Why I Did A Boudoir Photo Shoot – as a Senior Citizen!

OK, maybe I exaggerated slightly on the senior citizen part. I’m 53. And a half. But who’s counting? I’m a yoga teacher and an early childhood teacher. I’m blonde and curvy, with some attributes I’m proud of, and others I am not. Like most women in our culture, I have some major body issues. I spend more time covering it up than flaunting it.

So why did I do it? Was it a desperate last grasp at my fading youth? Was it a joyful affirmation that women of any age can be beautiful and sexy? Or was it merely the fact that I got a Living Social coupon and it was about to expire?

Whatever the reason, when I realized the coupon was about to expire (drat! I just outed myself as a Living Social addict!) I called and made my appointment:

Me: I’m an older lady, I’m not really interested in wearing lingerie.

Her: That’s fine, just wear whatever makes you feel beautiful.

Me: Maybe I just want to wear yoga clothes and do some yoga shots. I don’t need all that sexy stuff.

Her: Whatever makes you feel good.

Me: (fuming at her lack of resistance against my resistance) well, maybe I will go through my lingerie and just see…

I realized, while looking through my “unmentionables” that they were really more unmentionable than they should be: sports bras promoting the “uniboob” and torn, stained Granny Panties. Even in my defensive mode, my undies were sub-par. So I went shopping and bought a few things, just enough to make me feel “beautiful”.

And I arrived with two suitcases of options (which the photographer, Lanette, told me was not excessive) and got ready to shoot. I was hella nervous. But I shouldn’t have been. It was a blast. I had scribbled down a few flattering poses in case she didn’t have ideas for me. I mean, it’s easy to photograph sexy young women and make them look good; it’s an entirely different matter to photograph an old broad trying to fight the cruel tides of time. But she knew what to do, how to arrange me, and promised she had a “smoothing brush” that she would use on the finished pictures.

As she looked through the viewfinder, she made a “grrrr” purring noise. Did I really look good? I began to relax, throwing back my head on the couch, crossing my legs in a classic pinup look, looking at the camera through my mascaraed lashes with a Mona Lisa smile on my lips.

We went through a dozen outfits. At one point, I wanted a shot in my jeans. She said “Yes, just jeans and a hand bra!”

“Oh, I didn’t bring a hand bra.” (what the hell was that, anyway?)

She smiled and cupped her hands over her chest to show me. Oh. That.

And a week later, we did a phone session where we went through the shots. I didn’t love them all, but I liked more than I had expected. A few hundred dollars later, I had my beauty shots.

Thinking back on the experience, I have to wonder: what had really motivated me? Was it vanity? Did I need to prove something to myself? Maybe. Or maybe I was just supporting a local business. Whatever the reason, I’m not sorry I did it. Women need to know they are lovely, because we are. And if it needs to fit within the cultural constraints that we are forced to live with, so be it. All I know is that Lanette was right; I did feel beautiful.

If you are considering doing a boudoir shoot of your own, here are a few tips:

  • Be relaxed. For me, this meant a glass of champagne before I showed up.
  • Trust your photographer; if they do this for a business, chances are they know what they’re doing.
  • Feel free to guide the direction of the shoot. Get as naked or non-naked as you feel comfortable with.
  • If you want to buy the digital rights to your shots, or even just some prints, it will be pricey. But it might be worth it.

And most of all, have fun and let your inner beauty shine through!catherine-maxwell141

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Jamaica

You went a little mad in Jamaica.

When your friends dragged you to the beach party you saw him standing at the edge of the crowd, skin like melted chocolate, hair like snakes hanging down past his shoulders. Too gorgeous to be yours. It was enough to just steal multiple glances. Emboldened by strong rum drinks, the thick night air, and the whisper of the Caribbean, you strolled over to gaze at the sea, brushing his arm with yours. Later, when he told the story to his friends in his musical voice, he claimed you stood there for twenty minutes before he had the nerve to say hello, but it felt to you like just a suspended moment. It could have been seconds. It could have been hours.

