I’ve tried to write my story a few times now but none of it seemed right. While I wasn’t trying to be particularly witty or sugary or insightful, the words weren’t coming out right. They felt…forced like I was trying to tell a story that maybe wasn’t quite mine. So, ok then. Let’s be real, let’s be raw.
I’ve never felt like I was a particularly attractive person. Not as a teenager when hormones are raging and we are hyper-aware of the type of person we like. Not when I was in college. Not now that I am a forty-year-old woman. Sure, I’ve had moments, glimpses, events, and times where I have felt attractive and wanted and pretty, but, in general, that isn’t me.
I was a band nerd in high school, wore my Catholic school skirt to the required knee length, rocked tortoiseshell glasses, and oversized cardigans. Not because I was hiding myself, but because it was comfortable, and because dammit I needed glasses to see. I was then, and am now, a self-proclaimed nerd. I’m a nerdy and quirky introvert; I cuss too much, drink too much wine, and prefer to wear jeans and t-shirts to dresses. I really have no idea how to apply makeup and I wear my hair short, mostly so I don’t have to be bothered with styling it. All that said, I don’t fit any profile that would mark me as pretty by society’s standards.
None of that ever really bothered me. My parents raised me to focus on my mind and my abilities. My mom and my sister both had short hair and wore little makeup and I grew up in the eighties when that was considered odd, and they were my earliest role models. I had friends, close ones, that got tagged in the pretty category, but they were also smart and never made me feel inadequate because I wasn’t. I have a core group of besties from grade school and we still work our schedules to get together several times a year, and they love me and accept me for who and what I am. Always have.
In my youth, I didn’t appreciate my body as much as I should have. I punished my body, talked bad about it, hid it, felt ashamed of it, poked at minuscule flaws, let other people tell me what I should think of it. I think many of us look back in this way on our younger selves. As I grow older, each decade I hit makes me look back and shake my head, see how silly I was.
Should I have worn those daisy dukes when I was twenty? Yes. Should I wear them now at forty? Hell YES!
And yet… don’t we all want to feel pretty? To be wanted by others on some level? I think so. And I don’t think it is wrong to admit that or to want it. Part of our human needs is having a connection with others to be healthy, to grow, to survive.
I got divorced in December 2011 and I don’t regret it, but that is another story for another day (maybe my next shoot!!). After becoming a single mom with an unreliable ex-partner —his job has him traveling the world for weeks at a time — I slowly began to not take care of myself. I ate horribly, drank too much wine, didn’t exercise, and gained forty pounds. To some, that sum isn’t much, but when you are less than five feet tall, let me tell you it adds up very, very quickly. The weight doesn’t distribute, it just goes outward.
By the time I was fed up with myself, my son was about six and I was looking for some kind of gym that I could take him with me. I found a place called Crossfit Hermitage. I had a male friend that had been doing Crossfit for a few years and I knew what it was about, just as I knew that the word itself made a lot of people nervous. I knew at this point in my life I needed guided instruction and not just me flailing about with a treadmill and weights. I had been a pretty big gym goer in the past but what I needed now was different than what I needed then.
I found a freaking awesome group of people. And I am still with them today. There is a lot of misconception about Crossfit, mostly because of the Games and the media. Hello, media isn’t cool in a lot of ways–look at their beauty standards and the lies they peddle. This is me, a forty-year-old nerd that you see in the pics here telling you a real story. And Crossfit truly feeds into how I feel about my body, my beauty, my self-worth so please give me a moment to explain and share.
So I joined the gym. And I sweated and I cussed and I wondered if it was for me. I hated the warm-up lap around the building (about 200 meters) because that alone made me feel out of shape, and sad, and horrible about myself. Guess what? No one else thought that. They saw someone who showed up a few times a week and challenged herself. Who pushed through the uncertainty and the fear to show up to try something new, to push her body because she wanted to be better. The strongest people in my gym started out like me and taught me that we cheer for the person at the end of the line harder than we cheer for number one because of that person in the last place, they are trying hard, harder than the rest of us most of the time. They are fighting not only to finish, but they are fighting their own insecurities and inadequacies.
So my community, the people I surround myself with is made up of people of all body sizes, and types, and goals. Some people want to be big and strong; some people want to lose weight, some people want to get fast; we all want to look good naked! (And yes, we joke about that (but mean it too) when we talk real and raw as we do often.) Every person is encouraged to be the person THEY want to be no matter what that means. We celebrate the differences that each person brings into the community. We celebrate each victory, no matter how small.
So I decided to do this boudoir shoot for me. No one else but me. I told my Crossfit and Nutrition Coach about it and she thought it was awesome. One thing I was a little worried about was the makeup since I rarely wear any. The first moment I looked in the mirror was a surprise and then I blinked I realized it was still me. A more me. It made me feel…confident, a little sexy, a little daring. But since I was about to put on lingerie and have my photo taken several times, that seemed pretty fitting!
And Kristen makes it so easy. She plays great music, which is always a plus. And we talked about life and kids, and as we did, pictures were taken. We laughed a lot. She is a woman that appreciates women and celebrates womanhood by providing us with this wonderfully safe space in which to find/explore/regain our sense of self that is unique to our identity as a woman. It really is all about the people we surround ourselves with.
So, in those days after I viewed and chose my photos, looked at my mobile app daily. Sometimes several times a day. I couldn’t believe those were me. I saw someone pretty, someone, comfortable with her body, someone that has lived and has a story to tell. Isn’t that something we all want — to tell our story?
I realize that my body is a story; it maps the topography of events that have shaped my life. And it isn’t a bad one; it’s one I’m rather proud of now. Sometimes it’s been a softer story, sometimes a stronger one, sometimes sad and happy, and I know it has more stories to tell. I hope yours does too.