The first day your teenagers get up on their own to ready themselves for school, at the ass crack of dawn, dress, prep their own breakfast, take medication, and exit in what I consider a reasonable amount of time before their bus arrives is both a huge parenting coup and a polarizing event in a mother’s life AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY.
Currently, two high school freshman reside in my home and it’s akin to shacking up next to two, occasionally talkative, but mostly phone-ridden unicorns who can’t put a glass in the dishwasher or push in their chair, damnit.
It’s a weird dynamic, having these two beings in my orbit, as just a few months ago I brought them home from the hospital in outfits I carefully curated, and a few weeks ago, they started Kindergarten. Now? NOW? One has big plans to hone his skills and pursue a career in mechanical engineering in order to, get this, design and build rollercoasters. Bless. But not before making a big stop at a college far, far away from home and joining D&D club at school. His sister, forever a joiner and more evidence that she’s not just a product of my contributing genetic material but, holy GOD, she’s my clone, has successfully auditioned for, and been accepted into, the school marching band drumline, and has lofty aspirations of traveling the world playing her music and cultivating a career in the pastry arts. Y’all, a PASTRY CHEF and a ROLLER COASTER BUILDER. My work here is somewhat done, I’d say.
I recall the first few years of my kids’ lives, wishing the days would pass quickly and they’d just be able to talk and walk and wipe independently, and I think that’s totally normal. But man. MAN. The days are long but the years are short, indeed. I guess I’m wading into the shallow end of the parenting pool, away from the deep part, not really treading water much anymore, and I can see my little ones, not so little anymore, start to head for the stairs, and I can stand up all on my own, and take in the sunshine until someone calls and it’s time to go.
I decided on the perfect Christmas gift for my boyfriend this year.
Well, sort of. Me, naked in photographic form and by naked, I mean lingerie clad, sporting some heels, red lipstick and bathed in a whole bunch of decent lighting with a generous helping of photoshop. Also known as Boudoir Photography. Yeowza, right?
This is my first (and sweet buttery Jesus, it better be my only…and LAST) serious, post-divorce relationship. We reached the multiple year mark of our union this summer, and the indulgent gift giving of the holidays remains in full swing. Not yet in the doldrums of marriage, and the accompanying, inevitable, sad, “gifts for the house”, we happily frolic in the honeymoon stage where women still shave on the regular, the men still pretend to curb their farting, and marking a holiday or occasion with a thoughtful, and slightly extravagant gifting is still a thing. Truly, a glorious time to be alive.
He’s the kind of guy who buys himself what he wants, so socks (has plenty), a car detail (he has one of those unlimited plans already), golf clubs (could give two shits about golf), clothes (the man owns more outfits than any woman I know, so…nope) and the like don’t qualify as viable options. What do you get the man who has everything? Boobs. Specifically mine, since they are spectacular.
It’s worth noting, my boyfriend is one of the only men I’ve known, and loved, who truly appreciates my body. He noted early on in our relationship that I might try wearing clothes that accentuated the shape of my body instead of wearing “tentish” outfits, a statement that both echoes his crass bluntness and his appreciation of my form. He wasn’t wrong. For years, I hid behind oversized everything from head to toe. His observation did wonders to my fashion sense, even if it was harsh, and propelled me to attempt posing semi-nude for a perfect stranger. Funny where life takes you, no?
During one of my stints in radio, sometime in the early 2000’s, I worked for a cluster of stations in the Southeastern corner of Connecticut. Not exactly a hotbed of broadcasting activity, where our receptionist doubled as part of our announcing talent and where, since our promotional budget often hovered just above a big fat goose egg, barter was king. If we couldn’t get it for free, then we’d likely go without. Not unlike most of our audience, middle class folks, anchored by a large military population who lived on a Naval base nearby. Despite popular hope and belief, zero aspects of that job proved glamorous. Our modest offices and dated equipment served their purpose, and our live events reflected our listening public. We kept it simple. Homey. Fireworks and car dealership openings and rounding out our promotional calendar, perhaps the most popular event of the year…ladies night.
We worked tirelessly planning our annual Ladies Night festivities, securing an event room at the local, knock-off Holiday Inn, the one across from the police station, ironically where people often parked their cars around the back to hide from the repo man. This particular year, I situated myself into the center square of planning Ladies Night, and on the agenda were the usual stand by’s…mani/pedi’s, vendors from every multilevel marketing company ever incorporated, strippers, giveaways, and, as stated in the copy I wrote for the commercial, MUCH MUCH MORE.
Upon arrival on the evening in question, the ballroom buzzed with staff setting up booths, thumping bass filled the stage while our pre-Magic Mike dancers rehearsed, and I strolled through the aisles that soon would teem with ladies passionately clamoring for some free shit. Which, sounds negative but this is why we were all here and I couldn’t wait to see the fruits of my labor.
