Best Face Forward

7:30 AM

Inevitably, sometime in your life, you will run across a beauty-conscious female. Inevitably, sometime in your life, you will run across a beauty-obsessive female. You will recognize said females if they happen to run to the bathroom upon seeing your car drive up, to brush their hair one last time or throw on a more company-suitable shirt. They'll play with their hair to make sure it stays just so. They'll discreetly run their tongue over their teeth in hopes that no broccoli casserole lodged itself between the pearly whites. They'll pick at their clothes to keep them smooth and perfect.

And they'll do that the entire time the social gathering lasts.

Yes, indeed. These girls like to put their best faces forward.

Some of us were born with handicaps to that goal, like big noses or a propensity to unphotogenicness or a habit of spilling supper on our skirts, and we must make allowances and work around those crippling features in order to trick people into thinking we're always mostly put together. See, the key is that we don't have to be perfect all the time. We realize that in ourselves, we're most likely not going to look beautiful always, or at least not perfectly. The goal is that when it counts, we look good -- as good as we can. If we can't be the most beautiful girl in the room, we can at least be the best beauty that we can be.

We put our best face forward.

It's less of an insecurity and more of vanity, actually: it's a selfish, look-at-how-beautiful-I-can-be type of thing -- not an "I have to look absolutely perfect so that I can fit in." Of course, there's occasionally that element. Of course there is.

But no matter how pretty the girl (and I've met some drop-dead-gorgeous sisters in my lifetime), there's always a concern for more: more skinny, more big eye, more thick hair, more tan, fewer freckles. I talked to my middle school campers about beauty, and even the girls you knew were confident, you knew were pretty, you knew were almost perfect, they found imperfection in themselves. Really, the standard belief about beauty among womankind is that it's transient. It's always dangling just a bit higher than our manicured fingertips can reach.

If we shed pounds, we've got to fix the frizzy hair. If we fix the frizzy hair, we've got to work on our acne. Et cetera and ad nauseam.

You get the picture I'm painting? Perhaps you could have modeled for me. In that case, we would have been great friends.

Though I would be the first to say, "Yes, I'm totally comfortable in my skin, literally," I still had a (slight, mind you) obsession with looking the best I could be -- with putting on my prettiest face.

You see, I've never been too concerned with personal ugliness, at least not to the point of worry and obsession and Botox. I know I have a big nose and perhaps my smile's a bit crooked: I'm not going to end up a finalist on Miss America, if you get my meaning. And I'm okay with that. I can survive knowing I didn't get all the facial proportions of beauty.

But comforting me in my affliction of ordinariness were my eyes. Through thick and thin, through self-consciousness and self-confidence, I always liked my eyes. They were blue-ish. They were biggish. And I liked blinking at myself in the mirror. They were nicely functional that way, too.

Funny thing happened the other day. I was practicing four-part harmony with my sisters, banging away at the piano, oblivious to anything beyond notes and warbly voices, when Hannah gasped.


Immediately the other two leant in to peer.

"OH MY GOODNESS," cried calm Bethany.

I was necessarily concerned and made quick use of a mirror. They had been gawking at a little puffiness over my right eye. It was a shrug-shoulder moment for me. I just figured I'd put off taking senior photos until the minor swelling went down. No harm done -- though I dreamed of puffy lines taking over my body that night. When it became imperative that I wake, I sat up and tried to blink my heavy eyes.

"Bethany." (We have top bunks across the room from each other and hold early morning conversations on them.) "Does my eye look better?"

She squinted. "OH MY GOODNESS. YOUR EYE."

Clapping a hand over the offending sight, I found the bathroom mirror and came face to face with this:

Not exactly the best pretty face I've ever managed. Just sayin'.

But it struck me as so ironic: we ladies spend so much time primping, place so much value on pretty faces, and none of it's going to last. We're going to age. We're going to wear laugh marks and worry lines into our skin. We just might wake up one day with our right eye swollen shut.

