Sometimes I see a photograph of myself and I’m surprised at how I look. “I didn’t know that about myself,” I say.
Quietly. Sadly. Sometimes angrily.
Once I saw a photo taken from behind in which I had an almost square back and upper arms like bratwursts. I thought it couldn’t possibly be me, but there’s the person I was sitting next to, and isn’t that my tank top, and why would anyone publish this?
Recently, I took off all my clothes for a photo shoot. I had asked my friend, the abstract art photographer Karen Hyams, to objectify my body. I wanted images of body parts that were not usually highlighted as sexy, made to look sensual and appealing in all their curves.
Well, maybe not all. There are two curves, it turns out, that I didn’t know I had and am far from ready to believe even exist.
I’m calling these curves “the unseen angels of my body” (based on mistyping “angles”). If I were a cello, they’d be my C-bouts. That is, if a cello were so soft and thick its curves disappeared into a fold.
Looking at these, showing the photo to others, I felt sad. Sad because I’m not paying attention to invisible parts of my body and as I ignore them, they grow in directions I didn’t know about. And sad because the fat on my body makes me sad.
I feel self-conscious talking about fat: having fat, being fat. I like terms like “ample,” “luscious,” “round,” “zaftig.” I want to be fat-positive without being a fat-denier, but the topic is muddied by my conviction that no woman I know has an accurate sense of how fat she is — that is, how much extra fat she carries.
When I was an adolescent, my brother told me my developing breasts were made of fat. To me, that was just another creative way he’d found to put me down. Put me down for being fat, for having fat. And while I love the body I have and what it does, if I could wave a magic wand and be only as fat as I was when I thought I was fat back then instead of how fat I am now, I’d wave it.
Of course, there is no magic.
The more time I spend with my the Unseen Angels, the more I love them. I was showing my daughter the photos from my shoot, and the Unseen Angels photo was her favorite.
“Really?” I asked. “That’s the one that’s hardest for me to love.”
“That’s why I like it,” she said. “It shows how your body really is — it’s perfect.”
Okay, it doesn’t feel perfect. Yet I’m a dedicated imperfectionist, and I pursue imperfection in all other areas of my life. Isn’t it wonderful I found imperfection so close at hand?
Composition note: What the hell does burlesque have to do with my writing business? A whole lot, actually. First of all, I seek to align my creative life with my work life, to work creatively and integrate life, work, and creativity. Second, by showing what risks I take, I hope to make my clients comfortable taking their own risks, no matter what kind. Thirdly, I seek to strip away layers; vulnerability is part of my “brand,” and I can hardly get any more vulnerable than talking about those Unseen Angels. And finally, I’m turning 50 in a week and I’m putting aside all non-life-saving fears, so I’m not worried what people will think of my navel-gazing and self-referentiality.
If you’ve read this far, you might just be one of my people. One thing my people do is follow me on Facebook. Another thing they do is post comments, letting me know they understand whatever the hell I’m talking about or just to say hi. Hi, you.