This P*$&y Has Officially Expired

I have so many ideas for writing today, my 35th birthday. I want to talk about how it feels to be a woman at 35, how much more comfortable I'm becoming with myself and perhaps, ironically, that is one of the reasons women my age and older no longer attract Donald Trump. Confident, comfortable-in-their-own-skin-women turn off misogynists. We're not interested in being defined by our sexuality. We refuse to use our looks as pawns to define our abilities, our potential or our value. We're in a process of becoming more and more ourselves and therefore, less likely to be interested in his opinion or anyone else's, for that matter. It's our own opinions we're coming in touch with, FINALLY. 

I also want to say, I'm not done yet. Not at all. And while that sounds silly (I'm not exactly dying), I have this thing creeping into my psyche that's telling me I better hurry up. That my energy or my health or my vitality are on a timeline that will continue to accelerate and if there are things I want to do or be or live into, I'd better get a move on. A healthy dose of motivation is not a bad thing but most people who know me well know that I am intrinsically motivated and always have been. No one needs to tell me you only live once or to carpe diem. I feel that in my bones. The thing I'm wondering today is do these two realities (that in Hollywood/Trump land I'm officially not viable now that I'm 35 and the fact that I feel pressure to accomplish my goals sooner rather than later) come from the same place? Do all people feel the clock ticking on their dreams now or do women feel that way because our productivity has always come down to our body parts? So as my eggs get older (though I'm done procreating) and my sexuality becomes less in-your-face, I become done? Like, that's it for me. 

I think the big number in my head is 40 and so these thoughts will undoubtedly continue soldiering towards me with increasing force in the next 5 years. In many ways I feel like I'm just emerging. I've been toying with many ideas of my personal potential and where I want to lean towards as my children get older. Do I want to go to grad school, write a book, expand my business or all 3? I don't know. But today, it feels as if I need to know sooner rather than later. And I'm wondering if my gender, if my sexual viability plays into that pressure. It's ridiculous, really, as none of my goals are remotely tied to my fertility or ability to attract someone of the opposite sex and yet, the clock seems to be ticking somewhere in the background whether I listen to it or not.

I feel as if my time is just beginning. Though the world might be likely to tell me I'm almost done because I'm a woman accelerating towards whatever age we define women as past their prime, I am just getting started. I have so many things I want to do. I have so many versions of myself I'm working to uncover, develop, expose. It's thrilling. It makes me hopeful for the future, as I become more and more confident, as I push myself towards personal discomfort to yield growth again and again. Yes, I am a woman. But regardless of the age categories I'll be lucky to find myself in over time, I will always be in a state of becoming. I just know that about me. We already know we never arrive. And maybe 35 year old me is saying, I don't want to.  

