I’ve been chipping away at this one for the last four months, but it’s been a secret until now. It was fun to write and more fun to experience. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas full of all your hearts desires.
A Bonkers Idea Turns Into a Viable Plan
My husband is impossible to buy gifts for. He’s super picky. He researches everything before he makes any major purchase, and I’m pretty sure everything I’ve bought him has been accepted with a little disappointment. Long ago, I resorted to telling him to buy whatever he wants and that is his birthday gift. This is a system that works well for us. The drawback is that I never get to surprise him.
I have a midsummer birthday and he has a late summer birthday. It just so happens that my birthday was spent in Costa Rica this year. It was the birthday to beat all birthdays. I’ve had cool birthdays in cool places including, Yellowstone, Hawaii, and Scotland, but Costa Rica takes the cake. We spent the day in Tortuguero National Park touring the canals by boat and then after dark we were able to watch a sea turtle lay eggs on the beach. It was amazing. We were all up in her business. I literally could have been her obstetrician. I can identify two other times in my life that I have been in awe. The first was when I saw Micheal Angelo’s David, and the second was when I watched open heart surgery as a nursing student. I’m not sure I was in full fledged awe while watching what can best be described as gooey wet ping pong balls dropping from a turtles nether region, but it was close.
I got it in my head that Garry should have an equally cool birthday. I’m not sure how I expected to accomplish this with his birthday being on a Monday, and two weeks into the school year. Needless to say, it was a dud. I made tacos and gave him the red “you are special today” plate, but other than that it was pretty unremarkable. I didn’t even have a gift for him. My son and I have a running joke that we are going to get him a unicorn-pug. They don’t exist and he wouldn’t want one if they did, so that’s not happening either. I did buy him some Lululemon men’s $30 underwear about a week after his birthday, but that was because it was the only thing I could think of that he’d never buy himself. I figured I’d make it up to him at Christmas, but how….
It started like all my major life choices, as a joke. I met some friends for a walk by the river, and joked about doing boudoir photos for Garry. They both said I should. The next day I text my photographer friend, Raine, who is a genius and one of the few people I trust to make me look good on film. She was all about it. It is truly amazing how excited and helpful people get when you tell them you are going to take mostly naked pictures of yourself. I decided I didn’t want the typical roll around a bed in lingerie, either. Garry has seen that countless times. I decided to do something different. Something a little more, well, Garry. I also didn’t want to do anything half assed. Boudoir photos deserve your whole ass. My two best options were the CrossFit gym and the river. Nothing says Garry more than those two places.
Our town has an ordinance prohibiting women from being topless in public unless they are breastfeeding. Luckily, the ordinance was met with an oppositional movement lovingly called “Free the Nipple”. Thanks to the free the nipple people there is a judicial injunction on the ordinance. I am currently free to bare my nipples in public as it is arguably my constitutional right to do so. This makes choosing a spot in the river a lot less stressful, as I don’t need to worry about being arrested for public indecency. The only real issue is scheduling them sooner than later, because I don’t want to be topless in the snow. Luckily, Raine has an opening in her schedule mid September, and the forecast looks balmy.
Next is CrossFit. Obviously, I have to ask permission and have a coach let me in and lock up when we are done. I also needed a time when they were closed aka Sundays. Raine could accommodate the timing, but I still needed permission. Our gym is owned by a super cool dude with a super cool wife and they both would probably be fine with me using the gym for this purpose. In fact, they have told me more than once that they would do anything for Garry, but I suspect this isn’t exactly what they had in mind. Before I had the chance to ask the owner, I ended up having a beer with Lo, the manager. I told her what I was planning and asked to use the gym, quickly adding that I would pay her. She said “yes” to the gym and “no” to payment. I told her she is welcome to stay and watch/coach my photo shoot too. She was all in and had some very good suggestions about wall-balls in stilettos.
