Please Don’t Make That Face

Clearly, she thought some animal had crawled under one of our seats and died there.

One hard swallow away from gagging, she walked the aisle, eyes watering from the incredibly noxious smell she knew was coming from somewhere back in this area over here.

I couldn’t smell anything. I looked around, and no one else appeared as if they were in any particular odorous discomfort.

I watched her move, obviously in great distress, up and down the plane. Her face was killing me! I’ve never seen a face so utterly repulsed, as if she had accidentally eaten a sulphur-flavored lozenge, and then tried to wash away the after-taste with two-day-old toilet water.

She could barely do her job, so great was her distraction.”Put up your own freaking bags, people!” her body language fairly screamed.”

 < nostrils flared and trembling > Turn off all electronic devices and fasten your seat-belts!”

< wide-eyed and fairly frantic > “We are about to depart for Austin, TX.” 

< deep, deep sniffing — followed by shoving her face into the crook of her American Airlines blazer > She mouths inaudibly to anyone and everyone on this earth and in heaven, “Can you smell that??”

No. No, we truly can’t. None of us could smell a stinking thing.

Perhaps, in all her frantic sniffing (picture a drug detection dog suffering from ADD) she had pulled every single offending molecule in the rear of the plane directly into her supersonic nasal passages, like some giant olfactory magnetic field.

I tapped the man sitting next to me on the knee, “What do you think she’s going to do when she finds whatever she’s smelling?” And like fourth-graders might do, we ducked low behind our seats and awkwardly stranger-giggled as the tortured flight-attendant whiffed at the air in every direction. And then! THEN!

We heard her behind us first. She was striding down the aisle with a can of air-freshener hoisted high and proud above her head. Barely visible through the fog, she was disinfecting the entire rear of the plane, taking particular care with that area back over there. 

I noticed my fellow fourth-grader wiping his red eyes and furiously clawing his collar. I could barely breathe, but I didn’t know if it was from the cloud of rose bouquet-infused chemicals, or that I haven’t laughed that hard in a very long time.

I know this is an unusual segue, but let’s talk Fifty Shades of Grey.

The movie comes out this week-end and it is going to cause a big brouhaha, maybe. Christians, please don’t act like this flight-attendant. Please don’t walk around making such a horrible, horrible face.

Of course I do not plan to watch the movie. Gross. Like horror, I have no desire to have certain images in my head. I am even less inclined to watch a movie where God’s image – displayed in women and men – becomes darker and more hidden, rather than lighter and more revealed.

Of course it grieves me that movies like this blunt our collective American conscience. It frustrates me that this adds another difficult topic to the buffet of conversations I don’t want to have with my teens. But making that face does nothing but enforce the idea that everyone who goes to that movie smells filthy foul to us.

And of course I plan to talk about it with people who don’t think the same as I do. I don’t have to see the movie to talk about it with you (don’t tell me that I do). I’ll want to know your honest thoughts, just like any other movie that you see and I don’t.

Why did you want to see it? What made you think? Who was the hero? Who suffered most, in your opinion? In what way did it feed your brain or your soul? What would you have changed? Why?

And I’ll do my best to ask these things without a hidden agenda. I will make myself open to you, and not closed. I’ll try to hear and understand what you say, and all that you are not able to say, so that you will feel safe enough to keep your face open to me.

If you are a Christian, don’t panic. Relax your face, if you can. Everyone knows we think the movie really, really stinks. Don’t start waving your aerosol bottle high and proud.

We bear God’s image into all the places, too. What is our face saying?

Peace to you, and yours,


Edit: This post was written to adults. I would never in a HUNDRED BILLION YEARS let my teens watch this crap. Parents of middle-school and high-schoolers, please see Todd’s comment below. 


6 responses to Please Don’t Make That Face

  1. Anna says:

    I love this post! I have been so frustrated recently by the overwhelming flood of anger and finger wagging coming from the christian community over this film. It seems like yet another “no-no” that we can add the the endless list of things that other people look at us an say “Oh, they hate that, and don’t ask about it or they will explode their judgement all over you.” I was actually asked by a friend a while back (when the book first became popular) to read the book and give her an honest opinion. At the time I was newly married and she was curious about my perspective from both a religious perspective and a married perspective. I gave it my best effort, but never actually finished it because, frankly, the story and writing style were just so irritating that I couldn’t muddle my way through anymore. However, the fact that I was willing to genuinely consider it and not just “make that face” as you put it opened up a lot of conversations between us and our other co-workers about having a healthy perspective on sex, why I chose to wait until marriage, and so on. I feel like we should see this as an opportunity; the movie and book are so popular that people are obviously curious about the relationship portrayed there. Why don’t we stop ranting long enough to listen to what people are saying and meet them where they are.

  2. Tanya says:

    Fantastic post! Many moments of laughing out loud while reliving your well expressed experience on the plane. SO appreciative for a thought provoking perspective about the movie. Such great questions to ponder. Have been very concerned about the effect it will have with a generation of children and their perspective on intimacy. I agree 100% with your comment on God’s image becoming darker/hidden rather than lighter/revealed in this movie. I, too have not looked forward to having a conversation about this movie with my son. Thankfully your post offers good questions to spur insightful conversation. Thank you.

  3. Todd says:

    Hey Kim, thanks for addressing this subject and for challenging us to engage the culture with grace. As usual, you are an amazing writer who brings humor and realness and light to subjects that matter in our everyday lives. My only pushback is this: I might have a stink face because this movie (and book series) stinks. I know you are saying not to treat people who read or see it as if they stink (and that’s a good and necessary exhortation). But the movie and books really do stink. They are popularizing and normalizing sexual violence, human degradation, manipulation, and abuse for pleasure. Did I hear there are actually lipstick and fingernail polish lines put out just for the release of this film…on Valentines Day no less? Is sadism really that mainstream and cute now? My middle school and high school daughters know girls who can’t wait to see this movie. And I’m confident those girls will not be able to adequately process what they see. Will they begin to think it’s okay for a boy who is cute and popular and successful to hurt them for his own pleasure? It’s not okay. It stinks real bad. So the struggle I feel is how to unequivocally stand against something (that I think will harm people) without it showing up on my face. My spirit is provoked within me and it has physical results. I know I’m processing this imperfectly, because I’m surely a mixed bag of both righteous indignation and self-righteous indignation. But I’m processing nonetheless and asking the Lord to lead us as we seek to be salt and light.

  4. Given Breath says:

    Todd, you are processing this with fear and trembling, and I am always grateful for your thoughtful words and tone. I cannot add anything to what you’ve said – I agree with each point. Sin coarsens, harms, ensnares, and disfigures, yet looks so innocent at first blush. My prayer is that Christians can remain vigilant, innocent, and wise when feeling the (very real) threats of our culture. That our faces might radiate a better alternative to the lies, and that we would have a better word and way to what is being offered by the world. Thanks so much for taking the time.

  5. Claudia says:

    Great posts and thoughtful comments.
    I’m left wondering whether the flight attendant ever did solve the smell?

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