He found you on the beach the next morning. He brought you a coconut and mangoes from his tree. You held hands on the beach and swam in the salty sea together, where he told you in a solemn voice, “I am not a one night stand.” He came with the clothes on his back and he stayed the entire week, never leaving your side.

Falling into his arms was a freefall. When he released his cascade of dreadlocks, hovering naked above you, they rained down like a thunderstorm, obliterating your view of anything but him, his beautiful lips, his piercing eyes. He was a lion, devouring your body and your sanity. His heartbeat was a drumbeat you had no choice but to dance to.

He took you to a magical treehouse, deep in the bush. Real Rasta land, he called it. His home. He picked a breadfruit from a tree and chopped wood with a machete to roast it. You fed each other the warm meaty meal with your hands. You lay in his arms under a mosquito net that felt like a princess canopy as a sultry breeze blew through the window and your mind whispered, “What if it could really be like this?”

You dared to dream, to let all the differences – age, culture, geography – fall aside, just for a mad moment in time. What if this were something real?

He told you that you felt like home to him, and you believed it. He couldn’t look at you with that intense unwavering gaze and be anything but honest. He told you he was the river and you were the sea; he flowed into you. His voice was like a song, a cadence of lyrics you hardly understood. He spoke your name like no one else and possessed you so fully that you belonged only to him. You professed your love to him before you could even pronounce his name, and the promise echoed in your heart as crystalline truth.

Soon enough it was time for it to end. Goodbyes were said at the airport. The tears washed your cheeks all the way home. Back home where you pictured him everywhere, and all of the pictures were absurd like an abstract painting trying to show the shape of something that didn’t exist.

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Eric

The sun streams through the window, and I stir from a dark, dreamless sleep. I feel the warmth of my dogs by my side, hear the low whistle of the distant train. For a small moment, the day feels normal; a warm summer morning.

Then I remember and my heart shatters anew.

I lost my brother Eric Sunday morning. My life will never be the same. He’s always been in my life. He was there, singing funny songs on my voicemail, being the generous uncle to my daughters, scratching a dog behind the ears, playing his classic rock way too loud. And now he is gone.

I won’t be able to call him when I’m in need; when he was always there for me to fix a broken house, a broken promise, a broken heart. “Do you need me to come out there, Katie?” he would ask.

My brother was a true character. He bartended at the Green Parrot, a favorite local’s bar in Key West. His dog ran for mayor of Key West one year, and he had t-shirts made up: Jeremiah – Integrity. He fired a starter’s cannon off the balcony of his house during an annual festival, and they came and arrested him. The next year he was officially invited to start the festival by firing that same cannon. He was that kind of guy. He could piss you off and then disarm you. Even when he was exasperating, people loved him.

He was the first person I smoked pot with. I had crushes on all his friends in high school. (I later married – and divorced- one of Eric’s friends.) He was my cool big brother who played trombone, was on the wrestling team, and drove the red Roadrunner with the horn that said “Beep! Beep!” in the cartoon voice. He let me drive it once and showed me how to accelerate around a corner. I almost put us in the ditch.

He took in my troubled 17 year old daughter, who had experienced trauma and needed to complete high school in a different town. Who does that? Only a brother.

He loved his family. He loved his wife, who he would playfully summon from across the room by calling out: “Wench!” He opened up a general store in his community so that people had a place to get the things they needed without driving into town, half an hour away, although he barely made a living wage at it. He had the biggest heart on the planet. He would do anything for those he loved. He wanted to take care of everyone in need, all the time.

But he didn’t take enough care of himself.

He had been addicted to alcohol for a long time. His physical health was deteriorating; in his youth he was strong, fearless, and unstoppable. These days, walking around saying “My head hurts”, a result of his upper spine injury combined with years of rough living. He was suffering. He needed help. Doctors hadn’t found a way to do it yet. Our family was helping him get settled here close to us so we could all work on healing him together; finding better resources and medical care here.

