Wednesday, July 20, 2016

If Dreams Were Dresses

Once upon a time, there lived a little Christian girl in a little Christian family who led a good homeschooled Christian life alongside her youth group Christian friends. Saturday mornings were reserved for evangelism. Modesty was the most important part of her wardrobe. Her greatest dream was to get married and have eight kids.

ponytails have just never been my look

Once upon a time, that girl was me. I thought feminism was wrong and God's plan for me was to be a homemaker. I thought I couldn't be a functioning adult woman until I knew how to sew my own clothes and bake from scratch. I was convinced that four boys and four girls was the ideal family size.

Nope.



Once upon a time, I went to a tiny Christian church that taught that contemporary Christian music was the devil's plan to ensnare teenagers. I watched videos on Wednesday nights about young earth creationism. I believed Christians couldn't be gay and Catholics were almost never "real Christians."

No thanks.

this dress wasn't in style when I wore it, either

Once upon a time, I went to summer camp. I broke up with my boyfriend, which left me with no potential husband to fulfill my homemaker dreams. I started feeling the push to go to college. So I sought a new God-written dream.

I wanted to make some giant spiritual impact, but women couldn't preach, and writing didn't feel big enough. I loved kids. So I'd teach in some impoverished gospel-lacking third-world country. I was convinced that this was God's new plan for me.

Yeah, no.

actually, this look wasn't that bad, for middle school

Once upon a time, I picked a nice little Christian school in the middle of nowhere. I made new Christian-school friends and studied in Christian-focused education and literature classes. I cried during chapel because I was so happy to be there. I believed I had found the happiest place I'd ever lived, there in my little Christian bubble.

Nice try.

Once upon a time, every time, I was a girl who just wanted to do the right thing. I thought modesty and homemaking were the high callings of my life. Then I thought missionary teaching was my destiny. I thought I belonged in an extreme church denouncing Catholics, and then I thought I belonged in a tiny Midwestern private school.

So many times, I was far from right. But I was never completely wrong.

There were many times in middle school when my best friend would come to my house and we would have a "fashion show." We took plenty of photos with my hand-me-down digital point-and-shoot. I tried to create as many themed outfits as my closet could provide. We did cowgirl ensembles, Paris fashionista poses, and combinations with every color in the rainbow. Those days were the most fun I had some months, but I wouldn't be caught dead in any of those outfits now. Most of them wouldn't even fit.

those were my very favorite feetie pajamas

If dreams were dresses, then I've outgrown plenty. "Baking from scratch" won't fit over my head. "Eight kids" is way too tight around the hips. "Young earth creationism" has comically short sleeves. The shoulder pads on "missionary teaching" are enough to give Stacy London nightmares. And the colors in "Midwestern Christian bubble" are starting to fade. But just because I've outgrown these dresses doesn't mean they didn't fit me well, once.

Growing up, these dresses fit me perfectly. I wasn't overdressed or under-dressed; the seams lay smooth; the color brought out my eyes. These dresses used to slide effortlessly over my head and were comfortable enough to wear for days on end. These dresses used to be just so me.

my mom's prom dress at my Alice in Wonderland Sweet Sixteen

Just like a twenty-year-old woman no longer fits in her middle-school wardrobe, I no longer fit in the dreams I had growing up. Just like dresses, I find some of my old dreams unfashionable, comical, unbelievable. But it was never wrong of my to have those dreams. Those dreams were a part of me, and they brought me to today.

Right now, I'm wearing the faded "Midwestern Christian bubble" dress. It's not my favorite anymore, but it's still in decent condition. It will last me a little longer. In about two years, I'll slip it off and find something else to wear.

While I wouldn't ever put the "eight kids" or "missionary teaching" dresses on again, I'm not about to burn them, either. I'll clean out my closet and send them to Goodwill. They don't fit me anymore, but they might be just what someone else is looking for. And if I happen to see those dresses again, bump into their new owners, I'll smile, nod, and be happy that someone else found their perfect fit.

I think, someday soon, I'll find mine.

8 comments:

  1. It's sort of embarrassing to admit, but I still struggle to respect people who want to wear those outfits. It's hard. I mean, I certainly believed in certain of these things listed, like creationism, but ever since I was a kid I've been pushing back against any expectations that I might be a homemaker or mother someday. It is hard. And I guess I'm grateful that you posted this because it's kind of humbling. And a reminder that even if the clothes don't fit me, they may look great on someone else, and that is totally fine.

    Also, I like your Alice in Wonderland outfit. It's neat. :)

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    1. Thanks, Heather! I was super disappointed when that dress didn't fit anymore, haha.

      A lot of the pressures and expectations placed on women are part of misogynism and patriarchal hierarchy; that's not right or healthy. But for some women, including me when I was a kid, that really is their own personal dream. I think that distinction is important. Women can choose wife, homemaker, mother as their own dreams; these dreams are only an issue when they're imposed.

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  2. Oh, Emily, I love this so much. Thanks for it. :)

    P.S. Your polo is super classy ;)

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  3. I used to say I was going to have 16 kids, get married and have a huge farm. I was made fun of, but my personality was the type to not care. Being homeschooled encouraged my stubborn nature. lol.

    Then i grew up, lol. I realized that this was my mom's dream, not mine.

    I started exploring. Experimenting. I learned things about myself that had always been true - i just hadn't known it.

    From my love of being crazy and wild, reading, books, and anything new, I found my "hippie" fashion, my love for making people laugh, for talking and helping, for creating joy. But most of all, I found out how much I truly want to love God and be loved by him.

    More than wanting to get married, I want to serve Him.

    And in what ways?

    It may end up being through marriage and 16 kids (who knows if childish dreams may end up being our destiny?)

    But right now it is through my writing and being a friend to those He brings in my path.

    Great post, Emily ;)

    I must say at one time I was starting to get fed up with girls who had no goal in life but a family. I mean, it's not like you can exactly make that happen. lol. I feel like we should have short term achievable goals too.

    But even though I still think that, I have learned to respect the girls that want this. Because God has given us all unique diverse dreams, talents, and callings.

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  4. Oh yesssss. I loved the metaphor in this post so so so much. As a christian at a christian private school where most people who pay fees aren't christian, and are not fans of the religion being imposed on them (spoiler alert: it's not) and someone whose faith journey is always changing, who is trying to figure out how faith works with evolution and gay rights and conservatism, I thought this post was fabulous! (I mean, I want at least 3 children, but it's not on my radar, you know?) I love the way you talked about change in this post. *follows*
    (and btw I have a blog. Virtually Read

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    Replies
    1. Hello SharM! Thanks for reading :) Yeah, college seems to be the place where everyone has everything they've grown up with challenged and redefined. It's a growing experience for sure.

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