wom•an (ˈwʊm ən)
n., pl. wom•en (ˈwɪm ɪn)
adj. n.1. an adult female person, as distinguished from a girl or a man.
2. a wife.
3. a female lover or sweetheart.
4. a female servant or attendant.
5. women collectively; womankind.
6. the nature, characteristics, or feelings often attributed to women; womanliness.
Sure, this is the definition from the dictionary as to what women are. Who we are. What we are about. When I got the opportunity to blog about 'real women' I was sure that I had an idea of what I would say and then realized I had too much to say and then doubted whether I ought to be saying anything at all. I think that I am real and know that I am a woman so I decided to try and write about real women.
Quickly, I determined that I would need to divide my clarification of real women into two categories. The way the world defines us and the way that the Word defines.
Unsure of the strength of my 'real woman radar', I googled images of "Real Women" and after two pages, I stopped looking. It was discouraging because I didn't see myself or my friends there. Real women apparently drink beer (not light beer, don't get it twisted), they must show their pride by standing boldly in their underwear, certainly not claiming any shame in their half naked game. I tried to have some more gumption about seeing what was out there, so I went back and took another gander and found out that we are relegated to such simple seeming characteristics. Real women work. Real women have curves. Real women do math. Real women watch/love football or hockey (tough, aggressive sports). Real women drink liquor and/or beer - there isn't one t-shirt, so you'd have to buy two. Real women lift weights and run. Real women scrap (book, I think). Real women drive stick shifts.
Some of these are true of me - well hardly any curves, though I'd like to claim them, running is out and math only when I need to make sure that there is money to spend, okay, okay, most of these do not describe me. I'm not suffering from a full on identity crisis, but does that mean that I not a real woman? I mean, if these are the messages and images that I am to look to clarify my realness, then I do not qualify. And then I'm out of the real woman's club. Even though this list is not exclusive and does no justice for the complexities of womanhood, I temporarily found myself considering justifying why I don't meet so many of these descriptions or explaining myself and then decided to search the internet a little more.
These 10 characteristics of real women caught my attention and then I had to check and of course see how a real black woman is described. I kept thinking that I really must be from another planet. These are characteristics of a good person and really not horrible things but they are missing an element of what being a REAL woman is to me. Here is even a list of 50 things real women don't do. Cheeky, but there are many that I agree with. (#50 is my favorite!)
Realness takes a lot of courage. We must be real. Really real. And it takes strength and honesty to be our real selves without allowing all of the world and our pasts and our inner selves to take us over and pull us away.
Here, read about this woman as described to a young son considering his choice for a wife (advice from his mother).
"A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons,
and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places
and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it,
then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work,
rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need,
reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing,
and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected
when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them,
brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant,
and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things,
but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
The woman to be admired and praised
is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.
Give her everything she deserves!
Festoon her life with praises!"
-Proverbs 31: 10 - 31 (The Message)
Read it again if you need to. Though it does not say so explicitly, it is my belief that this type of woman would struggle with being real but finds success in it by having relationships, knowing the needs of others and living in her priorities with a godly motivation even when things did not go as she planned. You doubt? I believe she is a great model of realness because she had a husband, a child, employees/a business and was known about the town. She was around people and people don't always do as you plan or hope - maybe that's just me, but when those altercations to her plans arose, I'll bet she tackled them with faith and being her real self before God and others to bring about an example all women should be honored (and challenged) to imitate.
Busy, hardworking, balanced, focused, charming, respected and loving among other things. She is not worried about what she looks like to anyone but her God, her husband and her family. She is modestly dressed, not idle and is willing to fight to keep her eyes on the prize.
I try to image the challenges to her staying focused on this lifestyle, her choices and then the society/world of the times and how it tried to pull her away from being this type of woman. I mean, even though we are in different times, I believe the struggles are similar at their core. Competition between women for status, men, acceptance. Body images, homes, how many servants and are the right servants, money, reputation...the things that pull us so far away from our belief and what God sees in us. Not what we think, like, are good at or even what we do, but who we are to be.
I think she is a formidable example, one that I may be able to emulate in pieces and parts, but want to imitate wholly. She is willing, faithful and eager to serve God. The Proverbs 31 woman has a heart to please those she loves and does not spend much time getting caught up in the latest trends, city gossip or "shoulds" that people attempt to place on her. Am I a real woman?
The confusion comes when I allow my expectations, the trends in magazines and on commercials, what I see other women wearing/having or honestly, my insecurities. I confuse me. Things that I allow to confuse me? Coach. Gap. Dining out. TV.Books/Movies with happy, cheeky misunderstandings that always get resolved in the end, with everyone being happy. Spas. Girls Weekends. Trips. Dreams. Goals. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with these things but they do not make me a real woman.
Look. I enjoy reading, a glass of red wine (Juan Gil, Spanish red is my newest favorite), spending time in small groups or one on one, blogging, singing, being silly sometimes, seeing the fruits of my hard work and learning new things. I like being able to challenge the status quo, asking difficult questions of myself and of other women as we study the Bible with them. I appreciate quiet and organized and somewhat predictable. I am grateful for times when I see me in my kids and it is good, godly. I think that I want what most women want from my husband and believe those desires and wishes to be reasonable and way inside of outlandish - don't know if I could've written that five years ago. Writing these things, they are real for me and a part of me. What makes me real though?
Real women are crazed. Not crazy. Crazed. Told we can or should try to have it all. I've watched the movie "I Don't Know How She Does It" many times trying to find myself in it or even validate myself in thinking that this is the best standard to measure myself up to. Real women make mistakes from the things that they say and the clothes that they wear to how they manage money or who they date or share their opinions with. Real women are in real relationships with real men with real problems. Real women also talk about their real lives. Real women cry and get hurt and cause hurt and get lost and every woman has a heart. Real women wonder if they are noticed. Want to feel special. Want to be recognized in one way or another. Real women want to know that when you look at them, you see them and love them anyway. Real women are complex and capable. When I read all of that (and you know I haven't even covered half of it) I can see why we scare men.
There is comfort for real women. God sees us in our real skin. We do not need to drink beer or do math or drive stick shift or dress a certain way or work a certain job to be considered a woman of worth. He values us, He loves us and because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we are His.
The Bible talks about life being real and challenging. Look at 1 Peter 1:3-10, emphasis on verse 6, tough times are a coming and they will be up close and in your face and really real. Be willing to talk about it. Not with every single person that wants to be in the know and not every single detail of every single instance - use discretion ladies, but be real. Real with God, He already knows what is going on and wants you to come to Him with it. He wants you to surrender it to Him in prayer and live for Him. When we buy and believe all of the worldly fodder around us it drowns out His voice and Satan triumphs in knocking us off course. Encouraging us to pick up and hold onto things that are not real or lasting in exchange for a relationship with our Father.
Listen to and read the lyrics to this song by Mandisa, Grammy nominated artist, What if we were really real?
We must be real, it is how we will be free.