I’ve spent most of my life feeling homely and insecure. As my feelings of self-worth slowly grew, my body and face aged, and by the time I finally liked myself as a person, I was embarrassed by my body.
A local art school needed an unclothed model for a 6-week sculpture course. They wanted realism, code for “not a centerfold.” Elderly was good.
I was ready for a new experience.
I entered the studio wearing only earrings, a head scarf, and a robe, carrying a small hand drum. I took my seat on the platform and dropped the robe. I didn’t look down at myself, because that would have made me want to cover up and bolt.
I sat motionless for hours, with short scheduled breaks. “Realism,” I reminded myself. “This is what a woman of my age looks like.” I watched the students study me while their hands worked the clay. At every table, I saw little images of me develop and take on form. Like me, the little figures bulged and drooped, looking like little old ladies. Nude little old ladies, holding drums.
As my eye traveled from figure to figure, I saw that they all looked very much alike, and - they were beautiful. Beautiful little old ladies, sitting with their shoulders back and their heads up, looking proud of who they were.
I fell in love with all of them, and at the end of the course I bought one of the figures, who now sits on a sideboard in my living room - head up and tilted to the side, eyes closed, hands on her drum. She is a mature, giving woman, with a strong back and graceful hands, and a body that bespeaks decades of living.
The poet Robert Burns wrote, “O wud the gods the gif tie gie us, to see oursils as others see us.” A gift, to see ourselves through the eyes of others.
I feel beautiful.