Friday, November 2, 2012

When Vanity Is More Than Self-Idolatry


Vanity is the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others. One definition lists it as something worthless, trivial, or pointless.  In Christian teachings vanity is considered an example of pride, one of the seven deadly sins.



In many religions vanity, in its modern sense, is considered a form of self-idolatry, in which one rejects God for the sake of one's own image, and thereby becomes divorced from the graces of God.  I'm not religious so this bothers me not.

Let me give you some insight to my sense of vanity.  I never leave the house without make-up unless I'm dying and headed to the ER.  I try to dress nice even though I work from home and my hair not always be done up, but at the very least it's pulled back into a neat ponytail.  Jewelry in just the right amount of places, perfume on, and I try to give a good showing even if it's to the grocery store.

I never check the mirror after I leave the house.  I prefer to believe my best effort before I left is what I look like all day.  I've been married seventeen years and he's just happy I still make the effort.



In his table of the Seven Deadly Sins, Hieronymus Bosch depicts a bourgeois woman admiring herself in a mirror held up by a devil. Behind her is an open jewelry box.




When I was younger I was a model and pageant queen, but I still preferred to wear jeans and a t-shirt.  I'm always surprised if someone tells me I'm pretty because I don't see myself that way, I'm just me.  My humor, my outlandishness, my quirky personality is what I think I'm best known for, not my looks.

But yesterday I broke out a front tooth.  A front tooth.  I have crowns on all of the front ones, not from a vain attempt at a beautiful smile, but I had root canals done because I had tumors in my jaw and sinus cavities that needed extensive surgery about fourteen years ago.  

The crowns were just a bonus to the pain and recovery I suffered through with a toddler in tow while my military husband was overseas.

Apparently one of them wasn't done right and over time the inner post rotted so that the tooth broke off just below the gum line. Yesterday.

My husband's job just switched dental insurance companies and we haven't even received new insurance cards yet, but now I'm in a panic because I have a gaping hole in my mouth. (My anxiety, I'll cover in my next post)  I need a dentist, it's after hours on a Thursday night...

My husband actually gets me an appointment today through some miracle of his God and we go in to see our new dentist where I'm told I need a specialist.  Who is booked.  The root canal needs to be re-done before they can post a new crown in.  Now it's Friday night, I still have a gaping hole in the front of my mouth and I'm upset.  I don't have a consult until Monday and then who knows before they get the surgery done, then the new dentist will have to do the crown.  

Guess what I want for Christmas?

So back to vanity.  I'm very upset about not having a tooth, it's uncomfortable, painful, and ugly.  My husband says it's fine, don't worry, he loves me, etc.  The fact of the matter is, I can't get over the toothless thing.  Is that my vanity speaking?  Am I actually narcissistic about my own looks?  I'm thinking it's a much deeper sense of self-worth and what having teeth represent in our vain society.

Quite frankly, I've never wanted a sandwich more!



In Western art, vanity was often symbolized by a peacock, and in Biblical terms, by the Whore of Babylon. In secular allegory, vanity was considered one of the minor vices. During the Renaissance, vanity was invariably represented as a naked woman, sometimes seated or reclining on a couch. She attends to her hair with comb and mirror. The mirror is sometimes held by a demon. Symbols of vanity include jewels, gold coins, a purse, and often by the figure of death himself.




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