“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tuesday Topics: Talk Amongst Yourselves...

Yesterday, my day off, as I "prepared" for a phone interview for a potential new call, I spent some time watching, "Ten Years Younger." The show was about a 51 year old woman who wore her hair in a simple cut and naturally gray. Her clothes were basic jeans and baggy shirt, no make up, and glasses. Strangers had to guess her age and put her at about 59 years old. After the week of treatment (face and skin care - laser, hair cut and color, simple make up lesson, and new clothes) strangers guessed her age to be 42, or 17 years younger than the first time.

I have struggled with the role of age and appearance for those of us women who are leaders in ministry. How "young" do we need to look... or is there some advantage to looking a little older and perhaps wiser?

I wear my hair very short. I do a simple color process, which my hair dresser calls a "glaze." This is applied once every two or three hair cuts with the intent of "pulling" out the "natural" pigment in my hair. This reduces the gray and gives me a highly textured color, like lots of highlights and low lights and a blend of gray. It's interesting and I like that I am not applying color to my hair every month or so. I am now considering growing my hair out a bit, just so it's not sooo short. (But I may not make it). I also wear make up whenever I have official business to attend to, meetings, worship, etc. But not on days when I just work around the office. I also wear professional attire, suits, etc. unless it is a casual office day. And my nails are always manicured (which I usually do myself).

So, what is every one's experience. Does it really matter? Is it cultural - some places, like large urban areas might have an expectation of "professionalism" in attire that other places may not? Does it help to look younger and more professional for a job searching process? Or does some age convey a sense of wisdom, experience, and authority? Are women clergy supposed to be simple in appearance (no make up, no nail polish??)...

I'm thinking in particular of women leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Condolezza Rice - all women who look much younger than they are but still hold positions of authority.

Maybe it is a balance between just enough "age" to convey your experience and enough youthfulness for people to be drawn to you...I think, like it or not, people respond to women's appearance first, before anything else.

So, what does this mean for women in ministry and our efforts to find a call that satisfies our needs and passions?