Babies! Debi wrote up this wonderful column and sent it to me, and I am so very happy to share it with you. Kiss of peace, PB
Perhaps you heard the laughter coming from my kitchen table this morning as I read President Obama’s quip about Michelle Obama’s new bangs as “the more memorable event of the [inauguration] weekend.” It is so funny because it is so darn close to being true.
Can I tell you how many weekends when I get my hair cut and styled on a Friday and I preach on Saturday I get dozens on comments on my new do but just one or two on my sermon? A lot! While I appreciate the positive feedback on my coif, even my all time favorite, “Oh dear I love your new hair style, that last one was terrible!” wouldn’t it be nice if the message were more important than the medium?
For professional women, looking our best is part of the job description and rightly so. We, like all human beings, are created in the image of God and we treat ourselves accordingly. We honor the physical vessel of the soul by caring for it, nurturing it, and beautifying it. Maybe this is why it seems so important to my congregants that I wear lipstick.
My friend’s grandmother used to tell me that when you look your best, you feel your best. She explained that this was why she had a whole set of her makeup on hold at the local funeral home.
I didn’t used to wear lipstick regularly but several years ago that changed. Let me explain why. When people ask me what scientific or technological advance has made the biggest difference in my rabbinate there are a few things that come to mind. First might be the computer which has made writing sermons convenient and much neater. Second might be the internet which has made a plethora of Jewish information available at the click of a mouse. Third might be the cell phone which has made staying in touch with my congregants so much easier. But really the most honest answer is semi-permanent lipstick.
As a rabbi and mother, I am on the run between 12 and 14 hours a day. I have no time– nor do I have the desire– to do the necessary reapplication of lipstick which only looks good for about 30 minutes at a time. Over the years of my early rabbinate I had tried my best. I had three tubes of lipstick – one at home for morning applications of that “ready to do the work of the Lord” look; one at work for before meetings; and one in my purse for before hospital visits and shiva calls.
But inevitably the lipstick would wear off leaving me a paler, more tired looking, less put-together version, of my professional self. Until … I discovered long-lasting lipstick. It was like the Messiah had come in the aisles of the local drugstore. With the new semi-permanent color (Cover Girl Outlast Brazen Raisin) I could put it on in the morning before Lower School prayer services and it would still be on for the Board of Trustees meeting at night. [Deb, you're singing my song, girl! - PB]
“Glamour” is a part of my rabbinate so it is fortunate that over the years I have grown comfortable with that reality. Lip shtick aside, it matters that the outside reflects the inside. In fact it is very much in keeping with the Biblical notion (Shakespearean too) that often the state of our souls is broadcast by our outward appearance. And for the occasions when that’s not the case, putting up a good front is always appreciated. Queen Esther spent 12 months at the spa in preparation for her most important professional task, surely I can find 10 minutes a day to reflect the divine image with a cosmetic brush and Beauty Balm. [THERE's a Purim sermon for all of us!- PB]
So Michelle, I’m not sure about the bangs but I appreciate the effort, and the way they enhance the forceful message of change and new visions. – Rabbi Debi Weschler