This is the story of how I found myself slipping in mud, on my way to get into a river, in a full-on evening gown. And no, I am not kidding.
But, lets start at the beginning, shall we? What seems like at least a year ago, my sister in law, Andrea, whom I love way more than I ever did her brother (just KIDDING, Jeremy!) (No I’m not, Andrea), starting busting out these SEXY, elegant, classy…just really, really nice pictures on her Facebook page. I mean, lets get something straight here- Andrea is a beautiful girl anyway, there are no two ways about that. I remember meeting her when I was perhaps 20, which would put her at about 19, and I was literally FLOORED by her body. I wasn’t even sure if I could like her or not, it was that intimidating. And it wasn’t just her figure, she has a beautiful face, also…but I digress. Anyway, fast forward now twenty years. * I am going to put this little side note here for anyone not in the know, and if it sounds arrogant or shallow, or it comes out wrong, please know that I do not mean it that way. When you are a very beautiful girl when you are young, often, you unwittingly rely heavily on that factor to help you feel good about yourself. You assume that this thing is “yours”, and it is therefore shocking, upsetting, and heart breaking when, one day, you look up from being a mother, going to school, living your life…and find that you aren’t who you used to be. For me, it happened at about 36 or 37. Then, a weird mourning period began, and I thought it meant that I was shallow and vain, and I noticed that women don’t talk a lot about the REAL emotions behind this. We make jokes, but it really sucks. If this is where you are, trust me, it passes. All things pass. But please read on- you can not only survive this phase of life with aplomb, you also have every right to take your power back. *
Okay, so…beautiful Andrea, gorgeous at 19, fast forward 20 years…she’s STILL gorgeous. But she is feeling down. She’s been busy with school, being a (wonderful, by the way) mom, she hasn’t had time to care for herself like she’d like to. I recall her telling me she was maybe going to do this thing called “Red Light Girls”, but she wasn’t sure…she wanted to do this or that first. Then, BAM. Her first pictures came out, and they were gorgeous. Then, as time passed, she was like, going out to “RLG” events, parties, making new friends, going hiking, and…best of all, she was, like, glowing again. She got her confidence back.
That’s when she started putting the pressure on me. “You should do this.”, and “When are you going to do this?” and finally, because she is family, she can say this to me (right AFTER my FORTIETH birthday, I’ll have you know) “You are forty. You won’t have your looks forever. Here are the dates she can shoot you. Pick one.” ARRRRGGGGHHHH. FINE! So I did. Then she said “If you back out, it will make me look really bad, and I will kill you.” Fuck.
I’m going to tell you something. I don’t like being pressured into things, but I really don’t have the backbone to withstand peer pressure. How do you think I wound up being a smoker? How do you think I wound up with children? I just have trouble saying no. But if you pressure me into saying yes, and I do what you want, I will NOT have a very good attitude. I did not feel ready. To be honest with you, I felt fat, unkempt, sloppy and self conscious. I had a month to get in better shape, but I knew damn well that I couldn’t do it that fast. And the worst part? I was pretty okay with how I was…I had slipped into that comfortable obscurity that comes with being an average forty year old woman. I knew no one was looking, so it didn’t matter if I tried or not. If I did this, I would have to make an effort to be beautiful…and what if I failed? What if I couldn’t do it?
So, I was really scared. The day before the shoot, I responded to an excited voicemail from Andrea (who would be there with me, doing her own simultaneous shoot) with a surly one of my own: “No, I am not excited, I have nothing to wear, I am fat, and I am only doing this because you are making me.” Of course, I felt bad for saying that…but it was kinda the truth. The day of the shoot arrived, and I did my very best to make myself look as pretty as I was capable of. I threw fifty outfits in a bag, and headed out to Carmel Valley.
When I met Brandalyn, I had no idea she was wearing a wig, or that, in a very short time, I would be seeing her in very little clothing. Because I was EXTREMELY nervous, I don’t feel like my guard came down the whole day. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I have ever been more nervous in my life over an event than I was that day. I am pretty success oriented, and if I feel like I can’t be very good at something, I really would rather not do it. The way Brandalyn does this whole thing is, she takes your photos, she picks five that she likes best and does her magic with them (be it color, touching up stuff, things like that, I assume) and then she publishes them. ON FACEBOOK. (*sidenote # 2: You can opt to have the pictures kept private, for a slight fee.*) Yikes. I have some trust issues when it comes to pictures, and I wish I would have trusted more that she would pick the right ones. I feel I would have been able to relax a little more. It also would have been nice if I was still drinking. A nice stiff drink would have really been helpful.
