Tea parties, make up, and how we’re all okay

Yesterday our church hosted a women’s tea party. Every small group was in charge of a table and since our bible study leader was in the States during the planning time, I was put in charge of decorating a table for the tea. So I looked around my apartment and said, “Well, I’ve got a bunch of seashells and a beta fish. Let’s do a beach theme!” So yesterday I packed up my seashells and my beta fish and my popcorn and my plastic plates (with colorful plastic cups) and headed over to the church to set up our table.

I think the first words out of my mouth when I walked in to the church, where all but one of the other tables were already fully decorated, were, “I’m embarrassed already.” The other tables looked like tables out of magazines. I suppose my table looked like something out a magazine as well, but like a magazine for children. All of the other tables had stunning centerpieces and rented china sets with multiple plates and tea cups and folded fabric napkins. There were table runners and sheer overlays and the color coordination was on point. As I quickly set up my plastic ware and sprinkled my seashells I realized this feeling of inferiority or embarrassment was pretty much par for the course for me here in the Dominican Republic.

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Side by side comparison of someone else’s table and my table

Dominicans in general take great pride in their appearance and somehow, even though we’re all on the same bus, manage to look and smell great while I look and smell like a sweaty mess. Part of this is because the average Macorisano (person who lives in the city San Pedro de Macoris) bathes like, four times a day. Part of this is because I do not particularly take great pride in my appearance. During my first year or two in this country I often fell less than because of this. I felt like I should care more because everyone around me cared more and while this is true in the sense that I need to look professional and bathe at least once a day, it is not true that I was or am less than based on how I (or my tea table) look.

Last year I read Shauna Niequist’s Savor. My favorite part was when she talked about how she came to a point in her life when her plate was too full and she realized she had to just start saying no to things. She had to decide what was important enough to her to keep doing and what had to go. (Jen Hatmaker shares a similar refrain in For the Love.) So, I have decided, confidently and comfortably now, that I do not wear make up. I do not pluck my eyebrows because I hate how it feels. A year and a half ago I decided I didn’t want to dye my hair anymore, so I don’t.  I don’t shave my legs as often as some. I don’t have rules about when and where and how I can wear leggings. I don’t compare myself to other women around me.

Listen. Some women love make up. They love buying it and trying it and applying it and wearing it. I do not enjoy any of that. WHICH IS TOTALLY OKAY. And I’m shouting it because even though I 98% believe it 98% of the time, I still sometimes need a reminder and maybe you do, too. Some women have fast metabolisms and a lot of self control and are always thin. Some women have slower metabolisms and less self control but have decided that losing weight and caring for their bodies in that way is important to them and so they work really hard and go to the gym and cut certain foods out of their diets. Some women have slower metabolisms and less self control and have decided that they don’t actually care about being skinny or thin. AND ALL OF THAT IS OKAY.

Some women set their dining room tables with table runners and cloth napkins and matching china. Some women eat off plastic plates while sitting on the couch and watching TV. And guess what, ladies! It’s all good.

I hope you’ve heard it a lot lately, but who you are is OKAY. Who you are is actually probably pretty amazing. And it’s our differences that make life fun. And it’s my fat belly that makes me such a comfy puppy pillow.

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