I grew up in a house that was pretty typical. We weren't big on religion, but I was taught to sit on my hands at church, and be quiet. I never gained anything substantial from this kind of religious education, of course, and I've been agnostic for as long as I can remember. When it came to sexuality, it wasn't anything my parents ever exhibited. I knew they loved each other, and my mom and dad would make playful jokes and flirt with each other, but there wasn't any kissing much, and even hand holding was sparse. My parents felt that their love didn't need a whole production for my parents to feel it, they would say. This was something that was to be kept private.
I remember I was about 13 and my mom sat down with me to have "the talk". I knew it was coming but I was still dreading it. From an early age, I was taught that my body was for my husband. My virginity was this sacred thing that I was protecting for him. One of my friends would joke with me and call it a diamond because I compressed my sexuality so much she was sure I was creating something special for my future lover. I hid my body most of the time, but I yearned to be looked at as a true elegant and beautiful woman. Audrey Hepburn was a huge inspiration for me. In high school I dressed a bit more provocatively for my current tastes, but it felt so empowering to embrace my body a little bit.
My virginity wasn't ever something that I really focused on in life, but I wanted to please my parents and I didn't want to be discarded by a man because I was impure to him. This was a thought that haunted me for years because all I wanted in life was to be a good wife and even better mother. I remember all my friends losing their virginity and getting their hearts broken soon after. That wouldn't be me. I wouldn't be another story floating around the high school halls. I wouldn't trust the wrong guy and give myself so freely to a man before I knew he was the one. For me, it wasn't necessarily the engagement ring I needed. I just needed a firm affirmation of love. Looking back, I feel silly to think that I judged my friends so easily when they got hurt. Clearly, a firm affirmation of love is what all women are looking for; especially when they're giving their virginity to a man. I never understood why society taught women to hold their virginity for so long but when it came to men, they were eager to punch that ticket.
The night I finally gave myself to a man, it ended up being my husband. I don't know how I thought I'd feel once it all happened, but I remember feeling like a huge part of my identity was gone and I was left feeling very odd about it all. I was madly in love, but I felt a hole growing in myself. I felt unsure of what I was supposed to do with myself after my virginity was lost. My body was never mine, and it was never supposed to be mine. I was just a vessel. My sexuality was never mine. I was so conflicted in what to do with my feelings and how to embrace myself. When was it my turn to love myself?
It was quickly time for us to grow our family. I was very excited about this, so I didn't give too much energy to the loss of the innocence I had cherished and prized for so many years. Our babies came and my body shifted from my husband's possession to theirs. Growing them, birthing them, feeding them, caring for them... this was all expected of me, of course. My upbringing had always told me to submit to my husband, but no one really tells you the kids are the ones that require much more from you. It was demanding, but I relished in all the things that I had always wanted in my life. I was finally able to rock my very own babies to sleep. I was finally able to understand what a deep and true love my mother had spoken of, and many parents had failed to explain to me. Years passed and that hole was still there in the darkness, slowly growing while I raised our family. When was it my turn to embrace my sexuality?
The kids are almost grown, and after all these years, I'm still slowly breaking down barriers I had created for myself. I don't know why I cared so deeply about what other's thought about my purity or my sexuality. It's still hard for me to push through these emotional and physical mind blocks but with the support of my husband, we have reached a new high in our lives. I now hear my friends talking about their empty nest and how they're dreading it, but I'm actually looking forward to it. My husband and I will get time together and maybe I'll get some time to really work on myself now. Don't get me wrong, I really loved our time with our babies. I'll never regret nursing them for as long as I could. I'll never forget carrying their limp little bodies to bed after a long day of playing and falling asleep to a movie on a Friday night. I'll never forget that first time our oldest went to a dance and the nerves that follow letting them into the real world on a date. I felt like I understood why anyone would impress upon a child that sexuality should be hidden, then, for sure, yet I didn't want my babies to carry this indescribable weight on their shoulders, either.
When I booked my boudoir session, I knew I wanted a certain type of look and I wanted to be captured by someone I felt comfortable talking to. I needed help establishing who I was sexually, physically, emotionally, etc. It was really important to me that I was represented in the light that I was trying to find, yet the hardest thing for me was not really having an idea of how to describe that. Melissa helped me with it all. She asked me deeper questions about myself than I had thought up myself in my time of self reflection. We started building a foundation of trust over a phone consultation. I love that she was more conservative in her work while still embracing the sexual nature of her work. She prompted me to do some soul searching before my session so I was more emotionally ready for this. It wasn't about handing her my money, it was a total experience. We discussed hair and makeup and lingerie and we made sure everything looked great so I was ready for the session. Just talking to her about my session helped me break down so many walls I had built for myself and my marriage. It was finally okay to feel sexy. I was finally able to let go a little bit, and it was a lot more than I had ever let go in the past. I was so excited to see the images. I could barely wait.
When I came in for my reveal, I cried my eyes out. I felt so free. I am beautiful! I am worthy! I am sexy! I can be sexual! The Hepburn Album was my choice of album and I loved the look it offered. I couldn't wait to give it to my husband. I had planned this session out about 6 months prior to our 20 year anniversary and I knew he would be thrilled. This was a huge deal for me. I didn't look at myself with disgust, I made CHILDREN with this body. I have maintained my marriage with this body! And now, I'm going to cherish these images because this was my chance to celebrate who I am and my sexuality. For the first time, my sexuality was all mine.