This past week, I got naked in front of strangers. Twice.
Let me explain.
On Thursday, I released my second book. Whenever you put a piece of art out into the world, it’s always scary. You are suddenly under the harsh, critical eyes of the public. People who don’t necessarily understand that you literally ripped your heart out and splattered it across 120 or so pages. People who don’t necessarily understand what goes into writing and publishing a book (hint: it’s really fucking hard). You’d think I’d be used to it by now considering this wasn’t my first rodeo, but it was still completely and utterly terrifying. Still is, especially considering I haven’t read any reviews yet (please be nice!).
On Friday, I got naked again; this time in the literal sense. In two weeks, I will be the Maid (er, Matron) of Honor in my best friend’s wedding, and I decided I wanted to do one of those super divalicious airbrush spray tans for the occassion. I’m normally pretty pale, and I’m wearing a black dress, so rather than risk skin cancer and wind up looking like a lobster, or worse — attempt my own self-tanning job which would most likely result in orange striped hands, I am opting for a gorgeous golden glow a la “fake and bake.”
Now, in order to get the most from this really bizarre experience of being hosed down with brown goo, it’s best to get sprayed in as little clothing as possible, for obvious reasons. And really, who wants tan lines if you can avoid them? The thought of stripping down to nothing but a pair of underwear in front of a complete and total stranger scared the living shit out of me. Especially since this isn’t a quick flashing. You’re 90% naked in front of this person, for a good fifteen minutes, bending over, arms up in the air, tits flailing, and posing in all sorts of strange positions in front of a HUGE BRIGHT LIGHT. In short, it’s absolutely horrifying.
But I was desperate to not only get my glow on, but overcome this fear I had of bearing it all. The only person who has seen me naked in a good four years is my husband, and I don’t even wear a two-piece bathing suit on the beach. I’m usually strategically posed and draped in a sarong, one hand on a cocktail and wearing massive sunglasses so I don’t have to make eye contact with anyone who may be surveying my thighs.
Despite my anxiety, I forged ahead and showed up for my appointment, ready for whatever was ahead of me. Luckily this place was an exclusive, one-woman operation, so it wasn’t packed with chatty customers or front desk girls. The woman who answered the door was the one who sprayed me, and there was nobody else in the place but us. Phew.
She immediately showed me my changing area, told me to strip down, and meet her “over there.” As I saw her point to “over there” I could feel a lump in my throat form and my heart begin to beat out of my chest. The tanning area looked like a giant empty stage to me with a harsh, bright light pointed at it, and I suddenly felt really, really sympathetic toward the people who perform on American Idol.
“Sure!” I said, closing the curtain and beginning to mentally pep talk myself in the mirror. You can do this. You’re going to look so Brazillian when you’re done. It’ll be worth it. Your cellulite will be history! Once I got somewhat of a grip, I stepped onto the sticky foot pads in nothing but an electric orange lace thong, slid the curtain open, and made my way to the stage.
The girl was waiting for me with a giant smile plastered across her face (I’m sure she was trying to make me feel at ease, but it only made me more nervous). “Okay great! Hands on boobs. Elbows up. Here we go!” she instructed. I suddenly felt like a flight attendant preparing the main cabin for take-off.
She began spraying me with the tan concoction, and within a minute I suddenly felt totally normal. We chatted about the weather and my upcoming event (always an ice breaker). The fact that my boobs were covered at first helped ease me into things, but my world was quickly shattered again as she told me to turn around. “Okay, give me a little bend, babe,” she said. I cringed. I was about to literally have my ass in another woman’s face. How did I get here? I thought. Think Brazilian glow, think Brazillian glow.
We repeated this little Vogueing session three times, and by the end I kind of felt like a pro at being in the buff. After making some small talk and cracking a few jokes, I almost forgot I didn’t have any clothes on.
“Go take a look!” she said, pointing me to a full-length mirror. I surveyed my newly bronzed body and really liked the way I looked.
“It looks awesome!” I said.
I dried off in a room full of high-powered fans for about five minutes, and as I put my clothes back on, I took a minute to feel really proud of myself for facing my fear. I know it may not be a big deal to most people, but after having struggled with my body image for so many years, this was really huge for me. When the girl came back to make sure I was dry, we chatted for a few minutes. I felt totally at ease. Liberated, even.
There’s something about “baring it all” that is good for the soul. We’re always so self-conscious about putting ourselves out there for fear of judgement and criticism. Maybe we all need to be vulnerable a little more often and realize that it actually kinda feels good. Maybe it took this experience to remind me that even if we aren’t perfect, we’re beautiful for letting it all hang out.
Maybe getting naked was exactly what I needed.