Modesty Culture and Sexual Repression

I'm officially a theater parent now and it is awesome. We love, love, love performance and artistic expression of any kind. The thing is, I put Macy in a Christian theater program. And even though we are Christians, we are not currently attending church and if we were to attend church, it would be a really progressive church. So, I feel a little like an impostor, though for the most part, it's been great. One of the things that isn't great is that we're dabbling back into the world of to purity culture. I knew this would be an issue for me. I choose not to laugh at the offhand remarks about teens girls and "unders" which is the term for the tight clothes all the children wear under their costumes so they can change in front of each other. No mention of boys. As part of the costume committee, I witnessed girls being so self-conscious they wanted to add to their costumes because their dress (from the 1600's, mind you) showed a small square of skin in the front (no cleavage at all). It's hard to not feel angry, not at the children but at this culture. 
As an adult, I've worked intentionally to shed any shaming around my body that I learned from modesty/purity culture. This was not easy! Many of my girl friends grew up in purity culture but I don't think they took it as hard as I did because I was such a serious kid. I was the teen in a one-piece and a t-shirt! I genuinely believed that if my body was too exposed, it would harm my guy friends ability to follow Jesus. It was my responsibility to protect them from temptation. I was not about to get in their way. And while that's sweet, how incredibly harmful. And now that I think about it, it was probably why I became such a care-taking adult. It was taught to me as a spiritual value.
Through our years in youth ministry, I was required to confront teen girls about their clothing. People would whisper to me their concerns and then I was expected to be the heavy. I tried to be cool while executing this duty (I've always been more of a "good cop" even as a mother), but it was awkward. It definitely exacerbates mean girl culture when women are tasked to judge each other's clothing, especially for spiritual reasons. It creates piety. It's also wildly subjective to try to enforce a dress code (girls with certain body types get targeted). I have so many big feelings about purity culture, about how it shames women for being beautiful, how it plays into rape culture by blaming the objects of lust for being lust-able rather than the ones doing the lusting, how it cripples boys into believing they're incapable of self-control and frankly, how it sexualizes children. I don't want any part of it and I don't want my 8 year old to be taught to be self-conscious about her perfect, little girl body. And yes, I don't intend to change my stance when she gets breasts.
Once we got out of ministry, I started giving myself to permission to express myself more with clothing. I've written about art classes I've taken and that has encouraged me to identify more as the artist I've hidden. I've also tried to explore my sexuality more (which is incredibly repressed) though I haven't written about that as much as it's so personal. I might have the courage to discuss that more in the future because I know I am one of thousands who are sexually repressed because of their conservative upbringing. It's really kind of a bummer, to be honest. We were told for so long to be as asexual as possible in hopes of gaining the admiration of a godly man. And then as soon as you make a lifetime commitment to each other, you're supposed to become the exact opposite of what you were taught. Alluring, sexually available, skilled --- fully empowered. How does this happen, exactly? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm trying to engage in more sex-positive language, read more books and articles about sexuality, rape culture, feminism, etc. It's been a slow unpacking but I think it's a worthy fight, to relinquish responsibility for others' thoughts, to take back your power and to feel sexually confident. Well looky here, I guess I wrote about it. I'd love to hear anyone else's experience with purity culture. Drop me a line if you want to be heard! Maybe we'll figure some of this out as a community. 

Righteous Indignation or Hatred?

I'm wrestling with something. I've always struggled to sit in my anger. I feel like I have to apologize when I'm angry. In some ways, I think this is because I'm a woman. Our culture seems to value male anger as authoritative and female anger as bitching. So I tend to repress my anger, partly because it's difficult for me to advocate for myself (see: caretaking issues) and anger tends to draw negative attention. It also does not appear "nice" which I think our evangelical culture pushes on women a lot in the name of "service". 
I say these things because I am angry about something. There have been Facebook threads again this week highlighting the intensely bigoted statements of a well-known evangelical pastor, Mark Driscoll. The statements are old (10-15 years) and they are highly offensive. You may think that because they are old, he should not be held accountable for his words. But his theology is very present both in his old statements as well as in his current ministry. He's genuinely anti-women. He sees us as lesser, weak, temptresses in need of being lorded over by men. He preaches these ideas in the name of God. He's also incredibly mean about it. Feel free to read up on him. He's unapologetic. 
I responded to a thread recently where a friend of mine posted this article, stating that he should not be in church leadership. As people were agreeing with her, I posted a pretty angry, name-calling agreement venting my frustration with people who follow this guy. It's more my theological grievances coming out again and it's further exacerbated by my own sexist church baggage and my long history with taking on causes (again, caretaking issues). 
A man responded by saying that we were only fighting hatred with hatred and that this was sad. I felt him shaming my anger and I almost agreed with him. I have a long-standing conditioning that says when questioned about my feelings, they're probably too intense or even completely misplaced. But then I really sat in why I was angry. I was angry at the bullying that theology like Mark Driscolls fuels in church culture. I'm angry at the way this theology makes people feel about themselves, about their inherent value (or lack thereof) and most importantly to me, about how God sees them. This theology perpetuates exactly what I'm fighting: that who we are inherently is not enough, that because I'm a woman with a voice or because my friend is gay and loves God or because my husband is a tender, loving father, we are warped, wrong, less, invalid. And not just according to some extremist in Seattle but according to the God who made us! 
I'm going to let you in on a secret, the conclusion I've come to in my anger. I believe my desire to advocate for the bullied, to come alongside the marginalized, to find my voice, to listen to the stories of others, is not in fact, hatred but obedience to the voice of God within me. He tells me to be brave, to speak out, to listen. I know my theology is under construction. As a perfectionist, I want an "end date" to that process, but as an earnest seeker of truth, I hope I remain under construction til the day I die. But even if I don't have a lot figured out, I've figured out that anger can be holy. 
I know God doesn't need me to defend him. I know that even my fellow comrades in condemnation (according to Driscoll) don't need me to be their voice. But that outcry comes from within me. And I will not be silent.