My Marketing Director, a lovely, tiny, mohawked, raspy voiced lesbian who I idolized for exposing me to the Zero Fucks Given lifestyle for the first time ever, accompanied me for a walk through and meet and greet of the folks hawking their wares at our event. One woman in particular was a friend of hers, a photographer who’d begun a new phase of her business that once focused solely on wedding pictures. Her display captivated me, with black and white images of scantily clad women, poised and posed to perfection, their skin like creamy streams of white chocolate, slightly parted lips. I stood there for a few seconds, inhaling the essence of these women and thinking, I NEED TO DO THIS. I WANT TO LOOK LIKE THAT. The photographer and I exchanged introductions and I peppered her with questions about the experience, the price, her inspiration, SO MANY QUESTIONS. I left Ladies Night changed forever, both by bearing witness to throngs of women dry humping our hired male dancers, and realizing I’d just added a new item to my bucket list.
As with most want-to’s, life gets in the way. Boudoir photos aren’t cheap, and they require a certain amount of chutzpah to pull off. At the time, my twins were barely in preschool. As a new Mom with little extra money to blow on something so self indulgent, not to mention my marriage having more issues than Vogue, money and self-esteem were in short supply. Despite my wanting it, the photos never came to fruition. Then.
But, that was then, and this was now.
I felt good. Really good, both about myself and my relationship. I saved a few bucks to pay for the photos. I wanted this both to present my boyfriend with an unforgettable version of his fantasy woman, but also, I wanted the experience and end product for me, almost as much as for him.
My search began with the woman I met so many years before. How cool to regale the story of her inspiring me and now, she would have the privilege of taking the photographs. If this were a podcast, this is the part where some editor would insert a record scratch or sad music indicating bad news was a comin.
No dice. Out of business.
I put my cyber stalking skills to use for good and found an acquaintance’s friend’s neighbor’s profile pic, where she posed in some super fantastically sexy bedroom, decked out in red lingerie, makeup on point, lips slightly parted as if she’d just told her man to “come here” with the perfect exhale punctuating the directive. As the kids say, YAAAAAAASSSSS. I wanted to look like THAT. Except, not exactly like that, but curvier and come hitherier. By happy circumstance, her photo sported a watermark in the bottom right corner, and to the Google I went.
Phone call? Check. Consultation. Check.
The photographer proved to be my people; upbeat, passionate, bubbly, NOT judgmental. In fact, her stance on women of curves posing for boudoir photos brought tears to my eyes. She said, “You ARE sexy. You are BEAUTIFUL. You’re amazing, and it’s my job to create images that not just show your physical attributes, but that show your gorgeous soul.”
Um, yes. I’ll take five of whatever the hell you just served up. May I have my hair and makeup done professionally, too?
Sure, she said, and scheduled my session for two weeks later.
Over the next ten days, I studied Pinterest and stocked a private, designated board full of inspirational photos and possible poses. I shopped for sport and lingerie was the game, even enlisting my co-workers in the hunt for the best pieces possible. Fun fact: I shopped for every piece while on my lunch break, including a trip the local adult novelty store near my office which yielded perhaps my favorite outfit of all, along with a hilarious mishap involving thigh highs. I moisturized religiously, paying close attention to my under eye area, a constant problem child and point of much self consciousness.
Preparation be damned, a calendar reminder chimed “today is the day!” as I packed up my unmentionables, which were soon to be shouts from the rooftops, and set off.
Despite assumptions about my extroverted personality, I secretly HATE being the center of attention. While I LOVE facilitating others to experience the spotlight, I despise peeps singing happy birthday to me in a restaurant, or surprise parties in my honor, or posing for photos. As I sat in “the chair”, while two gorgeous ladies transformed me from massive frump to super glam, that lying voice in my head began an all familiar chant, an attempt to derail this experience and foil whatever tracks of self-confidence I’d laid down.
Spoiler alert: I excused myself to the bathroom, in full hair and Victoria’s Secret model makeup, stared at myself in the mirror and said a big FUCK YOU to that voice. She got the hint.
Before long, I’d sprung into my first outfit, a black and gold babydoll with black heels. My photographer, bless her heart, kept squealing with delight after each shot. At one point, I laid on my stomach, across a faux fur blanket, looking down, taking a bit of a rest (y’all…modeling is kinda sorta tiring) and she’s all, “DON’T MOVE. STAY RIGHT THERE.” *click* And she showed me the fruits of my labor.
Holy shit. Was that ME? I looked…AMAZING.
