This long gaze and wide view of me makes me tremble. There are no slights of hand here, no cut of a shadow or kiss of a sunbeam to contour my shape. I feel more exposed in this open frame than in all of my thousands of arm’s length, close-up photos. You can actually see me.
I believe that confidence is a mix of a magic feather and willing audience. They want to see me fly and so I fly. High and light and beautiful above them, gripping my feather tight because it can’t possibly be real, this unconditional appreciation and love.
When I was 10 my little heart was ground to a pulp by a silly boy and a group of heckling friends. They didn’t believe in me except my gullibility. I was detestable, an easy target. That wasn’t the thing that broke me, but it was by far the most memorable – and earliest – instance when I felt unacceptable.
Growing up in this world that presents a very narrow path to society’s acceptance – skinny, young, pouty lips, clear skin, big tits, shiny hair, fun, funny, pretty, easy, cool, sweet, and and and – I suffered like most of us do. I wasn’t special in that narrative. I hated everything about my body. My hair color, my ass, my little breasts. I never wanted to be what I was.
Then I began to find my audience as I grew older. No one was kicking me out of bed. I may not have been stopping traffic, but I seemed to be holding my own. Boys in bars and men online and folks online, people whose acceptance of me was never narrow treated me like I was a desirable, beautiful woman.
It took a while – 36 years to be exact – but I finally discovered the equation to feel 7 feet tall: a little cleavage and a controlled image plus an approving audience equals a performance that even I could believe in. It was as if I believed in them believing in me which helped me believe in myself. I truly am not an island: I need you all.
I worry sometimes about the passage of time and my inevitable move away from the narrow definition of attractiveness and this self-esteem equation but perhaps by then I will have shifted things around. Less audience, more just me. I’ve seen enough little old ladies with white chin hairs like dorsal fins above the water’s surface to know that it could happen.
For now it looks like something like this: Some Hy x my mood + some audience approval = a confident, relaxed Hy. My mood is the variable that affects the need for audience approval. For example, had I not gotten laid February 1st after taking a months worth of long-view photos for this project I may have taken a hit right in the gut and stayed in bed for the weekend periodically wondering how anyone can stand being around me.
But I didn’t have to worry about that because my smoke and mirrors worked in person, too, and I got to rub my hands all over his chiseled abs even as my soft thighs spread down around on either side of hips. My act so seamless and sublime that he didn’t now he was really with a dumpy middle-aged woman. He truly thought he was with a voluptuous goddess that night. And so did I. Because I am.