One of my earliest memories is of my father yelling at me that I was too old to be running around naked and to put some clothes on. Maybe I was three years old at the time?
The day was scorching hot in the desert where we lived and the wall unit air conditioner was running in our tiny apartment. I had been climbing up a chair to get closer to it because the cool air felt delicious against my bare skin. One minute I had been blissful in my ignorance, and the next I became conscious of another emotion, one which had been foreign to me until then, and that was shame.
I started to cry and ran to my room, put on a dress and hid under the covers of my bed. I never forgot that day and the feeling of embarrassment at having done something wrong, but underneath that feeling was another one: resentment at having been made to feel bad when I hadn’t thought I was doing anything wrong.
In my twenties I was a wild girl.
I was very lucky to be living in a major city and to be running with a crowd of like-minded artists and musicians who wanted to push boundaries and who wanted to leave a mark in this world.
In the midst of that creative debauchery and mayhem, there were certain areas which I was not comfortable with and one of them was nudity.
Even though I was a fetish model at the time and had no problems posing in front of the camera in bondage gear and my underwear, I had bought into the lie my body was not technically perfect, and that when I could make it so, then things would be different. I knew I had a face the camera found interesting, but I was far from beautiful; my breasts were too small, and my hips too wide, and to reinforce this notion I’d had some people offer to get me a boob job and liposuction so that I would be more like the industry ideal.
I never went there with surgery. Instead I used a diet of prescription Phentermine and cocaine to keep me ultra skinny and lanky, but no matter how thin I became, the curves refused to go away.
I remember the day when I got a copy of a major fetish magazine and I was the centerfold. I should have been celebrating having achieved what I had wanted, but as I sat there alone I had the dawning realization that nothing in my life had changed.
The creature on the page was a blend of technical excellence, light and shadow, and a really good makeup job, but it was a moment in time which really meant nothing to me because I was still me, and I was full of imperfections. The photographers I had been working with at the time were exceptionally talented and the problem wasn’t their work, which was stunning, it was me and how neurotic I felt about myself, even if it didn’t show on the outside. Although I loved the attention, I didn’t model much more after that.
It wasn’t until years later, while I was living in Europe, that this attitude towards my body began to change.
I’d made the decision to start writing erotic horror novels based off of old world magic and little known mythology, and my co-writer and myself had made a pact that we would not censor ourselves in any sort of way. Any taboo was up for grabs and we would allow our imaginations to go wherever they pleased without any sense of reprisal – nor did we care if we were branded as perverts.
The first book garnered some good reviews, and to our surprise, mainly people commented on how original it had been.
It was at this time when I visited my first naturism spot.
At first, I was really uncomfortable with the thought of it, but once there and free of my clothes, I had a blast doing naked rock climbing, and archery, and jumping off of waterfalls.
It was liberating.
I began to look at other women’s bodies and see the beauty in their imperfections and how different they all were. There was no industry ideal, but only a kind of grace and naturalness which I realized I had never known before.
People can tell you you have to love the skin you are in until the cows come, but until you come to accept this experience first-hand, you have no idea how eye-opening it really is. Finally, I was at a place within myself where I could love how different I was and celebrate it.
It was a short leap to make the decision to finally pose in the buff in front of the camera.
The one concession that I had was that I would only work with photographers who I could tell from looking at their pictures really loved women, and made me excited to see myself through their eyes.
Even though I was over forty at the time, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
The first shoot was in an old, abandoned, elegant mansion, and as I dropped my dress it was like taking off the one I had been forced to put on so many years before. It was the reversal of the shame in which I had been taught.
That moment sticks in my mind because it was bright and fun, and dare I say, innocent. There wasn’t necessarily a sexual element to the shoot, but there was definitely a sensual one, and I was allowed to indulge as much as I felt like without any sort of judgement.
For the first time, I felt beautiful in front of a camera, and like I had nothing to hide.
There is a huge difference between looking and feeling beautiful.
There is true power in feeling beautiful which has nothing to do with games, or getting what you want, but has to do with confidence and knowing who you are without the fear of what other people think.
There is a fierce serenity in this feeling that doesn’t shout, or make a scene for attention, but instead strolls into a room with an enigmatic smile, intent on exactly what it wants because it has nothing to prove.
This is the power of the fearless feminine. This is the power of being a woman, and I am more than happy now to be this creature no matter how long it has taken me to find her.
The route doesn’t matter. What matters is reclaiming her within yourself and what it takes to get there. I don’t know how many pathways there are, as every woman’s road is different.
I only know my own journey which continues to be surprising as it unfolds around me.