At this point I’m feeling pretty locked and loaded with a few important exceptions, the wardrobe and hair and makeup. The wardrobe will remain a secret for Garry’s eyes only. Let’s just say I committed the theme and I’m pretty proud of what I came up with. Hair and makeup are another story. There are two days in a girl’s life that she really should have someone else do her hair and makeup. The first is her wedding. The second is when she opts for midlife-crisis-nearly-nude pictures. I can get by doing my own makeup, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out I don’t do hair. My hair has turned into a special kind of beast over the last few years. I used to have super easy wash and go Marsha Brady hair. Now I have crazy mind of its own Bret Michael’s hair. I’m too busy/lazy to do anything new with it, so I still put all the effort into it that I did my wash and go Marsha Brady hair. The result is messy hair that is totally unacceptable for what I have planned, but that’s OK because I know a girl with mad skills. She’s that immaculate girl that you actually DO ask to do your wedding hair and makeup. She’s also down for anything. When I emailed her to see if she could help me, I got a rapid, enthusiastic “yes, I can make you look like a porn star”. She even offered to do it at her house which was a necessity given the secrecy of our mission. Done and Done.
Pulling It Off and Second Thoughts
My brother has always said I can’t keep a secret, especially when it’s my own secret. I tell everyone everything. I’m even more hopeless if I think its funny or clever or it makes me look stupid. Check, Check and Check. Christmas is still a long four and a half months away. Plus I have to be able to pull this off. The pictures haven’t even been taken yet. What I needed was a viable lie. It has to be plausible and not completely a lie. I’m much better at deceit when the lie involves some truth. I told Garry I was having a girls day with my friends Laura and Ana. I knew we’d be gone for a giant chunk of the day and evening, so I said we were hiking and getting dinner. This was a crappy lie, because I have never gone hiking with friends. My friends and I might go on a walk in town, but we don’t hike. We take pleasant strolls and follow them with wine. It didn’t matter, because he bought it. I invited Laura and Ana to be my audience during pictures. They were more than welcome to sit there drink wine and make fun of me. I also had my friend Crystal coming, so it really was turning into a girls day.
Next I had to figure out how to get my PFD (personal flotation device or life vest), a raft paddle, lingerie, hooker shoes and some other unmentionables out of the house without it looking weird or obvious. I hatched a plan to start smuggling things in small batches to Crystal who would bring them to the photo shoot. The paddle was the only thing that made me nervous. Garry notices everything. I figured he would totally notice a missing paddle. I’m pretty sure this will need to wait until the day of the shoot, or I need to find another conspirator and borrow a paddle from them. There is literally no reason I would take a single raft paddle anywhere. ever. So without a backup story, I had no choice but to use stealth.
For those of you who have lost track, I’m the girl with Bret Michael’s hair who can’t keep a secret and guess what? I am utterly lacking in stealth. I can’t even walk quietly. My walk has been called angry and powerful. It has been compared to a herd of large animals, but never anything stealthy. In other words, I came in like a wrecking ball. I’m also generally oblivious to things I should be aware of. For instance, I’m not entirely sure where Garry keeps the raft paddles. I think they are in the garage but I am not certain. This is a little embarrassing because they are bright green, there’s probably eight of them, and I may or may not walk by them every day. BUT they could also be in the shed or storage room or our bedroom for that matter. I’m actually that oblivious. I still haven’t figured this one out, but I’m determined to pose in a river with a paddle, and not much else. Luckily, we are planning on sunset and the lighting will be kind to my aging body. It’s also Fall and low water so my chances of getting foot trapped and drowning are next to nil. Wouldn’t that be an embarrassing headline?