Don't laugh. You might.

Just for kickers, I like to ask the mirror what I'm going to look like at thirty, forty, sixty. My aging, I've decided, certainly isn't going to be a beautiful sight. It makes me laugh, some days. It makes me cringe. But the hard fact of life is rosy cheeks are going to pale, skin will crinkle, eyes will dim, and what's going to make me remarkable is what I've done with my wrinkled hands, not the fact that I have fairy feet or big blue eyes.

It made me do a double-take: how much do I place on putting my best face forward when a little bug bite or a leftover sinus infection can ruin it in an instant?

I mean, I don't care how much mascara or eye shadow you put on that thing. I was going to look like this guy and no mistake.

We call him SpongeBob. Say hi.
I stared at that girl in the mirror. Certainly she wasn't a charmer. Yet I was still the same. I still loved messing around with words. I still was able to hold an intelligent conversation with my big brother. I still retained all the labels my friends and family had put on me -- goofy, nerdy, giggly, good old fashioned weird.

Nope. I hadn't changed that much, even with the new expansions going on below my eyebrow.

It made me regret every time I'd looked at someone's outward appearance and made a character judge of them. If a stranger came across my paths, his second reaction (after mixed pity, horror and involuntary stomach churning) wouldn't exactly pin me in a too-favorable category. It's purely human nature.

How ridiculous that we judge a person based on their outward appearance...when it really has zero effect on his personality.

My beauty isn't going to last. It isn't an eternal part of me. It doesn't shape my character or earn my math grades or grow me closer to God. For all the marketing potential of beauty, it isn't worth that much to my ultimate goals in life (thank goodness I don't want to be a movie star).

So I laughed at my temporary blight, and I laughed that it made my heartless siblings laugh. There's so much more to life than putting one's best face forward. It's such a waste to pin hopes and heart on transient things.

Take it from someone who had to face the world abnormally for a day.

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17 impressions

  1. Yay! Fun post! This used to happen to me ALL the time when I was little-- bug bites near my eye would render me half-blind for a day or so.

    Thanks for the great points you made.

  2. Omigoodness...what DID happen to your eye?

  3. BAILEY! Did this happen THIS morning - and WHAT happened? A wonderful lesson. I've been thinking about this lately and also came to the conclusion that I shouldn't judge "a book by its cover."

  4. Oh, m'dear Bailey - you are a brave girl for posting your swollen eye on the world wide web. ;) (What was the cause of your eye swelling? Do you know?).

    Anyways, I really appreciated this post. I can *ahem* be one of those said girls. I've never been obsessive (heck, I've gone to Walmart with a too-small tshirt and some black athletic pants with blue-heeler hair stuck to 'em - thank you Maci - and my oily hair thrown into a ponytail. It was an odd day though...don't ask), but I can be pretty self-concious. Pictures can only be taken if I look just right - I don't want to be remembered looking like that! - I feel claustrophobic when guest come over and - gasp! - I'm still in my nightgown and fuzzy slippers. God forbid, right?

    But looks are not what make us. It's Christ living within us and what God has given us - brains. Personality. Love.

    That's what makes us...not our perfectly cut and colored hair and name-brand clothing....


  5. Bailey, I admire you so much for your high self-esteem. And I almost died from laughter when I saw "spongebob." That was most definitely the funniest thing I've seen all day! FYI, you're gorgeous - with or without a puffy eye. :)

  6. Hello Bailey!
    My name's Kylie Bailey :) and I've recently started reading your blog and I think it's simply wonderful. It's really fun to come and read your blog because you write just as if you were talking to me...

    I think your post today was such a good topic to share with fellow sisters(like me) because it's hard sometimes to not worry to much about "looking like you're straight out of a magaine", but you've helped put "the Lord looks at the heart" back into perspective and I just wanted to thank you for that and for sharing bits and pieces of your life with me.
    Yours Truly,

  7. You girls are too much fun.

    Lauren: It stinks, right? My uncle told me to put a hot wet washcloth on my eye and from then on I was rendered sightful.

