I think it's time for an open discussion about being a "middle aged" woman. As I rapidly approach my 40's, I am discovering that the world has some pretty deep seeded impressions of what it means, or what it "should" mean, to be a middle aged woman. And these impressions are incongruent with my reality and the reality of most of my friends. So, I think it's time to lay it all out there because it's a message that needs to be heard by the masses - or at least by the 5 people who will actually read this. :)
This past weekend I went on a mom's weekend away and hung out with 4 of the most vibrant, outrageously funny, energetic and wickedly smart women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We are all "middle aged." And *gasp* - alarmingly - this did not stop us from having the time of our life. At one point during our stay at a gorgeous hotel with insanely perfect window light, I spontaneously decided to do a Boudoir shoot; as the model rather than the photographer. It was definitely a dramatic shift for me as I'm always the one capturing these types of images, and not remotely accustomed to being in front of the camera under any circumstances, much less these. Having said that, the only momentary awkwardness had to do with me accpeting that I would not be in control of the camera rather than the fact that I was posing semi-nude in front of 4 other women for the purpose of some really sexy images.
After the shoot, I giddily mentioned on FB that I had done a Boudoir session, but not as the photographer. At one point, a friend half-jokingly posted that I must be going through a mid-life crisis. And while her comment was genuinely made in jest and with no intention of being derogatory, it still upset me insomuch that I found it aggravating that society seems to have placed some sort of arbitrary age limit to a woman being able to BE sexy, FEEL sexy and OWN her sexy.
There ended up being a very heated debate on my FB post about "middle aged" women doing boudoir sessions and I felt that the commentary was so poignant and valid that it needed to be shared. The assertion that any woman of a certain age must be going through some sort of "crisis" if she wants to engage in a playful boudoir session was quite firmly laid to rest. It is my inherent belief that boudoir sessions are actually best tailored to women who have finally come to a place in their life where they are completely at ease with their body and themselves. Quite frankly, it takes a woman who has raised a child, nursed or rocked a baby to sleep, given up sleep for years on end, cradled a sick child with her strong and capable arms and been puked on once or twice to fully appreciate what she is capable of, how truly amazing she is and how incredible her body really is. A body which has LIVED many a year, and SURVIVED any number of situations/afflictions, and GIVEN LIFE or SUSTAINED life, is one that can be fully appreciated by its owner. It is in part thanks to the journey of motherhood that women gain the kind of authentic and liberating self confidence that makes them utterly invincible. We don't just THINK we are superheroes, we KNOW we are.
In the interest of sharing other people's opinions on this rather than just my own (clearly biased) appraisal of the situation, I'm going to share some excepts from the thread. I realize that not everyone will agree with what is said here and that's perfectly fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion! But I do believe we do women a tragic disservice when we box them into preconceived notions of what they can or cannot do, how they should or shouldn't behave. One of my favorite quotes of all time is: "Well behaved women rarely make history." Naturally, I am not encouraging illegal behavior here, but merely stating that it is sometimes necessary to go against the norm and to follow one's heart when choosing to live a healthy, happy and enriching life to its full potential. For me personally, as I emerge from one of the most challenging transitions in my life, having intensely focused all my energies and attention onto helping my children navigate the choppy waters of a divorce, I am finding it more important than ever to make sure I am also meeting my own needs and filling my tank so that I can keep chugging along this sometimes overwhelmingly difficult path of being a single working mom. Being able to get away for a few days and recharge my battery, have fun with my girlfriends, go dancing til dawn and OWN that part of me that is NOT a mommy is undeniably healthy and necessary. All moms should allow themselves the right to do that. Without worrying about being judged by anyone else, and especially not by other moms. Ultimately, I can't help but whole-heartedly believe that Boudoir sessions were MEANT for middle aged women. I have never felt more capable, strong, fit, in charge of my own destiny, independent, happy, sexy, healthy, fulfilled and CONFIDENT in my life than I do right now. And when you feel that on the INSIDE, it shows on the OUTSIDE. And that's Boudoir magic right there, baby.
"Celebrating your femininity, strength and beauty is nothing to EVER be ashamed of. I'd rather see photos of real, beautiful, wise and SEXY women who have worked their asses off for not only a great body, but for real happiness, than skinny, starved, waifish twenty-somethings that have no IDEA what it means to be a real woman."
"I think it is amazing. You have worked so hard to make healthy choice in ALL aspects of your life. I am very, very proud of you. I know the courage it took for you to get on the other side of the camera and what a great experience for both you and Julie. Beautiful art you two!"
"Quite frankly, women in their 20's just DO NOT have their shit together enough to rock out a boudoir session."
"Celebrating one's hard earned body and strong sense of self should never be classified as a midlife crisis."
"I rather enjoy being so comfortable in my own skin and at a stage in my life where I am no longer encumbered by the insecurities of inexperienced youthfulness."
"Going through a huge transition in life and having beautiful, classy, intimate photos of yourself is all part of your rebirth and celebration of the incredibly beautiful person that you are, inside AND out. If only we could all find the acceptance and appreciation for our own bodies and lives that you have found for yours!"
And with Valentine's Day coming up, I cannot possibly think of a better gift for a woman to give herself (and I'm sure her significant other wouldn't mind them either!) than a Boudoir session. Isn't it about time you harnessed all that Warrior Goddess Spirit inside you and let her shine?!
And I'll finish up with one PG image from my session. :)
@Copyright Julie A. Martin Photography