When “Miss Popular” became “UNpopluar”

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1993. Sitting in Mrs. Keeton’s English class probably daydreaming about a boy (didn’t we all?) and over the loud speaker I hear the following:
“We would like to announce this Senior class’s ‘Who’s Who’…’Most Popular’ Tressa Hovater and ____________’…”
And just like that I was forever known as “Miss Popular!”
Well, forever is stretching it. More like for the next couple of months and especially during the photo session for the annual when “Ok, so Most Popular is next” was announced. And for your viewing pleasure…I am sharing that photo:

I was your perfect picture of “Popular but for no material reasons what-so-ever!” I did not drive the new car of the day, I did not have the name brand clothes, or shoes, or vacations, or the most money in the snack room. I never not had what I needed…food, clothes, and a warm bed…but I never had “the best of everything” like so many around me did in the fashion/car/stuff categories. My first car was a 1982 Mercury EXP (in 1992), I shared clothes with my mother/sister, I had ONE pair of Guess jeans (you my age people know what this is) that I got for my 16th birthday, and my first pair of brand new Nikes came when I was in college. Soooo, I was NOT “that” girl. I was all but her. The outfit that I am wearing in this picture was my mother’s. That is just hilarious to me. She was a good mother to let me wear her clothes.
I was simple. I was generally in a good mood every day at school. School was my “escape” from the crazy unknown at the time bi-polar world I was living amongst. And I was happy there. I could be myself and laugh (yes I was loud then too) and make the posters for the basketball season (I was a cheerleader…not a “yay go me” one but a “if you’re gonna play basketball, then you’re gonna cheer too” one and I was GOING TO PLAY BASKETBALL. I loved it. Heck, I still love it. I get plum cray cray come “March Madness” season. Brackets er’where. Anyway…I loved my high school days. They were good to me. I had friends and great teachers and great teams and some of the best happenings of my days. I of course had the “high school boyfriend” on/off/break up/hate/love/best/worst/learn/stupid story of my very own. He and I are still very good friends actually so it was not as “typical” as most I guess. I had some of the best guy friends anyone could ever hope to have…8 of which were in my wedding as groomsmen and 21 years after graduation, I still could/can call at any minute and they’d each be right there for me. Of course, my husband who was one of those best guy friends in school says it’s because I married him and they are all his friends. Whatever TJ. Whatever. Lol
College life was not much different for me. I still did not have the great and awesome car (had my sister’s 1991 Maroon 4 door Escort at this point) but I was super proud that I was paying for it. Paid it off actually. Then a WHOLE MONTH of NOT having a car payment then B.A.M. T-Boned by a man running a stop sign. Yay me. I seriously write like I talk and therefore one little description of my life leads me to tangents…I know. It’s distracting. I get it. Apologies.
Soooooo, I experienced pretty much the same thing(s) in college as I did high school. I never brought any great material gifts to anyone at anytime but I never had a problem “fitting in.” I never joined a sorority but attended plenty of frat parties. I sang with a popular local band at several little bars and events. I dated whomever I wanted. I was liked by all but one college professor…he was a straight up self proclaiming male chauvinist who did not believe that women should be in the Political Science department of study. Therefore, I was not favored by him in the 831 classes I had under him. Maybe the sarcastic very loose lipped call you out in a second personality I had then may have had a teeny tiny bit to do with it. For example…he was attempting (and I use that term very loosely) to draw for us the process of “How a Bill becomes a Law” right?! And we are talking about chalk board days. Which, for those who messed up and use an eraser to erase said mess up and start over, was fine. Yet he would mess up, smear the chalk with his hand, and keep writing. And within a 49 second roundabout session of this topic there was nothing but a HOT MESS on that board…and MAN I wish that term had’ve been created back then cause I woulda used it at that very second…so I, being just as disgusted as the rest of the closed mouth class, slammed my pen down on my desk and said (code for OUT LOUD) “THIS is ridiculous. Can you please just erase this crap and start over?!” To which he totally ignored my sweet and appropriate request and continued to just cloud up that blackboard. Lovely. He also taught a Political Equations” class required for my degree and at the end of the semester asked for suggestions for teaching this the next spring (he was fresh out of PhD school) to which I wrote on the suggestion paper “Um yes. How about you get a new teacher for the next class. One who knows what in the crap he/SHE’s doing.” He was the ONLY B I had that LAST semester. 21 hours…7 classes…POLITICAL SCIENCE…and THAT class taught by him was the only B I had. An 89.6 and he left it 89. I was also the only woman in that class. I’d like to slap him. 15 years later. Lol
So comes marriage. Then the baby carriage. And all along these times of my life…I am pretty well liked. I carried “Most Popular” well. Sure I had people who hated me…but most of that mess was boy related. And as I look/think back on all.that.time. I only have a few, and when I say a few I mean a few, times that my Christianity was ever an “issue.” Once was in high school a guy asked me “Why do all you Church of Christ people think you are the only ones right?” And he was not asking in a harsh or mean way. He sincerely wanted to know my answer. So I gave the best one I knew to give: “Well, all I know is that everything we do as a church, I can find you book/chapter/verse for why we do them.” Sounded good. Pretty sure I had heard that taught to me in a lesson before. And the other was I had a college professor who was an Atheist. First and only true one I have ever known. His mother passed away when he was 15, he was an only child, and he said the day she died he had been praying to God to heal her. These were his words to me to explain why he did not believe that God exists: “when her spirit left her body…I saw it go out the window. And my belief in God when right out with it.” He was a believer that we as humans “made up” the notion of a God, heaven, afterlife, no pain, tears, etc. to make ourselves feel better. That in all reality, when we die, we are just dead. Nothing else. And because we “don’t like that notion” we created this story that has been passed down for generations so that we do not have to feel that we are nothing. When you really ponder this…it seems feasible. And because he knew that I was a Christian, a loud/outspoken/not afraid of a good conversation Christian at that, he would call me out sometimes. Example: (he was a political science professor as well) “So in the process of voting/choosing for the President…if you only have 2 choices, maybe 3, in whom you did not choose to be the candidates…are you really getting your choice? Kind of like with the Bible. God says ‘you do it my way or else’ so is it really a choice? Tressa. You’re a Christian. Tell us then, do you really have a choice?” Things like that. He loved it. I was always willing to just open my mouth and let it out. I was his favorite Christian because I was so much like him. Raw, hard, cold, calloused, outspoken, not afraid, and with all of that…very likable.
So I say alllllllll of that exhausting life history to make the point that popularity came easy. It was not sought out, it was not desired, it was not accomplished by denying my faith. I was a popular girl. Through high school, college, marriage, babies, all things life I have been very fortunate to have been liked by many many folks. In the congregations we have been members of, our family has been received and loved and “fit right in.” I have been a woman who, even though I have that rough and cold and harsh side, has never had a problem having friends. And believe me, I am not telling you this to be boastful/prideful/arrogant…I am simply stating “how” my life has been…as a person AND as a Christian. See, what I realize is this:
I have been “Most Popular” as a person…as the Christian I was…but now, the Christian woman I am…is so UNpopular.