We shot, in the stifling heat of Carmel Valley on a summer day, in a fancy car (an Alfa Romeo, I think?) where I was stiff as a board. I think I even forgot how to bend my knees. Brandalyn had on her bathing suit, and let me tell you- that girl does good work on EITHER SIDE of the camera, okay? Andrea, as I said, was also being shot, albeit separately, and she had done this many times by now, so she was far more relaxed than I was. I kinda felt like a failure. Then, I put on my favorite black nylon, old fashioned slip (I’ve had since I was twenty something!) and we shot in a field. Then, as I mentioned in the beginning, I put on my fancy evening gown (I bought it at the dump for a dollar, lol!) and made my way down the treacherous, muddy, path to the river. And that is when I got IN the river, IN my gown, while Brandalyn shot me from the bridge above, calling down directions that I tried very hard to follow. I will say, the water was quite nice. Other than that, I was pretty much a mess. I would like to let you know that this was in NO WAY the fault of Brandalyn or Andrea. I am just one of those people who are very hard on themselves. If I don’t feel like I nailed it, I am not excited. And there is no amount of reassurance (of which I was given PLENTY) that will help.
I went home feeling a little sad that I hadn’t done better, but told myself I was happy for the experience. I then put it totally out of my mind, until a week or so had passed and I got a message from my friend Rachel (also a Red Light Girl) asking “Is that your ass?” Which might be a strange message from anyone else, but I knew immediately that the pictures must be up. I still am not sure that my ass was the one in question, but I am going to be totally honest here, and I hope it is okay. I didn’t love the first picture I saw of me… and I figured she would post the best one first, so I was screwed. But when I saw the second one, I was so glad I hadn’t liked the first one- because the next one was SO BEAUTIFUL, and I just was over the moon. Here it is:
Remember how I said I was stiff as a board? I forgot how to bend my knees? Hahaha! My mom saw the picture and said “That can’t be you. You look too relaxed.” That’s how good Brandalyn is at her job. Then, a while later, I got another one. It was, like, fifty times better than the first one, even. Here it is:
I had told someone after the shoot but before I had seen the pictures that I just didn’t think I was the right kind of girl for this type of thing (this was my fear and insecurity talking, in case I looked awful). I really didn’t consider myself to be lacking in self esteem in any way, and I didn’t think I cared that much how I looked, generally. I mean, I wanted to look good in pictures- in these pictures, particularly. But on a day to day basis, I just didn’t care. My friend said “Just wait until you see the pictures.” Actually, several people said this to me. “Yeah, yeah…” I thought.
But you know what? They were right. They were right, and I was totally wrong. I do care, A LOT, about whether or not I am still pretty enough, alluring enough, worthy enough of recognition as a beautiful girl. It may be fucked up that I want this type of recognition, I don’t know. The point is I DO. And I am not alone. The catchphrase I see, again and again, on the Red Light Girls Facebook page is- “You are enough”. I didn’t believe this was true, and I didn’t even know it. These pictures are not spectacularly (at least not obviously, to me) edited, they are not presenting to you someone totally made up. They are lovingly shot, thoughtfully chosen, and subtly edited to show you the very best version of the person in front of the camera. I used to wonder why so many of my friends did this repeatedly, but now I understand it. It is empowering to view yourself that way- maybe in a more beautiful light than you could EVER see yourself. I feel like the service Brandalyn is offering is so much more than just some sexy pictures you can look at. It’s more about seeing the beautiful person you really are. And that is huge.
If you live in the Monterey area (or even if you don’t, still, check out this link) and would like to schedule a shoot with Brandalyn, or just see more of her work, you can do that here: . In closing (and in celebration of my longest blog EVER) I would like to show you my absolute favorite picture of the whole bunch- and I feel it is appropriate, as it is my backside, and this is the end: