When I was in sixth grade, I wanted to look like "Michelle." (Let's call her that for identity sake) She was the light skin girl with hazel eyes. She had reached puberty eons before either myself or the other little girls in our classroom. We all bowed at the throne of this girl. All the boys liked her. All the girls wanted to look like her, including myself. I remember looking down at my shirt, wanting boobs to magically appear and my body to change. I was short and lanky and dark skinned with dark eyes. Growing up, I personally liked my dark skin. However, it wasn't always celebrated. My dark skin, nose, and crooked smile were all a reminder of my biological father. Perhaps a painful reminder to those whom he had been affected by his violence and abuse. As a child, I looked more like him, than my mother.
I remember telling my mother, that I wanted my body to look like "Michelle's" body. I wanted to have hips and butt and boobs. She reminded me that I was in sixth grade, and that I had MY body. She said that my body would change and blossom into this womanly form that possessed curves resembling my mother, and her mother before her. I waited. My body changed. However, it remained lanky and short. Truthfully, to this day, I don't have hips and butt and curves for days. It simply is what it is.
When I contemplated doing this shoot, I returned to that 6th grade girl. What if all the women present were shaped differently than I? They were. What if, I was the only one with stretch marks on my belly and thighs? I wasn't. Prior to the shoot, I contemplated nursing while being photographed. I thought to myself, 'I will be ok nude, if I am breastfeeding, and hiding my insecurity behind my motherhood.' Was it possible for me to stand in my own womanhood, without a babe attached to my breast? Could I stand in this skin, alone? This body was carrying years of both self inflicted and environmental body shaming? It needed to stop. The fear and negative voices needed to stop.
At the shoot, I stood with a blanket wrapped around me. Afraid to remove it. These women were beautiful. Their bodies perfect. As I continued to stand there (still with the blanket wrapped around my body), I saw these beautiful women laughing and embracing each other, as if they were clothed in diamonds. They turned to me and beckoned for me to join. I briefly tried to find a place where I fit... They quickly made room for me. They held space for me. Perhaps, they were on the same journey of reconnecting with their bodies? Perhaps they had been there before... For me, I wasn't quite sure when this insecurity began... But, I knew now is when it would end.