20-Something Swag

(forever young, sometimes broke, and always snarky)

Month: June, 2012

An Open Letter to Mark Driscoll

Dear Mark,

I hope you don’t mind the informal manner of my address. You see, I’m pretty darn Quaker and we aren’t really into titles. I also figure that since you tend to use informal language in your sermons you’d appreciate this. So, I’ll shoot straight with you, as the kids would say. I take issue with many of your thoughts on God, women, men, gender, sexuality, grace, etc., but it’s all too exhausting to respond to everything you say that irks me. You insulted one of my friends (again, we’re simplifying here) with a passage in your Peasant Princess series. How did you insult my friend? Let’s just say I’d be insulted too if someone told my spouse that he always needed to see me as physically beautiful rather than being honest with me and loving me from 25 to 75 no matter what. Believe it or not, not everyone needs to be affirmed as good-looking. Some of us have fabulous personalities, too. I know this series is old news, but since people keep reading it, discussion is still relevant. Also, I don’t like it when people insult my friends, especially those who do so while using sermons to push the way their marriage works on everyone else. You wrote:

God’s plan is that your spouse would be your standard of beauty . . . If you’re married to someone tall, you like tall. If you’re married to someone short, you really like short. If you married to someone skinny, you’re into skinny. If you’re married to someone who’s not skinny, you’re into not skinny. You say, “Well they were skinny. Now they’re not skinny.” Your standard changed, but that’s still your — true story, and that means if you get married at 25 and you grow old together at 75, your standard of beauty is not what your spouse looked like at 25, but what they look like at 75. Lust is comparing your spouse to others, desiring others, desiring your spouse to be like others. Job 31:1 he says, “I made a covenant with my eyes. I’m not looking at other women lustfully.” 

I don’t think this is a healthy way to look at beauty standards or our spouses. People usually have a standard or sense of what they find attractive–whether that has to do with physique or personality–and those characteristics might be manifested in multiple people who they find attractive. If I marry the athletic type and then he gets a little paunchy, let’s be honest, I’m not likely to say, “Hey, darling, I sure am glad you got fat. Just as you were putting on the pounds, the pounds started turning me on. Wanna go to Luby’s?” I hate Luby’s. They charge for every little thing.

Here’s the thing: sometimes the people we love don’t look like they used to, sometimes they don’t look like we had imagined our ideal in high school or college. And, get this, THAT’S OKAY TO ADMIT. We should be able to appreciate the beauty of humanity. The key is that if you commit yourself to someone, you be true to your commitment through years of change and growth. If the person you love gets uncharacteristically fatty or skinny, help him or her maintain confidence and healthy habits because you LOVE THEM. I’ve never heard marriage vows that say, “For richer or poorer, in sickness and health, as long as we both remain hot.” Your beautiful wife Grace might be a cutie now, but I sure hope you love her even when you know she looks like a green-grape-raisin (good luck living up to your internet-publicized image, Grace; e-mail me if you ever want to bitch over Ben & Jerry’s). People are gonna look at people who aren’t their partners and think, “I like that.” It’s how people deal with those thoughts that makes them unfaithful or not. People have to learn how to control themselves, not pretend that they don’t think anyone else is attractive. Grow up, Mark. Take responsibility for your own actions. Admit your own thoughts.

Let’s get another thing straight: attraction does not equal lust. Attraction means that there are qualities a person has that makes you notice them and draws you to their appearance or presence. Lust means there are certain qualities that make you want to jump somebody’s bones or at least consider it. So, let’s not mix those things up. Furthermore, standards of attractiveness aren’t solely based on physical matter. I’m not gonna go all “looks don’t matter to me, Mark” on you. Because, honestly, I’d pass up your photo on OK Cupid. Even though “fundamentalist, misogynist, grammatically flawed” normally gets me there, but that’s another post. I’m admittedly a little bit shallow. But there are other characteristics that contribute to people’s standards of attractiveness. I bet a woman’s willingness to take on certain roles actually influences the way you see her physicality, and that’s okay for you. I for one think people who have quick senses of humor are pretty attractive. And while I’ve witnessed many a woman learn to see Christian womanhood differently than you prescribe, a lot of people don’t generally change their disposition or forget how to see the humor in life. See? We find beauty in what we value and certain valuables stick with us and the people we love. Other “beauties” are sometimes fleeting, sure, but we still like them. When it comes to the people we love, we’d be assholes to stop loving them because of a few wrinkles or a few pounds. But we’d be miserable assholes if we tried to fool ourselves into thinking there is only one person in the world who could ever meet our standard of beauty. There are probably plenty. Just don’t marry them all. Geez. I’d write about more stuff, but I’m teaching a college class on The Scarlet Letter tomorrow and I’m sleepy. (Oh snap.)



