By God’s grace I am who I am.
1 Corinthians 15:10
James E. Watson writes in his memoirs that he was in President Taft’s private room when Sen. Chauncey Depew walked in. With shocking audacity, Depew put his hand on Taft’s big belly and asked what he planned to name the child when it was born.
The President replied, “If it’s a boy, I’ll call him William. If it’s a girl, I’ll call her Theodora. But if it’s just gas, I’ll call it Chauncey Depew.”
Taft weighed over 330 pounds, but his easygoing attitude toward his big belly was refreshing. Others felt free to make good-natured jokes about it. Justice Brewer, who sat on the Supreme Court said, “Taft is the politest man in Washington; the other day he gave up his seat in a streetcar to three ladies.”
I know little about President Taft’s political views or leadership while in the presidency. But I admire the easy grace with which he accepted himself. (Yeah, yeah, maybe this was only a “coping mechanism” to mask his feelings of inadequacy. I doubt it. He actually seemed quite comfortable with who he was.)
Let’s face it: very few of us are comfortable with our own bodies. I once heard a man ask a convention of women to raise their hand if they had never wished their butt was smaller or that their breasts were larger. No hands went up.
Guys, on the other hand, lament the growing hair in their ears and nose that used to be on top of their head.
We commonly assume that, if only we were a little taller or shorter, skinnier or better looking, we wouldn’t feel so self-conscious about ourselves, but that’s not true. Some studies suggest that the women who are most distraught about imperfections in their looks are women contestants in beauty contests.
No, we are not self-conscious about our appearance because we fall short of the “ideal” body. We are embarrassed about our bodies because our culture is obsessed with physical appearance, and we have bought into cultural expectations that can’t possibly be met.
Not all cultures put this kind of pressure on people to meet standards of physical appearance. I heard about a man from Africa who came to the United States and was to have a female escort for a social function. Because the African was short, an American acquaintance offered to find him shoes with elevated soles to make him look taller. The African was baffled, “Why would I want to appear different than I am?”
Can I suggest something? The answer to our self-consciousness about our appearance may not be a toupee or a padded bra. The better solution is to reject the expectations of a superficial culture.
I should end this by quoting Scripture instead of Lake Wobegon’s town motto, but their motto does reflect biblical truth: Sumus Quod Sumus. We are who we are.
(copyright 2012 by Marty Kaarre)