We continued through two other outfits,with Rhianna and Beyonce blaring in the background, incorporating my glasses, a white button down shirt, red thigh highs, and other accessories before we wrapped. As a lingerie newbie, I required assistance with securing my thigh highs to my garter belt, and Lizz, the artist behind the camera, happily obliged. As she did helping me style my outfits, and throwing out perhaps the most unique compliment I’ve ever received, telling me I had “Megan Foxx eyes”. She demonstrated the massive difference in looks between a closed mouth and slightly parted lips during an exhale. She had my implicit trust, and I felt a pang of sadness when the process came to an end about 3 hours later.
It was empowering AF.
About a week later, I returned to the scene of the glorious, sexy crime, and saw the photos. I started to cry. Challenging myself to fight against the internal tide of negative talk and allowing myself to be photographed, semi-nude, by a perfect stranger, and to enjoy it, seemed like one of those bucket list items never realized. And, here I was, a rainy, Friday afternoon, on the leather couch of a photographer’s studio, eyeliner streaming down my face because the images staring back at me…were me. Really me. And that me? Looked AMAZING.
And to think, this started as a primo gift idea for my man.
Which, to the shock of NO ONE, he loved. But, more importantly, I loved myself in those pictures. I showed them off to friends, family, even a few co-workers who knew of my undertaking, and wanted to show them to the guy who does the oil change on my car, but I imagined my bestie slapping my phone out of my hand, and I refrained. I left all the hangups about my cellulite, my under eye bags, my lumpy belly at the door, and allowed myself to get lost in the fantasy of it all. I WAS that sexy ass woman who pulled off all those looks. I basically got the fuck out of my own way, and over myself, to see who I really was.
It was the spring of 7th grade, I was 12 years old, and my parents let me splurge for a jacket that told the world I WAS IN BAND. Royal blue satin with “City Hill Music” emblazoned on the back in canary yellow cursive silkscreen. My name in a matching, equally jolting sunshine on the front right breast. Snaps. I coveted those snaps. The privilege of joining and maintaining a spot in band wasn’t lost on me, as I played piano and was…eh. Not awful, but not great. And yet, my teacher still kept me there, present for every concert, jazz show, even marching band occasion. For parades, this piano player marched with a Casio SK-1, proudly through the streets of my hometown, playing along all the brass and woodwinds.
I found my people and my place. Band gave me confidence, for the first time, to give no fucks about what anyone else thought of me, my awkward shape, my gigantic hair, my yet-to-be-braced teeth, and adopting my own style of doing just about everything.
For some reason, back then, I used trips to the grocery store as my laboratory…my workshop to try new and, in my tween mind, ingenious experiments. Ohhh, the makeup, the heavy, blue, Crayola brand make up teamed up with a red, shiny, spandex unitard that began as the foundation of a devil halloween costume, topped off with some crazy oversized t-shirt (I recall one to which I was partial, with 3 bunnies), and always, the band jacket as the cherry on this fucked up crazypants cake. I literally wore my fearlessness on my sleeve which left no room for self doubt to settle in.
I miss her.
I did an awful lot of living in the age before kids and marriage and divorce and jobs and bills, before Facebook and Instagram, before I let all these other voices drowned out my own. I traveled. I loved, and lost, fiercely and without apology. I spoke my truth without regret. There’s no question, life is harder now, but not, like, recovering from a terminal illness or rebuilding after a tornado ripped through our neighborhood, hard. And yet, here I am, living my most careful, censored, reserved life.
12 year old me would NOT be pleased. She’d snatch that jacket away in a SECOND. Unacceptable, she’d say, through her many braces and with more sass than her spandex could hold.
As the year turned from old to new, I refused to make resolutions to become something different. Or changed. I will never be thin, or totally organized, or quiet, or stop yelling at my kids when they drag ass on the way out of the house, as I will forever be saying COMEEEEEEEEEONNNNNNNNNNNNNN LETS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WE’RE GONNA BE LAAAAAAAAATE, and I accept all of it. What I resolve to do is be MORE of myself, more genuine, more authentic, more loving, take bigger risks, explore, strut through this fabulous life I’ve created and speak my truth louder and without fear of retribution or judgement. I’ll call my Mother more and make plans to do manis and pedis with her. I’ll sing in front of another piano bar crowd in NYC. I’ll blog more and swear profusely and talk about how much I want Oprah to do whatever the hell she wants, whether it’s run for president or marry Gail. I won’t care how you think I parent my kids, or date your son, or cook my food, or keep my home. Or, if I do happen to give a shit about any of that, I’ll say something, or not, and I’ll sleep well at night because I’m me, honestly and completely, and that’s fucking amazing.
Now, don’t think I’ve gone off the deep end, and have given up all sense of decorum. I’ll still be here, all gushing about unicorn boyfriend and my fabulous kids, and all that. But expect way more detail and honesty. And swearing. And satin and snaps. And to hear my mumbling on repeat, in a low, monotone voice, “I. Don’t. Give. A. Shit.”
Band, y’all. It teaches us the life lessons that matter.