Monday, February 26, 2007

Her Name Was "Priestly"

miranda priestly
Originally uploaded by Peacebang.

Aloha, fabulous and darling ones.

I was just cruising through some Oscar commentaries and thinking about how much I admire Meryl Streep no matter what she wears to award shows, and remembering how much I adored her in "The Devil Wears Prada" as the steely fashion maven Miranda Priestly. And then it hit me: "priestly." An absolutely fitting name!!

If you'll permit PeaceBang to get a wee bit philosophical for a moment, it isn't too far-fetched to point out that fashion, like religion, is all about ritual and worship.

If we believe that serious fashionistas are worshiping false idols, we certainly won't get anywhere in a conversation with them -- or anyone else who is taken by the popular message that Appearance Is Everything--by living a planet away from the beauty they are trying to be part of.

The deep desire for beauty isn't shallow. Channeling that desire by spending your paycheck on Manolo Blahniks is. But darlings, why judge? Get out there and evangelize!
We are ministers in a culture where people earnestly prowl the cosmetics counters and the sports emporia seeking some kind of transcendence. Why not meet them there occasionally and start the conversation by bonding over the splendor of the latest Chanel lipgloss, or the rad coolness of the latest style of Nike shoes?
Throwing stones from a distance will certainly do no good.

Start a conversation with how much God loves us, or on the joys of tithing (and PeaceBang does tithe to charitable organizations, btw), and watch folks edge out the door. Compliment that shopper on her lovely necklace that belonged to her grandmother, and open the doors for something deeper to emerge. Do you begin every pastoral encounter by sonorously intoning "And how is it with your soul, my child?" No. You talk about the weather. You notice someone's haircut, you find a comfortable way to sit. You make eye contact, you hone in. You attend to each other by paying attention. Before you get to the deep stuff, it's just two descendants of monkeys sitting together on the same branch going hoo-ha, hoo-ha.

If we think that God made a beautiful creation, a natural religious response is to want to be as beautiful as possible within that creation. I haven't met a minister yet who was so spiritual that they weren't walking around in a body that needed to be groomed and clothed every day. When you get promoted to the job of Holy Spirit, you're all set. For now, you've got incarnation to deal with. Sorry. I know it's not easy.

I've been looking lately for a quote by the Jungian analyst James Hillman who made the startling comment in one of his books that American personal slovenliness was such an affront to the rest of the world's aesthetic sense that it was actually a casus belli.

When I originally read that statement my blood ran cold with a combination of alarm, offense and denial. I wish I could find the quote to see how I'd react to it now, but so far, no luck. I really want to find it. If we have any Hillmanites out there, can you help?

I'm just gettin' all philosophical because lots of people have been asking me deep questions about aesthetics and beauty and stuff lately. Cripes.

So to get back to business, let's have a Product Review: I tried a sample of Kiehl's Soothing Gel Masque last night which was lervly and yes, soothing!

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Blogger Caroline Divine said...

O Fabulous One,

I wish I had some wisdom for you, but I am grading a stack of midterms and the voracious college computer system wants the grades by dawn and I am determined not to pull an all-nighter.

Howsomever... A beauty thing came up today, and I wonder whether you and the assembled multitudes have some thoughts and resources. This is not about a minister, this is about a student of mine who is an adult student (my institution of higher learning and principal employer has both younger campus-dwelling students and somewhat older commuting students) with breast cancer, but women clergy, alas, are not immune from this nastiness. And our men friends in clergydom have nastiness of the same sort and may have needs and suggestions of their own (hi handsome fellas). So:

Said student, who is brave and smart and dedicated and shows up in class whenever she is not in the doctor's office or barfing her brains out, is in her early 40s and has been undergoing aggressive treatment. She has lost all her hair from the chemo and doesn't have any eyebrows left either. She's living on hardly any income but as you know there are now wonderful resources, beauty-wise, for women with cancer, not just stores but some lending places or exchanges, and the occasional freebie, so she has a cute little wig that has given her a whole new look and which her fellow students have duly cheered. She usually checks in after class and we do a little catch-up and pastoral care and today she announced she had decided (a big step for her) to go to some local makeup place, I think not a store but some kind of community beauty event (don't ask, I am still learning the what and where down here in Mid-Size Southern City), and learn how to apply eyebrow pencil, which she has never had to use, and lipstick, which was never her thing but which will perk her look up a bit. I applauded this of course and said it was a dandy idea. She wants eyebrows and she is taking care of herself. She also mentioned that there are post-cancer-treatment tattoos people get, as in having eyebrows tattooed on her, but that "she wasn't quite ready for that." (Caroline Divine, who is too chicken even to get her ears pierced --hello Psalmist are you out there, my sister queen of the clip-on earrings?-- quite understands this stance.)

My question is, do you, PB, or any of you good folks out there have experiences to share, advice to give, resources you know of (there is a whole clothing industry, but this woman is not in mastectomy stage yet, though it looks like it will happen soonish) and so on, particularly in the make-up department? Not only will I gladly pass them on to this fine student, who is already taking the initiative to go exploring what's out there, but I imagine that with a crowd of the size we have on this blog, there are likely to be cancer survivors and also people who minister to and with cancer survivors and can pass on info to any clergyfolk who are in treatment but still want to look good, when they have the energy and the will. So, beauty tips for the chemo season? Bring 'em on. And please say a prayer for my student. They discovered her cancer when it was stage 3 so the chemo is heavy-duty and it's not a happy picture, but she has a great attitude and we are doing our best here to encourage inner and outer peace and fabulousness. Thanks!

Love and kisses,
Caroline the Long-Winded

11:09 PM  
Blogger ms. kitty said...

Caroline, thank God you are there for this incredible woman who needs you and what you bring into her life. PeaceBang, I know you'll have some answers for Caroline and for all of us who want to give our ill parishioners and students the best we can.

3:32 PM  

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