We never got that chance.

The day he died I was at a yoga event, and we were chanting. We recited in Sanskrit: Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu – may all beings be happy and free from suffering. We chanted the words from a song by Trevor Hall:

You can’t rush your healing

Darkness has its teachings

Love is never leaving

You can’t rush your healing

I had never heard it before; I felt moved but not touched by it. After all, everything in my life was fine. I was practicing with my most treasured teacher, and the next day I was leaving for another yoga event to start a ten-day vacation. Everything in my life was grooving along.

But then I got the phone call. And my world forever changed.

I miss you, my brother. I am besieged with regrets; could I have done more, done it sooner? Might I have stepped in and saved your precious beautiful life, cut too short at the age of 54? I can’t believe I will never hear your crazy messages on my voice mail again. I’ll never feel your bear hugs. I’ll never go to your house and find you watching “Second Hand Lions” or “The Kid” for the 100th time. You were going to teach me to make pizza. You were going to help me refinish my wood floors. I was going to finally talk you into doing some yoga with me. How can all that be gone?

I don’t know how to walk through this world that Eric is not a part of. How does someone live without a big brother?  The task is insurmountable. How do people move on in life after a loss like this? Yet I know that they do, every day. I am not alone in this process. It’s a universal pain; we all must learn to deal with death and grief and pain. My brother isn’t suffering any more. He will get to throw a Frisbee for Jeremiah, the almost-mayor dog, at long last. My brother Eric is gone and the rest of us must keep going, although the world will never be the same without him.  My grief will remain within me forever; a raw testament to how much we loved each other. Like an oyster forming a pearl around the irritation of loss, I will create a pearl inside my heat, a shining memory of one I loved so much and lost too soon.

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Goodnight My Sweet Prince

Goodnight my Sweet Prince

I heard the news that Prince died today. Both of my daughters texted me. I was at work, teaching 4 year olds how to write in their journals. I wanted to break down and cry, but I couldn’t. Not then.

I saw my parents. I expressed my deep sadness. My dad (82) asked, “Did you know him?”

No. But yes. I knew that in my youth, with my tenuous sexuality and shaky self-confidence, “Dirty Mind” made me feel playful and kinky and happy. I know that the day “Purple Rain” came out, I skipped work to watch the VHS I had reserved in advance. I loved “1999”, and the song “International Lover” became my secret song, listening to Prince telling how he can please his passenger:

“Good evening, this is your pilot Prince speaking. You are flying aboard the Seduction 747. And this plane is fully equipped with anything your body desires…” cue moans and groans.

I believed it. In a world where I had nothing but seedy New York bars and smoky trysts in dark corners, then a long sleepy subway ride home, I still had Prince to tell me things could be exactly as I desired. For a while, a poster of him adorned my ceiling. This was the 80’s. I only saw him in concert once.

How could I explain to my dad what the passing of this great, talented artist meant to me? Even my dad knew something about a girl Prince had met in a hotel lobby, masturbating with a magazine. He turned his mouth up in a scowl, but I could not help myself. I began to sing “Darling Nikki” – eliminating that lyric, of course.

How can I say it? Prince’s music defined a part of my life. And although I have grown up, moved on, and not kept up with everything he did, I believe that his music shaped my life. So, no, I didn’t really know him. But somehow when you love someone, just knowing they are out there in the world helps the world maintain its balance. When you lose them – when the world loses them – it throws off your equilibrium.

So R.I.P. my beautiful Prince. I loved you, and will continue to love you. You left us a legacy, and I am forever grateful. Thank you for all you contributed to our lives.

 

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First Day in Barbados

I find myself in Barbados this year for spring break. After getting amazingly lost looking for the guesthouse – Our Lady of Perpetual Lostness strikes again! – I am settled in.

