First I cranked the heat up and let the room warm up. Sixty-five degrees is not conducive to disrobing. Yeah, I knew that I didn’t have to literally get naked to participate here at F-Stop. But the Naked I within me wanted to. Why?
Because it scared me.
Because for most of my life I’ve been ashamed of my body.
Because I could hear loud and clear all the reasons why not to.
Because I’m slowly becoming more comfortable in my own skin.
Because I can think of all the reasons why I should.
Because it’s a transgressive act.
Because it scares me.
Fear and shame are like that gooey substance they use in mousetraps. You know the stuff. I’ve used those traps in the attic. I’d know when a mouse stepped on one. Because usually they didn’t jump in with all four feet. Nope. Maybe just one foot. Mice aren’t stupid. As they’d try to get away (usually successfully too), I’d hear the clapclapclap of the little cardboard tray banging across the plywood above me. If I went up to check, I’d find the trap wedged against the wall where the little critter was able to break free. Struggle is good. The few mice that were caught, I always felt like they probably just gave up and gave in to the goo.
Sitting in my bathrobe, trying to get up the nerve to start the photo session for this post, I could tell that I was having a wee bit of PTSD. My husband was patient with me. Yeah, I have a history – experienced stuff that I would not wish on anyone. I’ve had a lot of toxic shame to pull away from. I’m still picking it from my skin. But that’s not what this is about. This is about getting to a place where the fear and shame are not strong enough to hold me in place anymore.
I’m fifty-two years old. This body has birthed three children; two girls now in their twenties and a teenage son, who was born at home weighing ten pounds. My breasts have fed children for a combined total of close to ten years. There is plenty of sagging and stretch marks. If not for the wonders of woven cloth, I could give the Venus of Willendorf a serious run for her money. Our bodies are wondrous. Why should we be ashamed?
Because just about everything we’ve ever heard our entire lives has told us that we should be. Afraid. Ashamed. Of who we are, what we are.
I removed the robe and lay down on the bed. My husband was probably as nervous as I was. He admitted that he’d never taken pictures of a naked woman before. I’m sure many people, even some friends, would think what we were doing was dreadful. All this should be “private.” I had a phone conversation with my sister once and listened to her rant on about how awful it was that anyone would think about putting naked pictures of themselves on the internet. Needless to say, she doesn’t know about Erobintica. Bodies should be private. Sex should be private. That’s what we’ve been told. Shame on you.
I’ve spent a good portion of my life being afraid and ashamed of who I am inside. Sure that if I let anyone see that me, they would be horrified. They’d reject and desert me. I’d end up alone and unloved. My thoughts? Shameful. My desires? Shameful. My predilections? Shameful. And definitely something to be afraid of. And that has carried over into my writing, both poetry and prose. I’d write things that I wouldn’t show to anyone. Even worse, I’d be afraid to write what I wanted to write, even if I told myself not another soul would ever see it. Sometimes I wrote it anyway, too often, sadly, I did not.
Shame eats away at you, like dry rot. When you stop yourself from writing what you want to, from maybe even thinking about writing what you want to, creativity can grind to a halt. Somehow I’ve managed to begin to pull away from the trap. Not sure how. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life pondering that – and writing those ponderings down.
As the photos were taken, I became more at ease. No, I didn’t do the model thing, but I found that it wasn’t as scary as I’d thought it would be. We had the lights pretty low. Too low it turned out. We had to retake the photos another night. Plus I noticed that I still had sock lines because I’d forgotten to take them off beforehand. Yeah, I was worried about sock lines! When I looked at the photos, I expected to feel some “ick – is that me?” But I didn’t. I’m no beauty. And as I just typed that, I paused. Because there it is. That shame. Still. It’s not gone. Maybe it never will be.
Humans are complex creatures. I like complex. I like messy. Always have. Nothing’s more unsatisfying than an ending tied up neatly with a bow. Writers who revel in the erotic, are ones who venture into territory that makes many people uncomfortable. But we’re right there, looking closely at what makes others squirm. I like that.
One of my favorite lines is from Joni Mitchell’s song Case of You: “I’m frightened by the devil/and I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid.” One of the first poems I wrote was titled “Magnets” – about being equally attracted and repelled. That’s been me and sex, in a nutshell. It’s scared me, but it has an incredibly strong pull. That’s why I know I’ll spend the rest of my life writing about it. It’s funny, sometimes I wonder if people think this is a “phase” I’m going through. And once it’s run its course I’ll turn to other more socially acceptable writing. Maybe a cookbook? Or at least happy poems that rhyme. Maybe, but I’m pretty sure the rich, naughty stuff is here to stay.
slow soft nape of neck
to hard tip of tailbone
at the speed
Oh, I still get afraid. Often, actually. I’ll do something daring, then spring back like a bungee jumper. I’ll be brave, then become a frightened child again. But I can’t stop pushing. I’ll probably do the recoil thing after this post goes up. Why?
Because … how dare I bare my body and soul in this manner?
I’ve come to believe that it is the shame we drape over ourselves that causes more damage than that which causes the shame in the first place. So, fuck shame.
“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” ~ Audre Lorde
Though it was almost twenty years ago that Robin penned her first bit of erotica, it wasn’t until a year and a half ago that Erobintica ventured out into the world. She took on that nickname (given by a friend), started a blog (by the same name), sent out that old story (revised of course) and got it published in Coming Together: Al Fresco, sent out others (most rejected), slowly showing more and more of her whole self to the world. It’s been a trip and a half. With no regrets. Robin also writes and publishes poetry and essays and is at work on a novel. She is not afraid to eat crow.