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BEHIND THOSE EYES
What's Really Going on Inside the Souls of Women
By LISA WHITTLE Thomas Nelson
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One THE TRUTH HURTS
What you're after is truth from the inside out. -Psalm 51:6 MSG
It was the first time I remember being completely, brutally honest. I was six years old, and my friend Tina had invited me to attend a comedy show with her family one Friday night. Like any six-year-old, I was excited to get to go somewhere with someone besides my parents ... even if I didn't quite understand what comedy was or where I was going. Going to the theater seemed such a grown-up thing to do, and I couldn't wait.
When the night arrived, Tina and her mom picked me up at my house. After a round of hugs and kisses from my parents, we were on our way. The ride to the theater was filled with giggles from the backseat as Tina and I chatted away about the flavors of our new lip glosses and showed each other our sparkly shoelaces ... things of monumental importance to six-year-old girls. The drive was short, and we arrived in the theater just as the show was starting. I settled into my padded seat on the front row of the auditorium, with Tina on my right side and a complete stranger-a man in his midforties-on my left.
The curtain parted and the performers took their place. They did a few silly things, a few entertaining things, and a few things I didn'tquite understand. Little did I know that in a matter of moments, the opening illustration for this book would be born out of a hugely embarrassing moment in my young life.
We watched a comedian perform a short stand-up comedy routine. I didn't know what a standup routine was at the time, but I did know that the guy onstage was only a little funny, and I was getting bored. I started to squirm. I was just about to ask Tina's mom if I could be excused to go to the restroom when I heard the man onstage engage the audience with a question. "Will you do me a favor?" he asked. My little six-year-old self perked up. I had my best listening ears on, waiting for the asked favor, ready for action. "Look beside you, on either side. If the person sitting next to you is ugly, please stand up." What a strange favor to ask, I thought.
I looked to my right and saw my friend Tina. She was a beautiful, petite girl who was anything but ugly. No luck there. I turned my head to the other side to glance at the man sitting to my left. When I did, he looked at me with a horrified expression as if anticipating what I might do. His fears were warranted. Without hesitation, I sprang to my feet to bear witness to the fact that the man had been a little less than blessed, genetically speaking.
Since I was on the front row, my actions were hard to ignore. The crowd roared with laughter at the sight of a little girl in her most honest state, standing to her feet at the bogus request of a man with a microphone. I turned around to see that no one else was standing, and although I barely knew what a joke was, I quickly realized that the joke was on me. I sat down as fast as I could, wishing I had never stood. But the damage was already done.
OUR NEED FOR AUTHENTICITY
Many years later, I am still both horrified and humored by this true story. It is hard for me to tell it without cringing at my willingness to spill the beans about the looks of a stranger sitting beside me! But I have come to realize that such is the innocence and honesty of children. And although they don't quite understand how to tactfully handle their honesty yet, bless them for their lack of pretense.
This is the kind of gut-level honesty that only pure-hearted children can truly provide-the type of unedited truth that you appreciate on one hand and that crushes you like a can in a recycling bin on the other. These are statements from children like, "Mommy, why is your tummy so squishy?" Or, "Eww ... your breath stinks." Ouch. The truth hurts.
While such statements are painful enough coming from your own children, they are a bit harder to explain away when made to strangers. Like the time you take your precious child to the media store in the mall where a teenager struggling with acne is ringing up your purchases, and you hear a little voice behind you say, "Sorry you have the chicken pox." Gulp. Since the powers to become invisible have already been checked out that day by one of the Fantastic Four, you grab your purchase, mumble a halfhearted thanks, and slink away. No save there.
Though you can get away with this kind of honesty when you are an innocent three-year-old, it is not recommended to try this level of candor in your Monday night Bunco group. Fortunately, most of us have enough manners to not intentionally offend someone by a hurtful comment. Please understand me. Rudeness is never called for. But a little more honesty in the world might not hurt either.
Perhaps the better word for what I'm trying to say is authenticity ... being genuine, transparent, and real with one another. Of all the many shortcomings I have, I do not struggle often with saying what I feel. (Sometimes that is the problem!) I tend to be honest, if not a bit blunt sometimes.
I seek authenticity in my life, though I don't always achieve it. And I cannot swallow pretense in any capacity. You know, the kind of pretense you sometimes feel from others and even sense yourself portraying in certain situations.
