I remember when Wolf took this photo. Japan, in winter. I had been teaching English since the summer and Wolf came to visit me for a couple of months. We had been together for three years before I left on this project. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, I was a few months away from signing up for my very first email account, at a Thai internet cafe.
I remember feeling very uncomfortable when he took this photo; I couldn’t wait to get dressed again. He tells me that when I finally saw the developed photo (which I think wasn’t until I came home again, so 6 or 8 months later), I was still just as uncomfortable with it.
I can tell you how I felt then: self-conscious, vulnerable, and vaguely ashamed. It felt wrong to do a topless photo even from the back. It felt wrong, not exactly to be seen that way, but to be looked at, never mind recorded.
Looking at the photo today, I remember those feelings fairly vividly, but I don’t actively feel them. Now I see what Wolf probably saw all along: a fit body, with strong arms and shoulders and back. Now I like how I looked. Now I see that it’s actually not a bad photo: good pose, direct sunlight, the shadow of the drapes, the warm tones of the tatami. (Though now I would make a point of eliminating the clutter of the kotatsu (table with heater and blanket – the red and grey in front of me) and the foam “couch” (covered with a blue and white sheet, in the background).)
Then I was deeply torn between my authentic self versus what I had been taught. Now I have discarded a lot of that incorrect teaching, and this photo seems to have a clarity and emotional simplicity that I never saw before. But since the photo hasn’t changed, the clarity must be in me. I identify with this photo so much more now than when it was taken, it’s almost like this was a glimpse into my future.
I remind myself once again that it’s my body and my choice, and there’s nothing at all wrong with enjoying how my body looks and feels. I was taught the opposite at such a young age that it was never even put into words, but no matter how deeply ingrained that lesson has been, what I was taught was utterly wrong. It is not my truth and I reject it.
(Side note: I only really became aware that I had nice shoulders when someone complimented me on them about 5 or so years ago, and I started noticing my arms and back since I started taking photos for this blog, so within the last 2 years. I’ve been attributing my tone to belly dance, and yet this photo was taken a few years before I started. Huh.)