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My Body, Ourself

By Frances Johnson

Little has been said or done by the ubiquitous “reality” television “star” Spencer Pratt that gives me much hope for the future of humanity. Not to mention television.

The slick and slimy love-to-hate-him boyfriend (now husband) of Heidi Montag on The Hills, Spencer appears to be every mother and best friend’s nightmare, fascinating in a can’t-turn-away-from-a-train-wreck kind of way. I’ve never actually watched The Hills, but if celebrity gossip magazines are to be believed (and in my opinion they are), his behavior is combination of cloying, egotistical, misogynistic, juvenile, self-serving, dishonest and offensive, with just the right level of fabricated vulnerability to keep people from writing him off all together.

In short, he makes you want to barf.

And Heidi does not seem to be much better. So, when it was reported that she recently underwent a staggering 10 cosmetic surgery procedures in one day, I was a) not surprised and b) pretty sure Spencer was all for it. In our fame-obsessed (guilty!) culture what could put a pseudo-celebrity ahead in the fight to stay relevant better than a brand new wife?

So, needless to say, I was surprised to come across a rather mature and somewhat touching interview with Spencer about his wife’s transformed appearance yesterday in my daily “news gathering.” (Read: celebrity gossip devouring.)

According to Pratt, his wife of a year was perfect to begin with but, he said, “I’m not in charge of what she does with any part of her body. I’m her husband—not her owner.”

He continued, “Everyone sees themselves differently when they look in the mirror. Nobody truly understands how she feels except her. I may not be OK with things, but it’s not my call.”

My first response was begrudging admiration. For a television Neanderthal, it seemed like a particularly enlightened response. He’s right! I thought. He is her husband, not her owner! It’s not his call! Well put, Mr. Pratt! Well done!

But my almost immediate second thought was, Something about this does not feel right. Yes, he is her husband, not her owner. But he is also her partner, her other half, if you will. I couldn’t help feeling that his wife completely altering her entire physical appearance at great financial, emotional and physical cost seems like something that should be at least partly “his call.”

Certainly our bodies, our physical persons, are our most, well, personal things. Our perceptions of our bodies are stubbornly our own. Our relationships with our bodies are intensely private and complicated. Spencer is right that no one can really understand how we feel about our bodies except for ourselves.

But it would also seem to me that a true marriage, a real partnership, means that we are now more than just ourselves. Beyond simply sexual intimacy, I would like to believe that our bodies, our persons, become one, united with each other and with the Lord as we go from being a “me” to an “us.” And so it seems that big decisions about our bodies should take into account more than just what we want.

Now, before we go any further, I want to be perfectly clear about one thing. I am not in any way suggesting that anyone, men or women, under any circumstances, should submit to any violation of their bodies by their spouse or anyone else. Not at all. Ever. In the least. No exceptions. Period. End of discussion.

Nor am I trying to suggest that part of the give-and-take of a marriage relationship should or has to involve one person doing (or not doing) things with their body that they don’t want to because their partner has a different opinion. Ultimately, our decisions have to be our own, and ultimately I believe the most important thing is that out decisions make us happy, comfortable, confident and fulfilled. I hope that is how Heidi Montag feels.

But I am willing to bet that we can feel happy, comfortable, confident and fulfilled in more and different ways than we might imagine. I am not speaking from any personal experience here, but I think a husband who tells me I am perfect the way I am would make me feel a heck of a lot better than breast implants.

There is no doubt that this is tricky, sticky, squishy, possibly dangerous, certainly individual and personal ground I have chosen to tread on. And we haven’t even touched on the fact that our bodies are also used and lived-in in the context of a sacred relationship with the Heavenly Father who created them. That’s another post for another day, though it might be worth noting that if our bodies were good enough for him, we can probably learn to believe they are good enough for us, too.

Back to Speidi, I guess the bottom line is this. Should Spencer have stopped her? No. Should Heidi have listened when he promised her that he loved her just the way she was? My answer is yes. To my mind, and in my ideal, to be truly partnered means that what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine, from triumphs to tragedies to insecurities to talents to big noses to flat chests to weak chins to everything else. What I want changes to What is best for us. I am sure is it not easy, but I have faith that it is worth it.

I hope Spencer and Heidi can figure that out, too. In reality.

About Frances Johnson

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14 thoughts on “My Body, Ourself”

  1. Beautiful lesson. slightly overshadowed by the fact that those two particular people give me the "Heebie Jeebies"! Urg!
    My husband tells me I am perfect the way I am. He embraces every curve, bump and dimple. He loves my stretch marks, because they are from our kids. He has also told me that if I ever wanted to have a chest reduction, he would mourn the loss, but understands that it is my body, and I have to deal with lugging these things around with me.
    I ask him for advice on clothes, hair styles, the usual. I also give him ideas, choose ties and pluck his unibrow (lol).
    He is my partner in every way, and he feels the same way about me. We run everything by each other.
    Sure there are times he frustrates the heck out of me, and I do the same to him.
    I feel so very blessed to be in this marriage with the man that is perfect for me!

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  2. Wow…I never thought Speidi would be a topic of discussion on Segullah. Just so you know I am not criticizing, I'm actually relieved to hear I'm not the only one abreast {ahem} of their situation. I've actually watched The Hills and can attest that Spencer is truly the slime ball you described. Which does make it all the more interesting that he didn't think she needed any surgeries–like you I would have thought he was the one booking her breast implant appointment.

