What does it mean to feel pretty? This is something that I have thought about since I was a teenager. We all know the pressures women in our culture experience in regards to their looks. Our physical body tells the world so much about us, and the world has an awful lot to say back in return. Attractiveness plays a part in our sexuality and finding a lover. It plays a part in how we fit into our family and community. Our looks are also judged when we seek education or employment.
When I thought about doing this self-portrait series, my attractiveness was one of the first things that leapt to my mind. Would I be able to take even a single photo that 1) looked like me, and 2) was flattering? Often, I don't like the way I look in photos that others take of me. I always cringe when my mother takes out photos from our last family get-together. Yet, I know that photos, particularly ones taken casually in bad light, rarely capture a persons true spirit.
I can say that as I get older my sense of beauty has changed. I give myself a lot more breathing space around how I look than I did twenty years ago. I am lucky in that I have a spouse who is quick to tell me he loves me and quick to give a compliment. I have also been lucky in my work as a midwife. I have been able to witness women in very vulnerable situations, and have come to recognize a depth of beauty and physical integrity that is pure and lasting.
As women, we become pregnant, and our body changes. We give birth, and we are transformed. We breastfeed our wee ones, and watch as our body miraculously nourishes the next generation. We age, and experience inevitable decline in function, or illness. If we live a full life, our body becomes worn. And that is okay. There is fantastic beauty in the faces of women who have lived a long and productive life.
For this photo, I wanted to look pretty. Pretty in a superficial way, but also pretty in a way that conveyed a sense of comfort in my own skin. I set up the shot in front of a favorite painting and lovely blue walls. I put on flattering colors and a touch of make-up. And I took it right after getting my hair done at the salon.
All the best to every single one of you beautiful women out there.