"We're getting artifacts," he said apologetically. "Could you take off your pants?"
"Sure," I chirped, happy to help and took the blanket he offered and hopped up to wriggle out of my gray bottoms, tossing them on the corner of a bench before arranging myself under the blanket and calling out that I was ready.
I find I'm less modest - likely a combination of maturity and working in a clinical field where bodies are examined for defects much of the time. I don't run around naked - in fact, unless I'm bathing, it's safe to assume I have on a full outfit of sleepy (or wakey) clothing - but I'm not the desperately shy Katie I once was.
I remember almost falling in the shower when I opened the curtain in high school to find a friend standing outside without clothes on. I jumped back in, arms over my breasts and legs awkwardly crossed, and blinked at her in horror.
"Oh, come on, Katie," she chided, tossing me a towel and rolling her eyes as I got out and she got in.
"You should take a naked photo," another friend advised when I was a post-doc. "It's empowering - to document your body and appreciate all it contains and love how it looks."
I remember thinking that I appreciated my body carrying my brain around for me, but everything was too rounded and soft. I'd have to do a thorough job of hair removal and figure out where to pose and set a timer on a camera to forever capture an image I didn't even glance at in the mirror. It did not seem empowering to me, but rather a cringe-worthy experience of embarrassment and ickiness, even if nobody but me saw the result.
Recently, sparked by a hope that - at some point - I'll date someone and there will be an intimate component to our relationship (read: sex), I realized I don't want to hide under covers or demand all lights be extinguished. I want to be practical - I am not gorgeous - but somehow confident - I like my eyes, my breasts aren't bad and perhaps the curve of my hip is almost pretty. If you squint a little bit. (Well, maybe more than a little bit. Never mind.)
So, after a bit of a nudge, I found myself buying lingerie at Target - the kind I always think is lovely and envy the women who have reason to wear something so sheer and decorative when I'm looking mostly for comfort and support. Steeling myself, I moved toward the white bits of frippery hanging on the aisle and ran my fingertips over the black pattern on a camisole.
I wanted it. So, firmly instructing myself not to look guilty, I tossed it in my cart (and added several more pieces I thought were pretty but impractical) and continued shopping, tossing other items atop the flimsy underwear until I'd basically forgotten they were there.
Always efficient, I joined the shortest line and blinked - not unlike the high school shower incident - when I realized the red-shirted man scanning my bag of spinach and container of strawberries would soon make his way to undeniably sexy undergarments. Unable to think of a way to avoid it, I braced myself and flushed as he started to remove hangers and place the soft fabrics into the plastic bags.
"Those go together," I noted when he looked for a price tag for a set of pajamas.
"Beautiful," he replied and my mouth fell open for a second before my face decided to be as tomato-like as possible. I wondered if he would believe it if I told him they were for a friend, decided I was not a child and could own beautiful things if I wanted, and remained quiet until it was blessedly time to pay and leave the store.
"No quitting now," I told myself firmly and came upstairs and into the guest room to try them on. I slipped into the first piece I found, the white camisole with the black pattern, and admired the straps as they sat on my shoulders. I adjusted the fit and smoothed the sheer fabric over my tummy. Then I forced myself to take my camera in hand and faced the mirror on the back of the door.
I immediately began to catalog flaws - there's a blemish and that's too round and goodness, how huge are my thighs?! - but closed my eyes, took a breath and snapped a photo.
Upon looking at it, I blinked in surprise when I realized I looked pretty. Not model-perfect or drool-worthy, but like a woman who is growing up and learning to be comfortable in her skin. So, yes, I carefully cropped it and am putting a picture of my breast in lingerie on my blog.
Because I have said photo. And I do feel a little empowered.
(The fact that I hurried into pajamas immediately afterward and sagged with relief that it was over is not that important.)