractions.
It is an invitation to see beauty: the beauty of the human person created by God. It reveals wholeness and dignity, reflecting the glory of our Creator.
Next time you catch a glimpse of your reflection, ask yourself: what is it that I reflect? What do I reveal? Am I a collection of parts? Or do I reveal the beauty of God, my Creator?
What is the story your mirror tells?