My friend Katrina inadvertently reminded me that I’m forty-six and maybe documenting my body is not the best life choice. In her defense, she has no idea what I am doing. Honestly if I told her she would be a giant fan and probably supply me with food and drink to keep me fortified while I document my middle aged body. Katrina joined a gym and paid for a weight loss challenge. She was also giving her Facebook friends a play by play of her successes and failures along the way. What I love about Katrina is she, like myself, does not believe TMI is a thing. She will give you ALL the information, and she is happy to listen to all your information. She is raw and shameless and utterly incapable of guile. I adore her. I had already planned and booked my boudoir shoot and suggested (without telling her I was doing one) that she should do the same when she meets her weight loss goal. She responded by telling me that she had done nudes as a wedding present to her husband, and has no plans to document her body again. Katrina is at least ten years younger than me, and I think she was early twenties when she got married. She might have even been nineteen. That was the first time it hit me that I’m forty-six, and maybe this isn’t a great idea. I also realized that I had three weeks to go-time, and I might want to get my body camera ready.
I’m fitter than I’ve been in years. I do CrossFit three days a week, swim three days a week, and walk or catch a yoga class when I can. I am officially one norovirus away from my ideal body weight. I decided I should throw in a weekly bone-broth fast-day up until the shoot. This is something I don’t particularly enjoy. I’m not a giant pot roast person, but I become obsessed with thoughts of pot roast when I’m fasting. I think about nachos and bacon and all the salty crunchy fried things. I do, however, sleep hard and feel better when I’ve fasted. The day after a fast I usually give birth to a 4-5 lbs bloat baby and that feels pretty damn good. As I write this, I am five days from boudoir day and have three fasts under my belt. My middle is looking skinny, but I have two new problems. First I think Garry suspects I’m developing an eating disorder, and second my boobs are getting the rock-in-a-sock look. Face-palm. I did not want to lose weight off my boobs!! I want nice full boobs for this thing. I have five days to plump the boobs, but still keep the middle little.
Jackie, the girl who is doing my hair and makeup is also a bit of an amateur photographer and she told me she would only shoot boudoir pictures at this point. I pressed her on this and she said everyone wants their family pictures to be natural with no touch ups, but they also want them perfect. She said with boudoir photos they want them perfect, but don’t care if they are natural. In fact, women want you to Photoshop the hell out of them. It was in that moment that I realized my salvation in the form of Photoshop. Therein lies my hypocrisy. I have betrayed my gender. I do not ever want to contribute to unrealistic expectations for a woman’s body, but for the love of all that is holy Raine, you better Photoshop the crap out of me!
I cleverly hid most of my props and wardrobe at my friend Crystals house and had my alibis set up. Garry and I use find a friend on our Iphones and can track each others location, so I had to turn mine off so it would look like my location was not available and I was not at the gym. I picked up Crystal and my gear and headed to Jackie’s for hair and makeup. Jackie worked her magic and gave me bouncy curls, flawless skin, smoky eyes and giant fake lashes to boot. We also killed a bottle of champagne while we were there.
We got to the gym and Lo and Raine were already setting up. We opened the big garage doors for the best natural light. On a Sunday there isn’t a lot if any traffic on either side of the building, so we weren’t too worried about unexpected visitors. There is, however, a bus that runs behind the gym. It goes by pretty quickly and I don’t think they can see what is happening in the gym. I threw on outfit number one, Lo set up some rings and made a couple spot-on recommendations for poses while adding that it was terrible form and not to do it in a regular work out. Raine started shooting and I was super comfortable. I was having more fun than I really should have. I had so much fun, I started to consider there might be something wrong with me. I did a lot of dangerous things in stilettos. At one point I was hanging from a pull up bar wearing almost nothing when the bus that travels behind the building went by. Crystal and I still joke that someone probably took that bus back and forth for the whole shoot. Crystal also has nightmares where I fall off the pull up bar and break my ankle, and she wakes up with the snap of my bones ringing in her ears.
The thing I hadn’t counted on was Lo’s hidden talent as an art director. I had only expected her to let us in and close up when we were done, but she was amazingly creative and every idea she had was genius. My favorite moment of the day was when Lo exclaimed, “wait we have chains in the shed”. Crystal, Raine and I said “bring on the chains” in chorus. They were huge and rusty and perfect. Total money shot.
