What do you get the spouse who has everything? I could have gotten him a new pair of jeans. The boys did get him a bait container for their fishing expeditions. I considered some kind of firefighter gift, but that didn't seem to have the wow factor I was going for this year. So I decided to strip down to my skivvies and let someone photograph me. Stay with me.
Boudoir sessions are all the rage right now. Thanks to an article in Redbook, photographers who specialize in the sexy, pin-up style photos are seeing a spike in their scheduling. Sometimes women schedule them as a gift to their partner. Sometimes women schedule them as a present to themselves after a life-changing event. Some women schedule them in groups, throwing a party that celebrates their curvitude. As these sexy photos aren't nude or remotely porn-like, the weirdness factor of having friends and a stranger standing around is somewhat similar to being on a beach. But sexier and without the sand in your crotch.
I decided to go with Louisville Boudoir since the photographer, Courtney Paris, has been a long time Internet-turned-real-life friend of mine. Not only is her photography the best boudoir work I've seen but I felt comfortable with her. One friend told me that she feels that having someone she knew photograph her would make her more self-conscious, but I felt the opposite. I made the right choice for me, because we exchanged conversation, jokes, talk of our families and laughter in between sexy pouts and poses. Even without the intimate knowledge of my photographer's life, I likely would have had a blast. I had several changes of clothes, most based on the theme of firefighting, as my husband is a professional firefighter. Courtney worked hard to get me some turnout gear and those made for the hottest photos. Pun intended.
The first preview picture arrived in my inbox on a Wednesday morning. I opened it and gasped. I didn't know the woman in the picture. Except that I did. I saw myself in the unique almond shape of her eye, the same eyes which I was teased for relentlessly in high school. I saw myself in the bow of her lip, the slight smirk of her smile. I saw myself in the extremely pale skin, shining like a porcelain doll. I saw myself in the dirt on the bottom of her bare feet; shoes are overrated. The face looking back at me was mine. The body on the screen was mine. I've spent years critiquing myself and I realized, maybe more so than ever before, that I was a strong, brave and beautiful woman.
When the rest of my proofs were available, I felt a similar reaction as each click of the mouse sent another gorgeous, confident, sexy woman scrolling by. I found it difficult to narrow down my favorites to just 20, the number of photos that fit in the Little Black Book which is part of the package deal. When I did eventually make my choices and the book arrived, I again felt a swirl of emotions. It was really me on those pages!
My reaction is what keeps Courtney and other like-minded photographers in the boudoir. As she snapped me, I asked her questions about why she chose this type of photography and what keeps her going. She frequently starts out with a woman who is afraid she won't get even one or two pictures that are usable. When she gets her proofs and is shocked that she can't limit it to 20, she is amazed.
"That's just awesome, if I can have a positive impact on how a woman sees herself then I'm pretty lucky. Not only do I get to come to work and do something I absolutely love (with all the glamour what's not to love?!), but I get to help people feel better about themselves exactly how they are! I'm blessed to have a gift that I can share like this!"
I'm not the only one who had a great reaction. My husband's eyes widened and he looked at me with a goofy grin on his face. He flipped through the pages and I pointed out fun things or shared the reasoning behind a choice. He laughed as my secrecy and vagueness of the past three weeks all began to make sense. He applauded my ability to keep a secret from him that long, and laughed again when I told him how many times I almost accidentally spilled the beans. I got quite a few kisses (among other things, ahem) and a bunch of confidence-boosting compliments, not all of which were about how hot I am.
Similarly, another boudoir client named Kristen who allowed me to interview her said her husband had a similar reaction.
"[He was] Almost speechless... he really didn't know what to say at first, but as he looked through each photo, he just got a bigger and bigger smile on his face and told me how wonderful they were. He was in disbelief that someone would ever give him a gift like that! I think it actually made him feel kind of special, so that in turn made me feel great.
I only wish that I would have done this sooner but I wasn't ready. In fact, the "readiness factor" is the number-one reason that boudoir photographers hear as an excuse for not scheduling a session. I'll be honest with you: I was not at my goal weight when I arrived on the morning of my session. In fact, even if I had been at that goal weight, I likely would have decided that I still needed to lose another five pounds. Maybe five more after that as well. I went to my planned session anyway, hoping that my husband was right when he told me that thought my shape was fabulous. Don't tell him that I now agree with him; I'd have to have to admit he was right.
I initially decided to schedule a boudoir session as a surprise and gift to my husband. The real surprise was that I might have received the bigger gift. I feel confident and sexy in this body that I'm working for the first time since well before my children were conceived. Then again, he may be still benefiting from my own surprise gift if you know what I mean. If you don't get it, read this post by Rita Arens on married people still needing to get laid and recognize that this is a sure fire way to get you both in the bedroom.
I share this experience not to encourage every last woman on the planet to schedule a boudoir session. I share this to encourage you to do that thing that you've been putting off until you've lost five pounds. Or gotten the job title you want. Or any other of the limitations we put on ourselves. Take a chance on yourself. You might find out that you really like what you see, who you are.
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