TALKING ABOUT NOTHING
I had one of these moments not long ago during a visit to my hair salon. Now, anyone who really knows me knows that I am a girly-girl. I love to have my nails done and think heaven must be something like a day spa. But with three young children and a busy life, I have to settle for my scheduled eight-week hair appointments. After all, the hair salon is a place I enjoy visiting. I admit: I am a sucker for the relaxing atmosphere in upscale salons ... the bittersweet smell of hair products ... the tranquil melodies piped throughout the room. I go to a place where the stylists are called artistic directors, and most of them sport funky haircuts, multiple piercings, and trendy attire. I have bought into the high-priced haircut, and my husband graciously indulges me by agreeing to pay the ridiculous cost to make me feel beautiful. And I usually enjoy it but not on this day.
After my initial meet-and-greet with my stylist, I was introduced to Bree, a cute girl with a retro haircut who would be my colorist for the day. I welcomed her presence as my grays were beginning to multiply and could no longer be plucked out with my tweezers.
"Hi," Bree said. "How are you today?" I felt compelled, if not obligated, to engage in conversation with her. "Fine, thanks," I responded. "How about you?" "Good ... good. Can't complain," she said.
Since casual conversation was not really of interest to me at that particular moment, I looked down at the magazine I brought with me in the hopes that I might actually get to read an article or two before Bree was through with my hair. But she wasn't picking up on my vibe very well. "Do you have children?" she asked, clearly only halfway interested. "Yes. I have three," I answered. "Oh, wow," she said. "You must be really busy." More than you know, I thought. "Yeah, pretty much," I replied. I knew I had to ask: "How about you? Any kids?" "One little boy," Bree said.
At this point I noticed that we were talking at each other in short sentences, which made things a bit awkward, almost forced. "Oh. Boys are great, aren't they?" I volleyed back to her. "Yeah, they are," she said. "Where do your kids go to school?" "It's a private Christian school. Do you live on this side of town?" I asked. She explained to me where she lived, and a few more expected questions followed.
At this point in our extremely stale and mechanical conversation, I started to become irritated. The kind of irritated where you want to literally jump out of your skin. The feeling you get when the guy behind you in the movies is talking too loudly. I was annoyed. And it wasn't about wanting to read my magazine; I had long forgotten that I had even brought it with me. No, it was about something else entirely.
In that moment, I realized that Bree and I were talking about nothing.
Nothing at all. At least nothing that really mattered. Oh, we were having a conversation. We were playing verbal volleyball with our words, talking about topics-topics that held some marginally important elements but were still just topics. We were settling for a generic conversation that wouldn't matter in about two seconds. And it irritated me.
Suddenly I had an overwhelming desire to stop Bree in her foiling process, spin my chair around to look at her, and ask, "What are we talking about? What is the point to this conversation? What's going on in your life right now? What is Bree really all about?" I knew that hidden behind those warm hazel eyes, a story was waiting to emerge.
But that would have been too intrusive ... too personal for a couple of women who had just met and had a comfortable contractual relationship going on. And the sad reality was that on that day, I wasn't willing for Bree to share more with me than what I had bargained for. It was far easier to impersonate a put-together mom with money to burn on a mod haircut than to share my heart with her. So I chose to settle for this boring interaction between us. Bree and I were both in full-on female impersonation mode.
FEMALES IMPERSONATING ... FEMALES?
In 2000, our family moved to a beautiful home outside of Nashville. We were excited by the promise of a new job in a new city, though the area was unfamiliar to us. With the moving truck still parked in front of our house, I started unpacking boxes. In assembly-line fashion and with much fervor, I was able to accomplish quite a bit while the children were occupied by their visiting grandparents. Boxes were piling up in the garage, and the neighbors were beginning to notice that the new kids on the block had, indeed, arrived.
Brringg. Somehow, over the noise of my chattering children, I heard the doorbell ring. Buried in boxes, I called out to my mother in the front room. "Hey, Mom! Can you get the door?" My mother obliged, and I could hear a muffled conversation on the porch. A few moments later, my mother found me in the kitchen, amid bubble wrap and crumpled newspaper. She had a funny grin on her face, which piqued my attention and caused me to pause my manic unpacking. "Who was it?" I asked. She playfully quipped, "Dolly Parton is at the door. She wants to know if she can have some of your boxes." I could tell by her tone that the real Dolly Parton was not at the door, but whoever it was would surely be worth going to see!
I quickly made my way to the front door, which my mom had left half-open. Even from across the room, I could see the signature bright lipstick, yellow-blonde hair, and mascara-laden eyes. Mom was right ... Dolly Parton was at my door ... or, at least, someone who looked just like her! "Hello," the mystery woman said. "I see you just moved in and have quite a few boxes in your garage. I live in the house across the street, and I'm just moving out. Could I take some of those boxes off your hands for you?"
I didn't care who she was; I just wanted to get rid of the boxes and get back to my unpacking. "Sure," I said. "Have at them!" With that, the mystery woman-who looked very much like Dolly Parton-gave a big smile and offered a "Thanks!" as she headed toward the garage.