    Kara & Anna: We're not quite sure. The official diagnosis was laughter, helpless shrugs and a hug for good measure. It's possible I got a bug bite, though nobody could locate one, or it could have been the leftovers of a sinus infection.

    Oh, and this happened last Friday, but due to schedule posting, you're seeing it today. :o)

    Alexxus: I'm liking this fixed comment/computer issue! :D Don't get me started on looking perfect for photos. My senior photos are scheduled for this afternoon and tomorrow, and I sincerely hope I don't try to do anything dramatic or "ultra-beautiful" and end up looking like a dork. I might as well just be me.

    But wait. I'll be a dork anyway. Oh, well.

    Sara: SpongeBob and I have a secret understanding.

    Hi, Kylie! I'm so glad a fellow Bailey girl is following my blog! I'm truly grateful to be able to share the bits and pieces of my life with you sweet girls. You brighten my day.

    Love and hugs for all! :o)

  8. Bailey: So am I. :) I'm with ya - I've tried taking dramatic looking pictures and ended up looking like I spazed out or something...Lol!

    I'm going to be taking my professional freshmen photos this fall. *hides*


  9. I just read your blog today for the first time (linked from Unplug Your Family). Might I say, you are a lovely, just lovely. I am not talking about your outward appearance (though you are too dear with your eye all swollen like that and a big smile - heheh). Your posting is just filled with a depth most girls your age don't have, an understanding of things bigger than most young ladies even concern themselves with. Though I am older than you, I have learned something in this post. Thank you for that.

  10. "You will recognize said females if they happen to run to the bathroom upon seeing your car drive up, to brush their hair to make sure it says JUST SO."

    I am chagrined. Have you somehow been SPYING on me?!?

    Ha, ha. Fine, I admit it. I'm one of those girls. ;-) Happily, though, I only hold myself to that sort of standard. I have found that the girls who AREN'T beauty queens are often the best friends. =)

    I'm sorry about your eye! When I scrolled down to the second picture (of SpongeBob - what made you call him that? He looks more like a SpongeFace ;-), though, I just had to laugh. How on earth did you think of that picture?! You must have seen the Lord of the Rings a million times!


    P.S. Also, you look lovely even with a swollen eye. Even if a teeny, tiny, eensy-weensy bit comical. =) Thanks for making me smile! I just started college this week and any stress reliever has been more than welcome!

  11. On one hand, I want to look less than perfect, because I don't want my future husband to be attracted to me for outward beauty alone (not that I'm stunning or anything, but I don't consider myself ugly... at least not always ;).

    At the same time, I need to look neat for going out. No sense in being a bad representation for my family, or Christ. Plus, who would want to talk to me if I was a slob? Of course, I still can be overly-conscious about my looks. I think practically every girl has that tendency in her at one point or another.

    You have good points! Thanks for writing this! I really enjoy your blog, by the way - your originality and writerly creativity in the organization and placement of your words. You have such beautiful talent. So, thanks for sharing it with us admirers. =)

  12. Wow thank you so much for this! I truly needed it! As a fellow homemaker (disliking the 'in-training' part as well) I tend to try to be appealing to guys rather than be liked just for my plain Created self. This post is absolutely beautiful!
    I am 18 and live in New York (not the city, but Buffalo) and it's a fast-paced life. I work as a waitress, hoping I may escape this state for somewhere somewhat better. It's all materialism and 'look like an anorexic model' appeal around here! So I often feel extremely ugly. And a lot of the boys I know are dating girls who wear pounds of make-up and eat hardly anything.
    But that's ok. Because I'm single for a reason. Whether or not there is a good man out there, only God knows, and it is in His time to put us together (I speak generally for all girls!)
    So to end this exceedingly long comment, I thank you a thousand times... and I'm going to go to church tomorrow looking like no one but my plain self, and thank God for it!

