About a year ago, I was sifting through the drafts of my Home Office book (which were conveniently spread across the floor) when I got an out-of-the-blue phone call.

“Hallo!” I said to the caller at the other end.

My friend bypassed the niceties, saying, “Are you at your computer?”

“It’s writing season so that’s kind of a dumb question,” I responded.

I’m not a big fan of exes and staying friends with any of mine is not on my list of “must dos.” In fact, I only have two on my list with whom I remain (distantly) close and friendly. D is one of them. With a decade of age between us and countless other factors, including distance, which made our dating almost impossible, we both amicably agreed to remain friends. His logical, stable, sane, and intellectual wit were coupled with loyalty, honesty, and integrity. In short,  it is really hard not to like the guy. So when he calls, I answer.

D hates social media, emailing, and texting. In fact, I remember getting a fax from him several years ago just as a reminder that he and the internet were not compatible. Funny but totally impractical! But on this day, he surprised me. “Type in this website and tell me what you think.”

I entered the URL that he gave me. “Are you dating someone on this site?”

“No, but you need to do this.”

I thought he was joking. “Do what?” I asked.

What he suggested  is that I spend a day with Becky Z Photography for a boudoir photo session and take part in the photographer’s annual 40 Over 40, a professionally crafted art exhibit and publication dedicated to the beauty of women over the age of 40. Becky brings a tasteful approach to helping women see themselves as they truly are.

“Don’t be ridiculous. No one wants to see me like that.” I shrugged it off.

“Well, you’re wrong for starters, but I want you to see you like that.” He was persistent. “Just call her and get the details. I think you should do this for yourself.”

I agreed to make the phone call in hopes of being discarded like yesterday’s news. Nope, I made the cut and was scheduled for a January shoot. “Great,” I thought to myself. “I have 3 months to find lingerie to wear to a photo shoot.”

While I was initially annoyed with him, I knew why he wanted me to proceed. After thirty years of failed relationships, I found myself sitting at a dinner table with him last year and told him that I was not lovable and finally was at a point of realizing it. He looked at me, frowned, and said, “That’s utter Bull-!”

I spent the next hour trying to convince him by repeating a number of breakup statements I’ve heard  while I was being fired from relationships. (I even threw in ones that were hurled at me when I did the firing!) He sat back in his chair for a minute, then leaned forward to wipe the tears from my face with his thumbs. “Your problem isn’t you. It’s how you’ve allowed others to devalue you. You’ve put up with crap from so many people, for so long, it’s all you know. You forgot who you really are. Let’s find you again. I like who you are, always have.”

Reluctantly, I followed through on his (demand) request and finally gave in to the idea that I needed to muster the courage to power through it. After weeks of agonizing over what to wear, I finally packed up roughly twelve things to take to my shoot.

Upon arrival, Becky made me feel welcome and secure. She explained the process again and told me that women from the ages of 40-80 have participated in this program and each has a story of strength and courage to tell. I would be no different.

Strangely, I enjoyed the entire process. Two hours in professional hair and makeup and then another 1.5 in studio. Seven outfit changes and hundreds of awkward poses later, my new modeling career was over — short-lived but fun. I had no expectations of the outcome but was glad that I had decided to go.

I received a call that night from my friend. “Did you do it?”

“Yes, it’s done,” I replied.

“Call me after the viewing session.” He hung up.

A few weeks later, I arrived at Becky’s studio for the unveiling. When she called to make the appointment, Becky kept saying how fantastic my pictures were and how beautiful I was. “Yep, sure, I bet you say that to all the models.” I thought to myself.

As I walked through the studio door, I noticed the big-screen T.V.  with a photo shoot picture displayed. The woman was wearing a blue and black bikini with her head draped backwards across the bed. Her eyes glistened like gold and her skin was flawless as her long brown curled tresses flowed around her face.

I couldn’t control my reaction. “Wow! That woman is simply amazing! Did she just leave? Oh My Gawd, she’s gotta be thrilled with this!”

Becky looked at me and said, “Mia that’s you.”

I raised my eyebrows and dropped my jaw as I stared into my own eyes. “No, that…that can’t be right.” Tears welled up in my eyes.

“Yes! That is YOU! Look at how beautiful you are! Your spirit just shines through the entire shoot! You’re gorgeous.”

I sat down on the couch and watched as she streamed the countless pics across the screen. One by one, I saw a different side of me that I did not recognize.  Then it hit me. D wanted me to see what I could not. It is the soul and not the flesh that makes one beautiful. Together, Becky and I built my album and discussed which photos should be used in the magazine and the exhibit. I thanked her for giving me a gift that I would have never given to myself. For the first time in my life, I saw me. It wasn’t the sultry lingerie or the makeup and professional ‘do, but it was the way that those things made me feel about myself that changed me that day. For once, I did not feel ashamed to be feminine, or afraid to bare a little more skin, or even to flirt a bit more (even if it was only with a camera).

That day was the first building block in restoring my self-confidence following a legacy of “just not good enough” fueled by people who I thought loved me. Since that day, I’ve taken back my power and am repairing the damage from letting others tear me down to leave me in a pile on the floor as they walked over me. This experience allowed me to open the door for healing and return me to me.

As promised, I called D on my way home from the viewing. His assistant answered and said he was on another call but asked me to wait because he was expecting me. Two minutes later, he got on the line and said, “So…how did it go?”

I had to pull the car over into a nearby grocery store lot to talk to him. I bawled like a child and thanked him for pushing me to take this leap.

“I wanted you to see you the way that I do. Strong. Beautiful. Independent. Resilient.”

Mission accomplished. I committed to showing him my pictures when I received them. “OK. but I’ve seen you in your underwear, so this won’t be new input for me.” Always the pragmatic one he is…

This summer we met up for breakfast when D was in town. I realized that I didn’t bring the album with me but had the link to the photos on my phone so I handed it to him so he could see them. He smiled as he scrolled through the pics and at the end kissed my hand. “Gorgeous! Well done,” He smiled. “I’m glad to finally see the entire portfolio.” He waved to the waitress for a coffee refill.

“What? Entire portfolio? Have you seen these?” I asked.

Realizing that he now owed me an explanation, he added, “Oh, you don’t know…you made the studio website…baby, you’re a star.” He winked at me as he sipped his refreshed java.

“What!?” I didn’t know whether to be elated or mortified. I pulled up Becky’s URL and there I was in the same black and blue bikini shot from my viewing. “Well, there’s no putting that toothpaste back in the tube!” I laughed.”

“Nor would you want to!” D replied. “Just remember who your agent is.”

We both laughed.

“Now everyone can see you the way I do,” he added as he brushed hair away from my face. We parted ways after he walked me to my car. Content that he helped me to start putting the pieces back together, he got back on the road and headed east. We’d see each other again for the holidays he promised. I promised to bring my photogenic smile and on-camera spirit. From now on, I will forever and unapologetically be me.

For any woman in the Dallas Forth Worth area who would like to schedule with Becky, please visit her website for details. You may just recognize someone you know.


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