It’s as if my senses had retired and now are woken up, starving for input. My hostess, dressed like a glamorous dove for a funeral she was attending, all white ruffles with black edging and absolutely gorgeous, serves up some pumpkin fritters before she leaves. I am entranced by the smell of them as I break open an orange fragrant sample, savoring cinnamon and raisins when I take the first delicious bite.

I slip on a bathing suit, usually a dreaded feeling. But today I feel beautiful, full breasts spilling out of a string top, firm bubble butt covered by semi-modest black boy shorts. I top it off with the tie-die tshirt dress I bought just for this occasion and admire my shape in the mirror.

It’s windy as I walk down the lane. I smile and say “good morning” to the neighbors, and they return the smile. “You goin’ to take a sea bath?” one man asks in a lilting Caribbean sing-song.  Indeed I am! I turn the corner, and my eyes light up. The surf shop, “De Action” is resplendent with bright colors and painted signs that proclaim the beach philosophy statements, the laid-back vibe washes over me like the jade waves that caress the sand twenty yards away. I chat with the proprietor, who sits on the steps caressing a big black Labrador. The man’s deeply tanned skin and blond locks set off eyes that echo the color of the sea. We talk about surfing. He tells me it’s easy as he hauls out some boards for the group lesson later. “Tomorrow, maybe,” I tell him.

I find a place to lie in the sun and check the time. It won’t do to get burnt on my first day. I’m slightly tan now, for me, but pale in comparison to everyone here. The sun is strong and the wind deceives as it takes my mind off of the heat.  A dozen kite-surfers bob in the waves, their kites arching above them like daytime fireworks in bright neon colors. I flip at half-time, like turning an egg easy over. On my belly, legs spread, I am suddenly goosed as the sea creeps up and pushes a tangle of seaweed against my thighs. It feels absurdly sexual and playful, and I want to turn and scold this invisible lover who is teasing me so.

As I relinquish my place in the sand a friendly local lady squawks at me like a seagull and gives me the thumbs up.

Later I will take a van to Bridgetown. I’m learning my way around. Solo travel can be liberating, but one must be persistent to get the most of it. A few men have already offered to “show me the island”, but I can’t be certain that’s all they want to show me. Instead, one of the women staying here has agreed to chauffeur if I rent a car this week.

The week will go by quickly, I know. I hope to soak up everything my senses can handle. Maybe even learn to surf! (And PS I got sun burned anyway!)

 

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PIECING TOGETHER MY SPIRITUAL PRACTICES

I am blessed to have a week and a half in India, a place brimming with sacred energy and the roots of the spiritual practices about which I am learning. Piecing together your own spiritual practice is a bit like a buffet lunch.

I have had many buffets this last week. In fact I shall be very happy not to see one for a while! The choices are many: different types of bread, fruit, juices, Indian food, veggie, non-veggie, and of course dessert. These are the offerings; it is all there and it is up to the customer to decide what to choose. My favorite strategy is to cruise the entire thing, looking over my choices before I pick what I want. I want to avoid stuffing myself merely because it is all there.

When I look at spirituality this way, I can also avoid stuffing just because it is there. The practices we are learning about include a daily ritual, or Pooja, aryuvedic morning routines, meditation and chanting in Sanskrit, Hindu deities and their stories and various powers. It’s a large buffet! And studying it in its entirety can be overwhelming.

But I can listen to my teachers and benefit from their expertise. I can take up the parts of the practice that call to me and leave the rest behind. Are ancient Sanskrit mantras, joyfully sung in repetition, actually powerful? Who knows. But if they speak to my heart, what harm is done in taking up this beautiful practice?

And in our culture, where achieving is everything, and whoever dies with the most toys wins, it is beneficial to find a place of calm between the moments of chaos. And why is this important, in the grand scheme of things? Is my personal peace serving others, or is it just hippy-dippy naval gazing?

