Saturday, October 23, 2010

Being Seen Naked

"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.)


jo(e) said...

like a woman who is growing up and learning to be comfortable in her skin.

I like that.

microbiologist xx said...

That does look like a pretty cami. I hope you wear it every now and then.

post-doc said...

jo(e) - Thank you. I love what you write so I'm rather honored that you commented.

MXX - It is pretty and I will wear it. I'm just not sure where...

Girlpostdoc said...

I had a professional photographer art shots of me after my nasty divorce that rendered me with almost no self-esteem. I used the photos to paint from. And you know what, it was totally empowering. I guess the thing is that when I first saw the pics all I saw were the blemishes, the mistakes,etc but then as I began to paint myself, I realized how beautiful I was.

Amelie said...

Empowering sounds great.
And don't wait for a guy as a reason to wear beautiful lingerie -- I happen to have big boobs, and my husband doesn't care for anything other than triangle bikinis (that of course don't provide enough support for me) or shirts with deep cleavage... is that ironic or what? Anyway, what I'm trying to say is wear what you like, what makes you feel beautiful.

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