Painted Lady

A few years back, I was 30-something woman who was recently divorced, left to raise two children on my own and who was hellbent on not creating the same shitty relationship I had in the past. Part of the un-learning I was doing was directly tied to my sexuality & sexual expression. A number of incidents when I was a young girl imprinted in my mind that sexuality was dirty, shameful and something that should be kept hidden. In my family, sexuality wasn’t something that was openly discussed, unless it was gossip and scorn. My sexuality was, in my mind, my dark side. A secret to be kept hidden. Something that I didn’t acknowledge, much less express.

I spent the first decade of my adulthood in a Christian church environment, where the message that sexuality is wrong was pounded in my head. The desire to be touched? Carnal and must be surrendered to God. The desire to have intimate connection with a loving partner? Nothing more than the devil tempting you. Women who had sex were slut-shamed, stamped with a scarlet letter & left outside on the fringes. I continued to shove my sexual, sensual self into a closet that I would only let out occasionally (and usually when I had a drink or two, cause then I could blame the alcohol).

It wasn’t until my marriage came to a crash landing & I realized how much of myself I had given away to be accepted & “loved”, even though “love” that disallows ones full expression is hardly love at all. I began peeling back the layers of who I had become, this persona I had adopted, and started exploring other options. Maybe, being a sensual woman wasn’t the cardinal sin. Maybe a woman can be sexual without being scandalous. Maybe…

One night, I attended an event called the “Erotic Ball” in downtown Denver. For anyone who knew me at the time, this was a HUGE stretch. I mean, just a year prior I was at church 3 times a week and here I was attending a fetish ball. I put on a mild costume (cause I still wasn’t that brave), be sure to put on a mask so my face wasn’t revealed & went with my friend. While there, I came across a body painting station with a wonderful woman named Mythica. I screwed up my courage, opened my corset & Mythica painted the most beautiful wings across my chest. After the painting was done, I left the paint station & walked around the bar with my friend with my corset wide open, painted wings proudly for the anyone to see. When I was getting painted, I was terrified. I wasn’t sure what people would think of me. I wasn’t sure that I would have the balls to show anyone. I wasn’t sure that I could bear the destruction of my old belief system that the body should be kept hidden. But with every step I took, an old belief that didn’t serve me anymore fell away. My self-concept was radically shifting as I realized that I could be essentially exposed & accepted. I had always tied nakedness with sexuality but that night, with my breasts exposed, I was embraced by people who didn’t see nakedness (or paint) or a sexual object. This was the first time in my life that I didn’t connect my sexual expression with shame. THE FIRST TIME. What happened that night was profound for me. It was a key point of my own liberation. I took back my sexuality, sensuality and rejected the shame that had been heaped upon me by myself & others.

Now, 3 years later, I am coming back to revisit that place. I have scheduled a session with Mythica to be painted again, except this time, I’m getting photographed. I won’t share the art idea yet (you’ll have to wait for pictures) but this session is hugely symbolic for me. I will be, once again, laying myself bare. As Mythica paints my body, she will be helping me to expose my soul. This process reminds me of what Rollo May said: Thus every experience of creativity has its potentiality of aggression or denial toward other persons in one’s environment or established patterns within one’s self. To put the matter figuratively, in every experience of creativity something in the past is killed that something new in the present may be born.

Here’s to new life. Stay tuned.

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