So I started this wanting to write some rambling post about my complicated relationship with other women and the idea of womanhood itself. I realized immediately after I wrote that piece that what I wanted to talk about was my complicated relationship with and resentment toward my own womanhood, as stepping into those shoes has not been a graceful process for me, but is it for anyone really?
I’ve always gravitated toward more “masculine” characteristics, whatever that actually means. I’ve always been a little bit loud, rough and boyish. Most of my friends growing up were boys, I had three little brothers. I liked to ride bikes, roll around in the dirt and break things. I’ve kept many of those “boyish” qualities coming into adulthood. However, along with those rough-around-the-edges characteristics, I have long felt the haunting weight of the ethereal femininity I secretly desired and idolized, but felt I couldn’t possess. Like somehow being a woman looked great on the rack, but fit a little awkward when I tried it on. If I have to wear anything other than jeans and a t shirt, I’m probably not going. I hate bras and shaving. When my period starts, I implode. I feel debilitated, gross and slightly embarrassed that if I laugh too hard bad things could happen. I’ve never been able to graciously revel in womanhood the way all these women around me do so effortlessly, at least from my perspective.
I felt inherently unattractive and from that developed an automatic gnawing comparison to other women. I’m too loud and profane. People don’t like women that are that way. My hips don’t curve the same, I don’t like dresses, my hair doesn’t fall over my shoulders that way. The list is endless. There came a point when I would cry before I went out to a bar or a party or dinner because I felt that every person looking at me knew how hard I was trying to be (unrealistically) feminine and angelic and they knew I wasn’t good enough. And I knew that too.
So after all this turmoil feeling I couldn’t fill the shoes of womanhood with all the beauty and grace it deserves, here I am posing naked in Joshua Tree with Maya and NevaehLleh. Absolutely terrifying. They are undoubtedly beautiful and have an exponentially greater knowledge of modeling than I do.
I assume immediately this is going to go so poorly. I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m small, I’m awkward, clearly not graceful. These women are the epitome of the celestial goddess, molding their curves effortlessly into this beautiful landscape. And here I am fumbling my naked body up and down rocks reminding everyone frequently that I’m terrified of heights, I don’t know what to do with my hands and my knee is, in fact, fine after I sliced it open on a boulder and bled everywhere. I’m thinking these women eat rose petals for breakfast and leave fairy dust everywhere they go, I mean come on are they even human? What am I doing here?
And I was so wrong. We talked about geocaching and hiking and coming home from shoots bruised, cut open, sore, cactus needles in feet, splinters in hips and thighs. These women are fucking fearless and loud and opinionated. They doubt themselves just as much as the next person and have the strength to do this anyway. They’re awkward and goofy just like me. They’re real.
And they’re beautiful. Which just might mean I’m beautiful too. Woman isn’t a list of strictly beautiful and feminine things. Woman doesn’t have to be soft, smell like strawberries and not have body hair. This shoot was woman in dirt and sweat and unshaven legs and a lot of cuts and bruises by the end of the day. Woman is strong and fearless and whatever she feels like being one day to the next and your ability to flow between the blurred lines of masculine and feminine doesn’t make you any less so.
I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you to Maya and NevaehLleh for reminding me that my roughness is beautiful. That I can be soft and ethereal (don’t forget to point your toes), but that’s not what makes me pretty. Thank you for allowing me to feel out where I fit in and providing a space in which I can exist safely and just be. There’s a duality to women I didn’t quite understand up until this shoot and I’m finding every day that I am exactly as I’m supposed to be.