The Stories Written Upon Our Skin

Billions of dollars a year are spent on advertising in this country to teach us one thing; that we are invariably Stupid, Ugly and we Smell Bad. That message starts when we are barely old enough to talk. We are taught what to buy and what to use to give us flawless skin with nary a blemish or a wrinkle; never showing a single sign that we’ve aged.  We’re told to go pay professionals to remove the scars that are the signs of our adventures and misadventures.   We’re told we must smell like flowers or citrus or spices, but not like people.  And most of all, we are told that we don’t get to decide what is pretty, or what smells we enjoy or what things we believe. The bright shining loud people in the flat box attached to the wall get to tell us that.  We’re too stupid to know, to decide, to live without their aid and comfort and most importantly, their products. The real sin in their message, though, is that it teaches us that our life’s story isn’t one worth telling.   We can write things down on paper or make movies or tell stories, but that’s only a description of a story.  The real story of our life is written in the blemishes and the scars on our skin.  The real story is in the textures and shapes of our bodies.  The real story of our lives is written on the parchment of our bodies and those blemishes and scars and shapes and stretch marks and baby chewed breasts are the words that story is written with.

The ultimate beauty of a person can only be seen when you can read that story and learn to love that story.  Why would we let some talking head in a box or manipulated lifelike manikin in a picture in a magazine keep us from letting that story show forth in our skin, our posture, every wrinkle and sag and roll and stretch mark and blemish?  Our life is sacred, our stories are beautiful, our lives are worth living and loving and sharing.

I have the incredible privilege of knowing a woman who has never been taken in by the bright people in the box.  Her life is a hard one that if written out in a script, it would make you weep.  But through that struggle to survive, she learned not just to cope, but to *live*.   She’s had spouses and divorces. She’s had children and struggled to feed and clothe them.She’s been as near destitute as you can get and nearly lost her life to a simple, common infection.  She survived all of that and lives today with that story written upon her body.   It’s as beautiful and as harsh and as soft and as stark as the marks and blemishes and scars she’ll carry with her the rest of her life.

I have attempted to capture a few short phrases of that story here to share with all of you. Her identity is hidden, by her request, and by my choice. Her name is not her story; it is a label. The photos exhibited here are purposely stark, textured, even harsh. No attempt to pretty them up and in most cases very minimal processing was done at all. Who is she? She is every-woman. She is your sister, your mother, your neighbor, your child.  She is you.

As you view this gallery of photos, look at her not as a model in photo studio, but as a book begging to be read, to be deciphered, to be experienced. I will not put my own labels on these photos. I want you, the viewer, to read this story and find your own symbols in the blemishes, in the scars, in the stretch marks.  Then, when you’re done, go find a mirror and start reading your own story and loving and experiencing your own life.   You’re too precious a being, too holy a person,  to divine a soul to do anything else.

The photos here are of the nude form and not safe for work in most places. View them at your discretion.

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