P.S. I thought about posting my portrait with this, but I couldn’t do that knowing all the married folks would think I’m ugly. My self-esteem couldn’t take that.

In the Year of My Birth: 1987

This summer I am teaching with the university’s adult degree completion program. Students whose average age is 37 are returning to school to earn their bachelor’s degree and I get to be a part of this process. My first class, an individual composition tutorial, concluded today. Hoping to ease my student’s anxiety over workshopping and writing groups, I brought a piece of my own work to share and revise after we took a look at her essay. With my personal laptop still under the care of IT services, I scrolled through old drafts on my external hard drive and came across this short reflection I wrote in a creative nonfiction class as I was becoming more aware of my location in a history of gender norms. The assignment was to write about the year I was born. With the help of my writing student, I’ve polished it up and thought I’d share this with ya’ll. It’s a fun exercise to try.


Kellye Cash: Miss America 1987
It’s a “scholarship program.”

In the Year of My Birth

The United Nations proclaimed 1986 the International Year of Peace.  There’s little recorded about my biological parents beyond their ages, marital status, heights, and hometowns.  They weren’t married, so I like to think of myself as a love child, conceived in a year of peace.  Maybe American radio programs could be heard crooning “Baby Love,” giving them a little nudge.  Maybe they were young lovers and I was their happy little accident, named Koh Eun—“High Grace.”  But that might not be true.  Maybe I wasn’t born out of love at all, but from violence, not from mutual consent, but the abuse of women.   I do know that I was born into a year of mixed identities for women, and a world trying to find peace.   They (whoever “they” were) shaved one second from 1987 to ease into the Gregorian calendar, and I think it was like pulling a thread from fine silk Charmeuse.  A blemish no one sees because they’re distracted by the sheen.  The sheen in this case happened to be fuchsia bangles and shellacked hairdos.

In the U.S., where Mom and Dad lived in the northwestern state of Washington, Aretha Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, getting the R-E-S-P-E-C-T she sought. At the same time, women were living in what Susan Faludi later called the Backlash against feminism. Women in miniskirts, puffed sleeves, and frizzy hair, permed and teased, spent hours getting into constricting clothing and impractical shoes. Two people waited for me in Seattle, a woman and a man who were married with two children. And they loved each other. She wore pink lipstick and shoulder pads, and he sported a bushy mustache, and called all their friends when they got the word that I was born.

Reagan also got on the phone that year, shouting to Gorbachav, “Tear down this wall,” but not soon enough to let a young girl named Sybiel cross over to West Germany without first “selling” her family’s jewelry to gain passage for her and her sister.  I met Sybiel in Scotland this summer at a bed and breakfast, after flying into the U.K. via Heathrow Airport in London. In that city in the year I was born, Margaret Thatcher began her third term as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. And fire killed 31 people in the Kings Cross Tube station, where I stopped and changed lines the night I went to see Chicago, featuring half-naked women and half-naked men in sequins and stretchy mesh dancing around and singing.

I wonder if either set of my parents were listening when the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica said in his speech, “I say to the poet . . . .The path to peace is difficult, very difficult. We in Central America need everyone’s help to achieve peace.” Did they know I, only a few months old, would take that as a personal address 22 years later? Did they know that I would sing Aretha in the shower and totally mean it?  Or that I would backlash against the Backlash and vow never to wear shoulder pads? Did they know that I would live to see a woman run for the office of Vice President, and another miss a Presidential nomination? Did they know that I would cry my eyes out in a professor’s living room over the rape of a woman I have never met? Do they know that I have missed that anti-Gregorian second all my life?