A few days later and still curious about the box taker, I went looking for answers. I asked around and found out from neighbors that the mystery woman resembling Dolly Parton was actually her sister. It certainly made sense; the family resemblance was uncanny. I have to admit, though, that my first thought was not that the woman might be Dolly's sister. I suspected, as a naive newcomer to Music City USA, that I had encountered my first real-life female impersonator in the form of a fake Dolly Parton. I was close, but I was still wrong in my assumptions.
This story has great relevance in this chapter about truth and authenticity. Just as I was led by my eyes to believe that the woman standing at my door was someone other than who she really was, so we, as women, often lead others to believe we are someone other than who we really are.
The story behind our eyes often goes untold. Our engaging smiles mask things we don't want others to know about us. We cover our weaknesses and heartaches with immaculately groomed clothes and manufactured conversations. We impersonate the females we want to be-carefree, fun loving, deeply spiritual, genuinely caring, supportive, capable, strong, assertive, put together, and ridiculously happy-rather than the women we really are.
In fact, what is really going on inside our souls is so cavernous that we fear anyone who enters its depths would never again see the light of day. So we put up the barricades, allowing very few to penetrate the walls we've erected around us as a means of self-protection. Since we are genetically descendants of Eve, we don't need to alter our outward appearance to impersonate a real DNA-born female. But we often alter our personalities to fit a role we think we need to play, which certainly holds the same pretense.
The truth is that most females usually know when we get into this impersonation mode. We've perfected the fake laugh and the token smile ... both worthy of an Oscar. We feign interest in topics that are not interesting to us and are determined to maintain our images to the bitter end. We desperately hope and believe that someone, somewhere, somehow, will think we have our lives figured out and perfected to a T. This is the great charade of womanhood, and most of us have gotten really good at it.
Why do we do it? We lack honesty and authenticity, and our past experiences lead us to believe it is in our best interests to keep our true feelings hidden.
NOT ALL BAD
All of us are faced with truths at one point in our life. And truths are good to know because they often spur us on to action. Take, for instance, American Idol, the megahit TV singing competition that turns unknown singers into household names. Thousands of people all across America wait in line for hours and in all kinds of weather to get their shot at fame by auditioning for this show, hoping to be selected to compete in Hollywood.
For TV viewers, one of the most entertaining aspects of this show is the auditions, with hours of footage of people singing off-key, dancing ridiculously, insulting the judges, and making fools of themselves. We love it when hard-nosed British judge Simon Cowell weighs in with his point-blank, no-holds-barred comments: "It was really terrible ... dreadful ... awful ... a waste of time ... pointless. You have no talent. You can't sing. You are embarrassing yourself." To be fair, Simon is usually saying what most people are thinking, though perhaps he expresses it a bit more rudely than most of us would. But he is telling the truth to these people. And the truth may hurt, but the truth may also send these aspiring stars directly into singing lessons. Or better yet, perhaps that truth leads them to another career path altogether ... one they are actually qualified for. Either way, the truth, as told by the judges of these aspiring singers, spurs them on to some kind of action.
Although I have never had the desire (or talent) to try out for American Idol, I have also had my own reality checks from time to time. Like the time in middle school a female classmate looked at me in gym class and informed me that I needed to do a better job of shaving my armpits. Okay, so she could have said it in the privacy of the locker room rather than in front of my male and female peers, but still, it was the truth. And at that moment, the truth really hurt.
Or the time in high school that my tenth-grade crush looked at me from across the desk and said, "I just noticed something ... you have a bigger mustache than I do!" Yet again, the truth according to my high school crush was, in fact, true. But boy, did it hurt to hear about it. Ultimately, these once-painful comment were good truths to know since they jump-started my lifelong routine of shaving and waxing. They spurred me on to action and kept me from inevitable future hurtful comments that were sure to come had I not responded.
<%TOC%> Contents Acknowledgments....................ix
Excerpted from BEHIND THOSE EYES by LISA WHITTLE Copyright © 2008 by Lisa Whittle. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
part one THE GREAT CHARADE one The Truth Hurts....................3
two Ms. Perfection....................21
three Ms. Confidence....................39
four Ms. Happiness....................57
five Ms. Spirituality....................75
part two THE MASSIVE COVER-UP six Cosmetics for the Soul....................98
seven The Feelings We Conceal....................110
part three THE REAL DEAL eight We Are Completely Loved and Accepted Completely....................130
nine We Are Completely Flawed yet Forgiven Completely....................148
ten The Truth Heals....................166
Bible Study Guide....................195