I am an average-sized woman, with an average life and probably a less than average body. My boobs and butt are nowhere near what they once were, and my skin was stretched so tight during pregnancies that I have stretch marks from front to back. But when a friend of mine told me she was getting boudoir photos taken for her 40th birthday, I was intrigued—sort of horrified too, but intrigued.
“I’ve just always wanted to do it, and I’m not getting any younger,” she told me. “They’re not raunchy photos with my tits hanging out, but tasteful and pretty ones. The photographer is a woman, so it will be safe and very sexy.” I admired her confidence. She was starting to sell it to me.
I’ve always been self-conscious about my body. When I was a teenager, I thought that my boobs were too small. Then in my early 20s it was my potbelly (that I didn’t have). By the time I was 30, I had experienced two pregnancies and gained 40 and 60 pounds, respectively. So my body was a shell—or more like a deflated balloon—of what it was previously. Time feels like it’s slipping away, and if there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that I should have appreciated the previous phase more. Damn, why didn’t I appreciate my 25-year-old body
So, what the heck? Why not me? I called the photographer and made an appointment to go with her. The worst thing that could happen was that I would have a few photos that no one would ever see.
On the day of the photo shoot, I woke up with that feeling of dread right in the pit of my stomach, like I was about to do a Tough Mudder or the Boston Marathon. My bowels were churning, and I could barely eat. I kept coaching myself: It will be fine, just make yourself go. And so I did.
The makeup artist who came as part of the boudoir package was around my age, and she put me at ease with her calm nature. She had done boudoir photos too, so she gave me some posing tips along with a glass of wine, which I happily accepted and gulped down even though it was 11 a.m. I felt a bit vulnerable with my bare face and hoodie with no bra underneath—so there would be no lines anywhere—but she worked quickly, and when she was done, I felt like a bombshell. Curled and teased hair, false eyelashes, winged eyeliner and lined lips—it was definitely not a look I had worn before! My friend was already off with another makeup artist getting her hair and makeup done, so it was go-time for me. There would be no backing out now.
The studio set up was like a master bedroom, with a bed in the middle and a window with gauzy fabric over to one side. I had brought a variety of lingerie sets, a few pairs of heels (the only two that I own) and a T-shirt and tank top. At first I felt really awkward in my undies, as the photographer and her assistant—two very unassuming women—positioned me in some cumbersome positions, back arched, butt out, chest popped and other artsy but ungraceful poses. Between the first and second outfit change, I started to feel more comfortable about it all. Then they showed me a picture on camera preview display, and I really started to gain more confidence. I don’t know if it was the lighting or what, but damn, I looked good.
After it was over and my friend was finished with her session, I seriously felt like the sexiest, sauciest chick in town. Hey, my ass isn’t the best, and my boobs are droopy, but damn, I’ve still got it. We celebrated with dinner and drinks, and then I had to slink home with my false eyelashes stuffed in my wallet. I hadn’t told my husband or my teenagers because I guess I felt like it was more for me than anyone else. Then, if it tuned out to be a bust, I could ditch the pictures and pretend like it never happened.
When I got the full session of photos back from the photographer, I seriously cried out loud. I couldn’t believe it was me. It still looked like me, with a few curves and droops, but soft and pretty and like a beautiful piece of art. My husband was, not surprisingly, enamored with the pictures and proud of me for having the courage to do something like that for myself. But the best part of it all was what he said to me when he saw the photos:
“I am just happy that you now see yourself the way that I always see you.”
And he was right.