The river was next. We missed Lo almost immediately. The girl has mad skills. However, the light was perfect, the weather was perfect. Raine is no stranger to giving direction and I’m willing to try anything. We only had to hide once when a biker came by, otherwise it was pretty private. I rolled around in the water for a while and got a few unfortunate mosquito bites, but overall it was a remarkable success. We wrapped up. I gave Raine a hug goodbye, and Crystal and I smoothed out the details of the story for Garry.
I got home snuck the props back to their proper places and even managed to get a load of laundry in to clean the river algae out of my lingerie. I pulled it off. Garry has BS meter like no other, and I was amazed, but pretty confident I’d pulled it off. The next morning I got in my car only to discover a single stiletto on my passenger floor, fake eyelashes stuck to the console, and a wet thong in the passenger seat. How would I even begin to explain that? Thank goodness he wasn’t going anywhere with me.
A couple weeks later I got the link to see the photos. I’m so happy. Happy I swim. Happy I do CrossFit. Happy I fasted, and happy I chose the locations I did. The lighting was kind, my photographer was amazing, but more than anything I felt sexy and it showed. I have never liked my butt, hips or legs, but they were on point, sometimes even my best feature. I think every woman should do this. Get beautiful photos of yourself. Just do it.
Becoming a mom is a hit to a woman’s perception of her body. Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding all feel very utilitarian. I remember going from thinking of myself as a sexual being to decidedly feeling so unsexy that the thought of being sexy again was laughable. Feeling sexy and sensual did come back. Slowly. Getting in shape and buying new clothes as my body proportions changed helped. My husband’s reaction to my narrowing waistline was nice. Mostly, I like living in a tighter body. I feel better. I catch myself in the mirror and am sometimes pleasantly surprised by what I see. More importantly, my son gets to see a strong, athletic, healthy mom. The money we spend on fitness in this family is almost like having a second mortgage. Every penny is worth it. It’s no longer about investing in long term health. It’s about investing in today’s health. We are drawing on that investment with every breath my husband takes. You don’t have to workout with the goal of doing CrossFit boudoir, but you do need to move because it’s what your body needs. It’s what your mind needs. It’s what your soul needs.
I think I’m typical of most women when it comes to pictures. On first blush we hate pictures of ourselves, but often like them after some time goes by. When Raine sent me the completed pictures. I loved them instantly. Obviously I had some favorites. I couldn’t say how much editing she had to do, but my legs and butt looked pretty rocking for an older gal. As I’ve mentioned I never thought much of my legs, and my butt has seen better days. Of course I found plenty of flaws because that’s what we do to ourselves. The corners of my mouth turn down more than they used to. My skin is not as tight as it once was. My jaw line not as firm. I could go on and on. But it’s silly to do that. They are beautiful and very much me in elements of life that Garry loves. I honestly can’t wait to give these to my husband.
Mommy/Daddy Christmas Date
My son had a sleepover the second weekend in December. I decided this was the perfect time for Garry and I to exchange gifts, as Christmas morning might get pretty awkward with Daddy looking at Mommy’s semi-nudes. We dropped our son off and went to Old Town for dinner and drinks. The Christmas lights were up, the cocktails were yummy and Garry held my hand everywhere we went. We decided to head home early, exchange gifts and watch a movie.
I handed Garry the gift box. As he opened it he looked at me suspiciously and said, “I have a feeling I’m about to have a lot of questions”. When he opened the book it’s a single picture of me in the river, spread across two pages. He laughed and for a second, my heart dropped. But it wasn’t that kind of laugh. It was the kind of laugh that comes from getting something unexpected and wonderfully delightful. It’s nice to know that after all these years he thinks mommy’s still got it. It’s nice to know I think so too. I don’t think he was in awe and it wasn’t like watching an endangered species lay eggs, but he loves it and I love him for that. Maybe I’ll try to make volume 2 when I turn 60.