“What do you mean ‘unpopular’ Christian woman Tressa?”
From what I have diligently studied at the feet of my husband for the past 2 1/2 years, the Christian woman of the world standards is VERY different from the Christian woman of the Bible standards. The biblical portrait of a God fearing and Jesus following woman, from what I gather, leaves NO impression she was:
Career eager
Hungry for equality
Desiring to be seen/known
In control of her husband
Self absorbed
These are clearly ALL things the world tells us we should be…have to be…want to be in order to be respected/successful. And as long as I was intermixing the two concepts ~a little Christian and a little worldly I was popular. And liked. And accepted. However, the decision to be less like the popular and liked and accepted Tressa and MORE of the Christ like, God fearing, obedient, submissive and obedient woman of faith Tressa has caused a much different outcome when it comes to my popularity.
I am not.
And I could not be any more satisfied that the world is no longer my desired accepted version of me. Jesus is. Being the woman who honors and follows and obeys His commands for me is. I read and study and pray to be just as His word reveals to me how I should be. And so many of my “friends” and dear sisters in Christ have abandoned, shamed, and condemned me for doing so. A local congregation even went so far as to publicly announce that my daughter and I are lost and condemned…simply because we are starting from scratch and studying and obeying simply from the Lord’s instruction. Our obedience is no longer at the understanding of a “name” of a religious group. Because when you are faced with obeying a man made organization of believers who are set in their ways of worship/obeying and it comes to a “you will do as we tell you to do or else” verses what the scripture simply reveals…the choice is truly simple. Or it should be. Just be warned that when you are truly convicted to be a simple Christian, you will be complicatedly labeled as a “lost soul.”
That sounds crazy huh?! Yeah, I would say my popularity has been stripped of me. L.O.L But thanks be to God that being obedient to HIM is finally the goal and not being recognized as “Miss Popular.”
That truly never fit me anyway.

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