As a boudoir photographer I see lots of women naked. Most clients fall into two groups: Those who look so hotter than they ever thought they could, or those who use boudoir photography to confirm they are as fat, cellulite-ish or unsexy as they feared (I’m an artist, not a Photoshop God). Too often I deal with clients’ self-body hatred and it’s come to a bothersome point — having befriended women whose bodies are scarred not for beauty but for self-preservation and basic survival.
While producing The Art Cure project, a breast cancer awareness art show and charity event this October, I met a group of wonderful women who have battled breast cancer and won. The leader of a Savannah breast cancer awareness affiliate is a proud survivor; however, just days ago she was re-diagnosed with a malignant spot in her breast and will undergo surgery Thursday. Chemo may be necessary as well.
Another friend, a 34 y/o mother of 4 is a BRCA 1 gene carrier meaning she’s 90% more likely to develop breast cancer in her lifetime than a non-carrier. Her mother is a survivor and most likely, at least one of her 4 children will have the gene too. Having options, my friend chose preventive surgery and had a double mastectomy less than a year ago and Thursday she’s having a hysterectomy to avoid her increased risk of ovarian cancer because of the gene. In fact, with unexpected complications with reconstructive surgery to her breasts she’s undergone over 10 surgeries this year alone. Of course, just this morning we heard Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer fight has come to a matter of time before she dies. Doctors can do no more and that further slumped my morning bliss.
I’m slightly paralyzed mentally as I battle the reality of having friends who seem to be having what I’d call “real” problems yet dealing with women on various levels who create their problems.
I have friends dying of cancer, replacing their breasts with scars to save their lives and find myself stuck in a very judgmental state of mind: fuck the silicone to add an extra cup to your lacking boobie confidence. Who cares about the extra flab on your thigh when your 45 year old ass looks so much sexier than your own mom’s ass at that age? That a 45 year old woman can pass as a MILF these days, now that’s something to applause because in my childhood women at 45 were old and quickly turning into fat grandmas while discarded into the kitchen or bingo games. I’m sure your grandmother looked more like Mrs. Doubtfire than anything Hollywood produces as mainstream mid-life bombshell turned rather hot “for your age” grandma. Don’t boo-hoo to me that you don’t like your own aging body and have me Photoshop you into a blur so you don’t have to face your own reality. At least you have a healthy body I want to say. I mean all this respectfully, of course, but sometimes being nice about it just doesn’t sink in.
Helping women realize their beauty is wonderful and rewarding. It’s the part of my job I get high on. Convincing women their imperfections are not ugly is another matter. It’s like being a lawyer and facing a deadlocked jury. The frustration of all that work to end up at a dead-end is baffling, annoying and draining. The biggest harm women do to themselves is to believe men actually give a damn about their cellulite or other female obsessed imperfections.
In the grouping of those I consider good friends and women I care about, one announced her malignant bump yesterday; another undergoes removing the last bit of biological femininity she was born with two days from now; another recently wrote about personal struggles from Borderline Personality Disorder wherein the meds are killing the once active sex drive (which really has a snowball effect) and another who deals daily with the struggle of the death of her child from a disease. I top this off with the fact that I live my life with a man I dearly love and who struggles daily with wounds from war, VA bureaucracy and PTSD as a result of serving in the United States Army for “freedom”.
I feel a more pressing need for higher meaning in my life this season than the usual. The American Humanist Association suggests we celebrate “Reason” this season rather than “myth” of God. I suggest we celebrate our lives, our bodies and our families. Period.
I’m having one of those days where a good walk, a breath of fresh air and deep gratitude for my status quo is in order. I am healthy and surrounded by love. Most importantly, I know my worth and understand my value. Too many women are blind to theirs. In fact, on different levels the same applies to men.
Perhaps a good walk in the cool air is a good idea for you too. Ponder love and then see where your mind travels.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you all.
Tatiana von Tauber