Social media can really bring out the worst in people.
A friend posted an article about direct sales, which led to some discussion about whether or not direct sales organizations are worthwhile, which led to someone getting snarky and insulting women who dress for comfort rather than professional style. I rolled my eyes so hard they got stuck for a sec, then I wondered: “From where have we come and how did we get here?”
Somehow over the last 50 years or so women everywhere have become accustomed to looking “put together.” Blame the media or the patriarchy or Donald Trump, but the fact is that we’ve done this to ourselves. Our focus has become appearances rather than the important work of mothering. Whether you stay at home, work from home, work part-time, or work full-time outside the home or any combination of these, our number one priority is rearing our little people. We want to teach them and help them grow and become better than we are.
We want to make the world a better place by raising the leaders of tomorrow, amiright?
I’m a bit of a history buff. When the opportunity arose to research my family tree, I spent hours upon hours scouring the internet, digging through records at the library, and searching my mom’s basement for pictures, letters, stories, and items from my family’s past.
Would you like to know what I found?
Strong women who worked hard to keep their families afloat. Women who didn’t finish high school, never drove a car (well, drove a car once, ran it into a brick wall, and then swore never to drive again), and yet passed on incredible wisdom to those who came after them. I found aprons, bonnets, handwritten recipes, newspaper articles (one of my grandmothers was quite the writer!), well-worn bibles, and even a snuff can or two. I found pocket knives, coupons, thimbles, and simple jewelry.
What I didn’t find was women who cared one bit about fashion.
These women had one good dress for church on Sunday and perhaps a tube of lipstick. My maternal grandmother wore work pants and men’s flannel shirts because she spent her days growing the most incredible vegetable garden I’ve ever seen. When diagnosed with breast cancer, she said “cut those things off. I don’t need ‘em anyway.” This is a woman who, at the age of 76 had a massive stroke while working in the yard and spent the next several years in and out of nursing homes, working and fighting to get back to the garden she loved so much. This is a woman who had one daughter and 17 years later gave birth to a stillborn son. My mamaw worked in the tobacco fields until she was nearly 70 and I would choose to spend a day with her over any of the best-dressed, most sophisticated women on the planet. I was only 19 when she passed away and I now long to have the knowledge she could have shared with me if only I’d taken the time to listen. I think of her every time I use her cast-iron skillets or sit on the front porch breaking beans during the summer.
My paternal grandmother did graduate from high school. I have her high school yearbook from the year 1932. She was a writer, a devout Lutheran, and quite the influential member of the Midway, Tennessee community. She wasn’t able to have children, so she and my papaw adopted my dad. An orphan born in Middlesboro, Kentucky, my daddy was brought to Greene County by way of the “orphan train” through Knoxville. Mamaw Georgia Mae took him in and took what could have been an absolute juvenile delinquent (my dad was a bit of a trouble-maker!) and turned him into the county 4H Public Speaking Champion. She was a big, strong woman; smart and well-spoken during a time when most women were not any of those things. She used all of her talent and ability to raise a good man. She did it without makeup or fancy clothes or – for many years – even an indoor bathroom. She served her family with love and worried little about how she looked doing it.
Is it wrong to want to look nice? Absolutely not. Looking pretty, however, isn’t what we’re here for.
I only have so many hours in the day and so much mental energy to expend, so when it comes down to it, my hair and makeup probably aren’t going to make the list of things to worry about. I wear clothes that allow me to do my job(s), which on any given day is cook, cleaning lady, nurse, teacher, coach, personal assistant, manager, writer, tour guide…gracious that list could go on forever. I am not a fashion model or pleaser-of-people — especially people who would take one look at me in my active wear with snot on my sleeve and think less of me.