Carol – USA

The exhibitionist in me jumped at the chance to be a part of this Project.  This isn’t the first time I’ve been photographed naked.  But it dawned on me the night before the shoot that I’d never been naked in front of a camera without projecting my sexuality.  And then I got nervous, and I wondered how I was going to do this, and what would I project, and would I look pretty just being me without the facade of sex.  And I thought about backing out, but then I realized that this was the very idea behind the project,—just being human, vulnerable, and naked—in front of a camera, and I had to see what that felt like….good, bad, ugly…..or maybe hopefully, even beautiful.

My parents predicted I’d be Miss America, but I’ve had body issues my entire life.  Early on, I was awkward and tall, and had acne.  I hated my body and my flat droopy boobs with the humongous nipples, and a slight curvature in my spine still makes it a struggle to stand up straight.  You could tell by the way my shoulders slouched forward that my confidence was hidden and hurting inside of me somewhere.  There was multi-tiered trauma in the formative years that pretty much seared a negative body image into place.  I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without being repulsed, and wouldn’t dare let anyone see me naked without the light off.  I hated myself and hated my body even more.

But after my 3rd baby was born, I decided to have my breasts lifted so they’d actually sit where they were supposed to be and not droop down and point at the floor.  Every consultation I had suggested I augment, not lift.  And so I did, and then suddenly, overnight, it was as if a new me was born as well.  My confidence soared and my sexuality erupted! You know how you overcompensate for things when you’ve suppressed them for so long and then suddenly you feel free and you might have gone a little too far in the expression but you didn’t care because you felt powerful and empowered and strong and sexy and maybe actually a little bit in control, and finally beautiful?  …some might actually label this acting out…..

Over the years I have pushed myself to an unreachable standard of beauty that I have prescribed only for myself, a perfection I demand from myself that is ultimately unattainable.  Everyone else is allowed to have flaws.  In fact, I find them perfect that way, and beautiful, and wish they wouldn’t be so hard on themselves the way I am on myself.  It’s exhausting to be so critical of myself, and in the end….just plain futile.  To be perfectly honest (which is part of the nakedness of this project)  that wounded child still exists behind the facade, and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to integrate her into the physicality that’s become me, to find peace in the body that we’ve become.  We, that kid and me, are 55 now.  Menopause has come and gone, the children have grown and moved away, two marriages have begun and ended.  Those breast implants are 24 years old now.  We’ve lived a beautiful life.

Most of the time I push forward with the woman in me who is my strength, that Miss America in me who wakes up in a good mood and seizes the day.  She is tall, blonde, bold! (The first line in an online personals ad I’ve used to describe myself.) There is beauty in every aspect of her life.  She is grateful for who she is and what she looks like, for the children she has nurtured, for the relationships she has experienced, for the life she has lived, for the beauty that surrounds her, the beauty that embodies her…….She is still a work in progress.

I hope you see the beauty in me too.