Not In My Back Yard!
Fundamentals of NIMBY:
-Many things (power transmission lines, cell towers, landfills, addiction recovery centers,
shelters for those without homes) are necessary to the flourishing of our culture
-These can negatively impact the communities immediately surrounding them
-Someone has to take one for the team
I leave it to you, gentle reader, to discern whether your NIMBY status is venial or mortal. The question enters my mind before I enter a confessional.
This isn’t really a NIMBY post; it's more about the front.
I refer to the ministry of caring for your lawn. The backyard hides behind a fence, but the front yard hosts a perpetual open house. Same rule as the mullet: business in the front, party in the back. Front yards are to be manicured, gardens are to be mulched, and weeds are to be managed, lest neighbors rage, property values plummet, and HOA fines be incurred.
If you take a stroll in my subdivision, you will see that the grass really is greener on the other side: my front yard is a little more wilderness, a little less Stepford than the rest. Why? Do I not care about my neighbors? Have I abandoned civilized standards because I have too many kids? Am I lazy, broke, blithely oblivious, perhaps laid up?
Nope. Just a little bit of a Catholic hippie.
Don’t give up on me. I know quite a few real Catholic hippies – registered conscientious objectors who tend organic gardens and make their own rosaries and for whom shoes are always optional – and they make lovely, thoughtful contributions to the world. Don’t dismiss them either! But I am not the genuine article. In fact, I have been known not only to drive thru for expensive lattes but also to force my rooms into 75 degree submission despite an ambient 95.
I don’t believe yards require regular applications of pesticides or herbicides. I don’t require longitudinal studies before I conclude that chemicals designed to selectively discourage or encourage growth do damage to our habitat in general and to our water supply in particular.
My faith tells me that God made me a steward of his creation, and I can’t see how that mandate is trumped by modern bourgeoisie suburban-utopian standards of lawn care. Let the lawn be more of a meadow, a haven for frogs and a buffet for songbirds.
My faith also tells me that I must respect my community, and my community wants my lawn looking decent. So we mow, edge, and weed faithfully. We buy mulch every spring, trim the hedges, prune our trees, and plant some annuals. We do not, however, apply the chemical treatments necessary for perfection.
I know our front lawn isn’t up to snuff. Most of the time I don’t worry about it. True, sometimes when a car passes, I stop weeding for a moment and pretend I was just getting the mail, because people don’t weed their front lawns, right?
If it isn’t a big deal for me, why go on about it here?
You see, I do worry what the neighbors think. Anxiety and I have a history, but it’s more than that. It's more than wanting to take care of my tribe or wishing more people shared my concerns about groundwater. I worry that the neighbors will write me off as not-worthy-of-the-neighborhood and not to be taken seriously. Someday, I will have an opinion on an HOA matter; will it be dismissed on account of my second-class front yard?
In short, I worry that I will lose my voice.
A parallel concern plays out many days right on the front of my face, literally, since…
I don’t always wear makeup.
(Really, I swear I’m not an all-in hippie.)
Groomed hair and professional attire suit a person to the workplace. Makeup? Either it’s optional for women, or it’s mandatory for both women and men. I assert this as true in the casual Midwest and the genteel South, though it’s been harder for me to hold the line south of the Mason Dixon.
You can dodge your neighbors regarding the yard, but if you work with teenagers, you must address the makeup situation straight on. When I taught religion at a high school, I would tell students: The female face does not need to be painted to be professional. On my feet, I can wear heels or flats or orthopedics – just so, on my face, on any given day, I can wear makeup, or not.
Yet I always worried, and still do: By facing the world honestly, with the face God made for me, will my voice cease to matter? Can I meet my call to evangelize if I don’t consistently wear foundation? Does anyone want to hear about Christ (or anything else) from a person who ‘didn’t bother’ to ‘put her face on’?
The near-universal experience of face masks has caused many people to cherish face-to-face encounters which they previously took for granted. I wonder how many people have reconsidered how cosmetics affect the face-fulness of our encounters.
Now that I am middle-aged, I find makeup days outnumber natural days: I counter each built-in memento mori with pigments and creams. Still, I refuse to concede that my face is not acceptable in public without expensive, potentially carcinogenic chemicals just because I am one of God’s daughters rather than one of God’s sons. Perhaps that is an evangelization in itself.
Perhaps, in the end, it doesn’t matter so much whether people judge me or my fellow women for our unreconstructed visages. If someone needs me to be dolled up in order to hear me speak of the Lord, the Holy Spirit has work to do that I cannot. I mean, we’re talking about a God who chose to illustrate His passionate, beautiful love by means of the horrifying ugliness of the cross. The cross is a greater stumbling block than my natural yard and a greater foolishness than my natural face.
let my actions be so full of love
and my life be lived with such grace
that your face
is the one that people see.
I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. –Galatians 2:19-20
*Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash