300 Women & Skin-Jumpsuits
Easily leading up my top five favorite books of all time is Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. Captivating talks about the struggles at the heart of every woman..what we need to hear and why we never hear it in the most digestible and intuitive way I’ve read to date. It’s founded on God, however, there is a lot to gain by reading it even if you’re not a fan of Christianity.
This book was my anthem freshman year of college. I dealt with a lot of backlash from my childhood that year…some unpleasantness that resurfaced from the scars of wrongdoers and my absent father that I thought I was handling like a champ.
In a vulnerable moment I’ll tell you – I rarely cry now, but back then I had regular crying fits…sometimes couldn’t get out of bed without excuse except feeling “heavy” with a burden I couldn’t quite place my finger on.
We have all been violated in the worst ways we know personally…Our trust, our innocence, our lives are all marred, sometimes starting with our very first memory. People don’t know how to love us with the depth that we want to be loved, don’t know how to “handle” our intensity and independence as women and, sometimes, don’t even try.
Captivating takes a small leap for some of us who reject the whole “grace is in quietness and tranquility” typical woman image. However, once you get past the first chapter, you realize that Stasi isn’t telling you that you needn’t speak until spoken to, but rather, that women’s strength is often found in vulnerability..your brain and your heart rather than brawn and what not.
“Instead of getting hard ourselves and trying to compete, women should try and give their best qualities to men – bring them softness, teach them how to cry.” – Joan Baez
I read and reread this book…astonished at how well it touched at exactly what was broken about me as a woman…why I felt emasculating at times to the men in my life, why I felt inadequate…the messages we all receive from when we’re little girls asking, “Are we lovely?” at every turn.
The answer we get starting with day one from society is often a resounding “Hell no.” You’re not enough. Be stronger, quieter, wiser, less intense, less you.
The underlying “message” I accepted that I received from childhood is that I am “too much.” I am a loud girl. Always opinionated, sometimes obnoxious and not always appreciated by my family and friends as a loud personality. Often you know the message that cuts you deepest when you explain a comment that hurt you…and no one understands. For me, my family would challenge me to “The (evil) Quiet Game” just to get me to sit still for a minute. I talk far too much…One of the worst things I heard in my childhood was “A little bit of you goes a long way.” Ouch, right?
Now I’ve grown into this trait and can use it to my advantage sometimes, but I still see people reacting to my intensity.
Well, Captivating says that everyone has a message like that…something all of the hurt in their lives seems to indicate..often “too little” or “too much.” Of course, when you’re 18, you feel like you’re alone no matter what..so that helped.
There is an annual retreat for Captivating readers to get together and I jumped at the chance.
There were 300 of us like-minded women at these cabins in beautiful Buena Vista, Colorado. I bonded instantly with the only other smoker there, Sue, who was about 30 years my senior and badass.
Saving you some of the more mundane details (there really weren’t any), the conference was the biggest risk I’ve taken with the biggest payoff so far. I went makeup-less, I walked the mountainside with women who were inside my head, it seemed…I skinny-dipped.
I went with two friends from school and we were the youngest by 9 years, but the majority of the women were in their 30s. We snuck out at midnight and turned our backs to each other while we got down to our skin-jumpsuits and plopped into the hot-tub together, talking about how there would never be another time we would be this comfortable in this situation. The next youngest woman approached the swimming pool (also a sneak-out) and started to swim laps. We panicked. Here our neked funbags are visible through super clear water and it’s apparent that we are not wearing any suits.
She finished her laps while we all swore we would never live down the humiliation of this ultra-conservative, quiet girl catching our childish little scheme…and she hopped right next to us in the hot tub. She sat for a few minutes in silence while we avoided eye contact and then we heard a loud FLOP behind us. She had thrown her swimsuit out of the jacuzzi, and said, “I just figured you guys might be a little more comfortable if I was suit-less too.” We spent at least another hour laughing & splashing around, not hiding our bodies from each other, despite all four of our body types being completely different. It was the most innocent I have felt in a long time.
It was a time of new-feminism for me. Understanding my strengths as a woman and not trying to replace vulnerability in my life. Part of it might seem anti-feminist…but I hope I don’t add to your perception of that.
I hope I haven’t rambled on too much and counteracted the point: Read Captivating and decide for yourself.
“Then the time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin
What books have you read on womanhood? Any worth sharing?