There have been studies that show levels of violence recede when people meditate. Not just for those people, but for their entire community. Hey, peace rubs off! Who’d have thunk it? I look at it this way: the world can be seen as a giant jigsaw puzzle, where each of us is a single piece. No matter what some people pretend, they are only a solitary piece of the whole puzzle. (Hate to break it to you, reality show celebrities.) It’s a beautiful picture, but if a single piece is marred, or missing, the whole thing is thrown off. Have you ever done a one thousand piece puzzle only to fall short when you are missing one last piece? That’s what I imagine our world is like. At the moment, whole sections of the picture are marred or absent. When one person gets their spiritual shit together, their individual piece is polished and ready. We fit.

So my delving into these practices causes a ripple effect. First my close relationships are more harmonious. Then it affects the people I work with; all my little clients are recipients of a more pleasant vibration as my inner peace radiates. Maybe I can spread the feeling to my neighborhood, Historic East Side, yo! So when I sit and meditate or chant, by myself or with others, my consciousness raises and others are touched as a consequence.

I’m not saying I won’t mutter, “where is your turn signal, asshole?” while I’m driving to work. But maybe I’ll do it less often. I’ll still yell at my dog when he gets into the garbage. My neighbor’s obsession with street parking will annoy me. And my mother, well, you know! But I will have a place inside myself to go when I get off-balance. I can touch it and remember. Maybe Ganesha and Lakshmi will be helpful in my life, and maybe they won’t. If I finally memorize that darn sun chant to perfection, I won’t get any points or gold stars.

But maybe, just maybe, if I clean the dust off my puzzle piece, I can make the whole puzzle more beautiful. Here’s hoping!

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We Need to Talk – About Gun Control

In the wake of the shooting in Roseburg Oregon, the panic set in again. It’s a real feeling for me, not paranoia. I work in a school. Sure, I could be shot by one of these random gunmen in a prayer group or perhaps even a yoga class, a restaurant, or a theatre. They seem to pick eclectic locations, to prey on whoever is there. It could be me. It could be you. It could be my kid.

But schools, for whatever reason, are often the setting. It’s a place we’ve all been. And I am there every day. I teach preschool.

This week we have a lockdown drill. We’ve had them before. It’s important to stay calm, to stay quiet, and to keep the kids still. But in my heart there is terror. The drill we had after Sandy Hook was especially hard. It could be real.  I sat in the corner with the class of fifteen three and four-year-olds. It was dark and quiet. One girl started crying. I wanted to cry too, but instead I tried my best to reassure her. I cried later. It’s too real.

Last night I hesitantly picked up a book: “We Need to Talk about Kevin”. I have read it before. It is heart-wrenching. I picked it up again as a response to my friend’s question, “I wonder what the parents of these kids go through?” The book is a fictionalized account of the parent of a kid who does a school shooting (not giving anything away; the reader knows this from the beginning.) It touches on the pathology of the shooter.

And this is what we are trying to understand. It’s what the gun enthusiasts hope we go to first. A friend posted on Facebook, “Cain killed Able with a rock. It’s not a gun problem; it’s a heart problem.”

But isn’t it both?

How many kids could the Sandy Hook murderer have killed if he had a rock, or, hell, give him a whole bag of rocks? Could he have killed twenty, most of them six-year olds?  The Aurora theatre shooter might have killed a few, instead of 12. The availability of guns is what makes these shootings possible.

NRA dudes, I don’t want to take your guns away. I just want it to be reasonable! Do you need a rifle to kill (innocent) deer and elk? OK! Do you need a gun by your bedside, loaded, to kill possible intruders? Fine. Do you need an uzi, a machine gun, a semi-automatic, or whatever other gun shoots 100 rounds? NO. NO ONE NEEDS THAT GUN.

So, yes we do need to talk. About Kevin, about Sandy Hook, Aurora, Roseburg. President Obama said we are growing numb to this problem.  We can’t let that happen. We should be outraged. We need to talk about gun control versus 2nd amendment gun rights. About mental health. About peace and safety and helping each other. We need to talk, and we need to listen.

And then we need to do something. Before more innocent lives are lost.

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