See the little girl in this picture – she’s me. She’s happy, smiling, dressed in a cute little dress, tights and shoes, and she’s a little bit nervous and self-protective. Years have passed, but she’s still inside me. I carry her with me and as composed as I may or may not be on the outside, she is always there. I know this little girl, I identify with her.
Today, I attended the second half of the Self-Portraiture workshop for which I created the photos I’ve been sharing on the blog. We had eight minutes to present our projects and discuss them. My dialogue between my adult and child selves met with good response. The workshop leader asked me if I had any trouble connecting with my child self. I didn’t. In many ways it is easier for me to connect with the child than the adult. Maybe it’s because I know that the little girl standing nervously on the side of her foot, arms wrapped around her is still a big part of who I am.
The big surprise of this portraiture project and of this blog has been coming to terms with the woman I am now. I have written about my ambivalence toward my body and perhaps with that comes a disconnection to other parts of my self, primarily to seeing myself fully as a woman and not solely as this little girl. It surprised me when readers started commenting on my strong portrayal of women on the blog and counted me among them. It surprised me more when I realized it was true. Another reader commented on the feminist dialogue occurring here and again I was taken aback and saw that it was true.
Among the things I have written about and draw me to them are the ideas of paradox and dichotomy – finding strength in weakness, the woman in the little girl, the girl in the woman, the strength in both.
Another surprise with this project has been viewing the adult shots and seeing aspects of myself I didn’t know existed. Many of the photos I look at and recognize myself, but some of them I saw and said, “Is that me? Do I really look like that? Can I really look like that?” Some of them pleasantly surprised me.
The adult shot below is one of them. At the end of today’s discussion, a number of people commented on the sensuality of this picture, one saying it looked like I was getting ready to dance at a Moroccan dance club. I told them that this was one of the pictures I included because I liked the way I looked, but that it was not a version of myself that I am used to seeing. But perhaps it can be. Perhaps I am learning to drop my guard and embrace new aspects of myself. Perhaps that’s what it means to grow and be a woman.