    But back to your question…. certainly Spencer was right in the respect that he probably couldn't have stopped her, but I absolutely think he should have been included in the dialogue. For all we know he was. In the end though, if she was that unsatisfied with her body and she certainly has the funds, I don't think his opinion would have made that much of a difference….in fact if he did try to stop her it may have made things worse. Now I don't want to get any major plastic surgery, but I have actually thought that sometime down the road I'd love to do something about the veins in my leg. Now it's not set in stone, but it's something I think about….and if down the road we had enough money and it still bothered me, but my husband tried to stop me because he thought I was 'perfect just the way I am' I might actually resent him a little. Especially if it was something that really affected my self esteem. In my mind fixing some veins in my leg is not the same as 10 surgeries in one day….but still. Tomato, toMAto. {And just for the record, I'm sort of surprised by my own response because I consider myself to be somewhat anti-plastic surgery. Yes, even with my vein issue….call me a hypocrite.}

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  3. I can't decide how I feel on this issue. But I know I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Witty, thoughtful, funny, not preachy, well-written. Thank you!

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  4. Going out on a limb here…

    Maybe it's not just about the way she perceives herself…maybe it has something to do with how and what she thinks her husband thinks of her. That is, perhaps she's trying to mold herself and become, in a way, what she thinks he wants….or even just to feel like she fits in to her world…her marriage.

    I don't know either of them, but it seems to me (from what little I have seen of them) that his persona is powerful to the point of overshadowing her, her sense of self, her self-esteem and so big that he doesn't really see who or what she is, much less himself. He's all about a "brand" and perhaps she is becoming a "product" as well. (Not that she's entirely the victim here…more of a visceral, gut feeling.)

    Just some late night thoughts.

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  5. I know my mom has worn jewlery she did not want to wear (from my Dad's native country) to make him happy- ie it wouldn't match w/what she was wearing and he would insist she wear it.

    I also worked w/an elderly lady who didn't like the color orange. But it was her husband's favorite color, so she said she had worn lots of orange to make him happy.

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  6. I'm already not a fan of celebrities..unless said celebrity is Colin Firth who wants to be my Mr. Darcy… so I totally loathe faux celebrities.

    When we were deciding which temple to be married in… San Diego, Bountiful or Oakland… my soon-to-be hubby said this, "You are more important than me, but we are more important than you." He wanted San Diego – I wanted Bountiful. But… it was far more convenient, and made more sense for all our Bay Area family to get married in Oakland. So we did.

    So I love this title… I love the US. Two people have to believe in a marriage… in the veracity, the value… the commitment, above self, to make it work.

    I know a woman who is incredibly, paralyzingly insecure. In fact, confident, capable women make her feel bad. She is a tall, athletic type – and lately has been obsessed with interior decorating and clothes shopping… her husband tells her she is fat. He tells her that she's so much fatter than when they were married. Which means she was a stick pre-kids. SHE IS NOT FAT. Not even a little bit. I think so much of her own inadequacies are highlighted due to his… opinion of her. To be honest…he could not be more backwards… think stereotype of a hillbilly.

    I am more average… not too tall, not too fat, not to skinny – but my husband accepts me as I am. I don't always believe it…but I think his consistent acceptance of me has shaped my… I don't give a rat's bum what people think attitude.

    I like the oneness… that when we are one… we care for, look out for not only each other, but the good of the relationship.

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  7. We don't have TV so I don't know who you are talking about, but…..

    I do find it sad – I am fortunate that my husband and I talk all things out and try to come to a conclusion together. Such a blessing!

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  8. I don't think the show is here on the usual TV networks, though really that sort of relationship and behaviour I believe is worldwide.

    Unfortunately, I don't know what the answer is for them, if there is one. But I wholeheartedly agree with you Frances that I hope they work it out together.

    Beautiful post. Seriously.

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  9. Fabulous post Frances. Speaking from someone who has always had body issues, I agree that in some respect what we do with our bodies is just as much our husband's call as it is ours. We are a team. I loved the line…"if our bodies were good enough for [Heavenly Father], we can probably learn to believe they are good enough for us, too."

    In the case of Spencer and Heidi – I am absolutely certain that the plastic surgeries didn't have anything to do with impressing her husband, but had EVERYTHING to do with impressing the world. A good lesson in living "in the world and not of the world."

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  10. Oh Spiedi. They are truly messed up.

    But perhaps on the lines of your post — I recently dyed my hair dark red. It is foxy. My husband didn't get a say in it. And it drives me crazy when people's first question is "what does your husband think?" — why does it matter what he thinks? But in marriage we are intrinsicly tied together.

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  11. Two stories:
    I have a close friend. She has always been beautiful, trim and curvey. Her husband has struggled with pornograghy. They have always been a little spendy and materialistic. When she got implants, I was heartbroken for her and angry at him. I felt he should have done more to let her know that she was perfect, just the way she was. I don't think she would have done it had he expressed an honest and sincere love and acceptance of her body.
    I have another friend. Again, beautiful and petite. After having children she was so disgustedwith her own breasts that she would shower in the dark and never let her husband see her without a bra on. He is very kind and supportive. They live well under their means. When she got some work done, I felt sorry that it was so hard for her to accept her body, but happy that she could move around the problem, despite her ability to work through it. Had her husband protested at length, I think she would have viewed him as being controlling, resulting in further difficulties with intimacy.
    Now, what I think really doesn't matter, but every situation is so different. I guess, I think a loving and
    supportive spouse would always encourage their partner toward that wich will be the "best" solution since the ideal is not always workable.

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  12. I would like to believe that our bodies, our persons, become one, united with each other and with the Lord as we go from being a “me” to an “us.”

    Yes, and no. Marriage is a paradox of unity and individuality. We are two-in-one. Unity in marriage is extremely important, but the "two" part is still very real, valid, and necessary for spiritual and emotional health.

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