    God bless

  13. Julia: I don't own binoculars for nothing........;o)

    Now about SpongeBob. My sibs and I have an abhorrance for the actual fellow, so associating him with a sponge-faced orc is the nastiest thing we could think of, currently. Yeah, we've got some LOTR geeks in our house -- though a face like that isn't easily forgotten. :D

    Forgive my curiosity, but I just stayed up til 1:00 AM filling out college application stuff...what college are you taking classes from and what's the major? I'll keep you in my prayers, friend. :o)

    Yes, Carrie, exactly! I didn't mention the whole side deal of, "Now I'm not saying we all need to puff up our eyes and dress like slobs to be un-self-conscious," so thanks for mentioning that. And kudos for you for having strong enough character to let that outshine your physical appearance.

    Grace Marie, we are kindred spirits. :o) Isn't it ridiculous how the boys who are attracted merely to pounds of make-up aren't the ones we want for husbands, and yet we're jealous of their girlfriends anyway? I so often forget that I only have to marry ONE guy and that he's going to be attracted to me because he's doomed -- *cough* destined -- to do so. God is the ultimate matchmaker.

    Among other things.

    Be blessed, friend, in striving for God's best in the less-than-ideal!

  14. Yes! It's quite a shame how we, who do not want to be like them, are jealous of those artificial girls that so many guys are attracted to!

    "I so often forget that I only have to marry ONE guy and that he's going to be attracted to me because he's doomed -- *cough* destined -- to do so. God is the ultimate matchmaker."

    I can not agree any less! Thank you for the encouragement, and I likewise, encourage you in God's will!

    God's blessings,

  15. Hi Bailey!

    I'm attending Bethany Lutheran College in Minnesota for the present. I'm actually going PSEO, so I'm really a senior in high school.

    (I can try to explain PSEO, in case you don't know what it is, but I'm really not too clear on the program myself! Basically, the state pays for you to go to college during your junior and senior years of high school if your grades are good enough. Or something like that.)

    Anyway, I haven't picked a major yet, since I don't need to for PSEO. If I do pick one, though, my guess is that it will have something to do with writing. At one point in my life I was dead set on being an author, so we'll see.

    I'm just going to college for this one year, and then we will see what happens. Bethany is a little too expensive for my family (not to mention me!) to afford, so if I wanted to keep going, I'd need really amazing financial aid.

    Actually, the funny thing is, just this March I was beginning to believe that I wouldn't go to college at all. Then, all the sudden, within a month, God had directed us to Bethany and I was all signed up for college! I still can't get over how fast it happened. It was such a big turnaround! I just love it when God makes things so clear. =)

    Thanks for your prayers! I've been home schooled my entire life and this is a big change for me. I love parts of it, but then other parts are incredibly overwhelming!

    Good luck choosing a college! I will be praying for God to direct you!


  16. Julia, you're so incredibly encouraging! Recently so many stories of God's provision have cropped up in my friends' and acquaintances' lives...stories of full scholarships to exorbitantly priced schools close to home, stories of girls on the track to marriage, stories of trusting in God to provide instead of money.

    I am just overwhelmed by His goodness.

    College is tricky when finances are involved...but our God is bigger than paper money. It will be exciting to know how your story ends, and of course I'll keep everyone updated on mine...once I figure out what's going on. ;o) Thank you so much for the prayers -- a special prayer request of mine is to just thank Him for His faithfulness in my life.

    I wish the best for you as you're striking out at college. It sounds like a wonderful well as a challenge. I can count on my right hand the number of classrooms I've been in, so I can imagine the college routine might be a bit difficult for us unsocialized homeschoolers. ;o) ;o) ;o)

  17. We call him SpongeBob too--SpongeBob Roundface.
    So that made me smile.

    I'm really being encouraged by your blog, Bailey.

    In Christ~


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