The Way I See It...
Robin Rogers, Ed.D.
“Be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown without telling her that it was crooked.” I don’t know whose quote this is, but it’s worth stealing and repeating.
As an adult, I’ve gained and lost the same 50 pounds at least as many times as Oprah. I’m not even remotely ashamed of that fact. Had God designed me with a great metabolism or an allergy to gluten, I would not have been happier. But when it comes to appearances in general, and weight in particular, people can be cruel.
One weekend, when my girls were little, they came home from a relative’s house, and my oldest was really upset. One of the women had told Ellen, my 6-year-old “old soul,” that it looked like her momma had gotten fat. Ellen arrived home upset, clearly aware that her mother had been bashed, which in turn, had assaulted her, too. While I wasn’t personally ashamed, the relative made Ellen feel ashamed for me. I recall trying to explain how weight or physical appearance did not define worth. I can still remember being so steamed over how any person, a woman especially, would say such a thing to a child about her mom. She was a bully, and she accomplished her mission. She made another female feel bad. I just don’t get it. Today, whenever that person’s name comes up, I think, “One day I’ll lose some weight, but she will forever be an ugly person.”
My Grandmother Ellen always said that “pretty is as pretty does,” and the older I get, the more I realize how right she was. She saw straight through people, no matter how much they were trying to cover. I idolized her. She was a reader, a poet, a single mother, a chef, a friend, and a really hard worker. She stretched a dollar farther than any other could, and she kept people in line by telling things straight, without sugarcoating the truth or sidestepping an issue. She loved people (and cooking), and if a person didn’t ask her for seconds, she probably had her feelings hurt. She also made sure that all people who entered her door knew how special they were, what their gifts were, and how important they were to her. In a world full of fake flowers, my Grandmother Ellen was a wildflower. Hardy. Tolerant. Natural.
Growing up, I saw both sides of the Susan B. Anthony coin where womanhood and beauty were concerned. My mom always stepped out into the world each day perfectly put together, with full makeup and hair coiffed immaculately. She was born to be a mother to a little, dainty girl. As fast as she could put me into a pink dress with matching bloomers and hair bows, I was running through a sprinkler with mud up to my ears. Even with her best efforts, I was a lost cause.
Throughout the seventies, Mom put pink foam curlers in my hair at night and fought the good fight with regard to matching clothes. When I got to high school, my mom was perming my hair, and I was on my second set of braces. But by the time college rolled around, I had just about given up on all things sold at the makeup counters. There was too much time wasted in trying to be beautiful.
Maybe watching my dad’s mother fasten and unfasten a girdle every single day helped me decide I would never try to fit a size 14 body into a size 8 dress. Imagine shimmying into an XS, modern day Spanx, standing on your feet all day in heels, and trying to smile. Super tight undergarments under dresses just weren’t in my future. Breathing was by far more important. My dad’s mom also had a standing weekly beauty appointment. And that’s what she called it: her “beauty appointment.” There were women who dropped by her house weekly with catalogs and handfuls of new makeups, polishes, and scents from Avon and Mary Kay. I can’t remember my dad’s mother ever wearing pants or being less than perfect, too. I knew from an early age, that would never be who I was.
My Grandmother Ellen saw freckles as the best beauty marks a person could have, and scars were the memories of a life well-lived. She believed the only good use for pantyhose, or “stockings” as she called them, was to tie her tomato plants to a stake in the summer. And for a woman, any problem could be solved by taking off her bra! That was my fun grandmother. Her influence made me laugh, think more about the world and kindness, and want to be a good mother. The “matriarch of the family” was how her family referred to her, and she took that as the greatest compliment.
She has been gone almost 20 years now. Yet, her life lessons have never left me. That is what strong women do. They come into our lives, teach us to be better people, love us, and move on.
This Tribute to Women issue is special. Every year, the women honored are selected by the previous year’s honorees. These are women in Texarkana, some of whom I have never met, who are impacting others in a positive and productive way. They are champions for education, business, the arts, non-profits, and Texarkana.
This year is our 11th year to have a Tribute to Women issue; celebrating the accomplishments of strong women inspires me to want to be a better person, try a little harder, and care more about this community and world. I’m proud to have a platform in FSLM to share the goodness of others who are honestly changing Texarkana for the better. Thanks so much for reading FSLM, and keep on silently fixing crowns of the many women who make life great!