The other morning, one of my 16-year-old twin daughters walked into my bedroom as I was getting dressed. She cringed when she saw my half-dressed body and made a “blech” noise.
“Hey, that’s not very nice,” I said. “I have a great body.”
I said that. But honestly, I don’t always believe it. I want to speak the truth about my body, my God-given sexuality and my struggles to have womanly pride. The truth is, as a 50-something-year-old, I find all of these topics extremely difficult to discuss. However, I learned at a recent parenting workshop on sexuality that we have three options when discussing these difficult issues: lie, say nothing or be honest.
Fortunately for me and for you, this issue of response encourages option number three: honesty. We can be honest in our discussions on body pride. With this year’s spiritual growth study, The Bible and Human Sexuality, United Methodist Women shines a light on, what are for me, challenging and relevant topics, creating a safe and healthy space for sharing our beliefs, values and unique personal stories.
Let’s get real. Read Deaconess Amanda Mountain’s personal story, “In the Image of God,” which addresses dress codes, body shaming and victim blaming. You may remember an event from your own childhood or adolescence an act done to you that was not your fault, an act that left you ashamed or disempowered. Perhaps the curse of the “good girl syndrome” kept you from speaking up or seeking healing.
This resonates for me, as I was a girl who believed it was more important to go along with boys’ desires than confront their entitlement or find my own. There are times I still refuse to seek help or call out injustice when I certainly need to do so. I take heart and courage from the women mentioned in Paul Jeffrey’s “The Treasure of a Good Foundation.” The idea of a circle of support, which includes allies, resonated for me. We depend on one another.
After you get real and get inspired, it’s time to get ideas. Use M. Garlinda Burton’s Bible study, “The Word of God,” to guide you and your United Methodist Women circle into profound discussion and workshop activities on topics of sexuality and intimacy. Take heart from Ms. Burton’s words and begin by “asserting that sexuality is a part of who we are as God’s creation and that sexual behavior is natural—even good for us—in the right context.”
As you talk about love and intimacy, do not be seduced by Hollywood movies with scripts that say the only route to happiness is through romantic love. Life holds many joys, including volunteerism. Yes, get happy. Tupou Seini Kelemeni writes about her happiness journey in “Finding Happiness in God.” She finds happiness in her beloved grandchildren.
I suppose my children, even my daughter who shudders when she comes upon me half-dressed, is part of my recipe for happiness too.
Because I want to leave my daughters with a legacy of body pride and frank sexual discussions, I will share this issue of response with them. I invite you, too, to share this issue with a daughter or granddaughter or friend. I believe we will all have much to talk about. Consider using the article by Stephanie Greiner, “You Are That Temple,” to compose an affirmation to close your discussion. I choose this: I make decisions about my body and my sexuality based on what I want—not only on what someone else wants.