We're going to make buttons for the next conference. "I got naked for jo(e)." Or perhaps t-shirts. "I stripped for the blog." Maine Blogger suggested a graphic — butt cheeks that look like mountains, perhaps, or legs curved like tree branches. Really, we want some kind of symbol to encourage community amongst the elite crowd who have posed nude for my camera. Right now, they have only comment boxes in which to draw butt cracks in the sand.
Blogging tradition dictates that my conference roommate pose naked. But Maine Blogger had already posed for me last February. So I enlisted her help in coercing friends to strip for the blog. I have to say that the task was surprisingly easy. Perhaps it was the slumber party atmosphere in our room. (It was the first time Maine Blogger and I had ever roomed together: the first time, in fact, that she'd ever had a conference roommate, unless you count her husband, which I don't. "You will always be my first," she said to me in the airport as we parted.)
So many people are clamoring to pose naked for the blog that we're thinking we might need to have auditions for my next conference, which will be the Friendly Green Conference in June. Friendly Green Folk, perhaps because they do stuff like white water rafting and caving and hiking in the rain, are awfully cooperative when it comes to taking off their clothes.
We had time for two photo shoots. We could have done more, but there was this whole conference going on. I had to keep going to all these readings and booksigning. (Hey, not my fault at all. Tell my friends to stop publishing so damned many books.)
Our first volunteer was Yoga Poet. Well, perhaps volunteer is too strong of a word. But really, she came to our room of her own free will. And I got right to the point, "How about if you get naked, climb onto the desk, and do some kind of yoga pose?" To her credit, she acted like that was a perfectly reasonable request. We caught her at a good time; she was waiting anxiously for a phone call announcing that her next grandchild had been born, and so she was too distracted to protest.
She chose something called paschimothanasana, a seated forward bend. And of course, the pose was incredible because Yoga Poet is not only beautiful, but ridiculously flexible. Seriously, look at that photo and try to make your body bend like that. I tried and my upper body didn't come even close to touching my legs. (And yes, she *is* a grandmother. I'm guessing that photo doesn't match the stereotype of a grandmotherly academic.)
Afterwards, we gathered around the computer and discussed the photos on the screen. "I'm glad you left the bracelets on — they're lovely." We were still giggling and looking at the nude shots when a knock sounded on the door. It was Artist Friend, who was meeting us for lunch. Have I mentioned before that Artist Friend is a guy? Yoga Poet slipped into the bathroom to put her clothes back on, while my lovely assistant escorted Artist Friend to the chair where he was allowed to sit while we women finished looking at the photos.
"Don't worry, I'm used to this," Artist Friend said, rolling his eyes. Yeah, he and I have been conference friends for years. Nothing surprises him anymore. So he stepped into the cloud of estrogen and obediently sat in the chair while we debated which photo to use.
"The first one – where I'm still wearing the towel – is actually a better photo than the completely naked ones," Yoga Poet said.
"It's the light. The clouds had moved in by the time we were taking the naked ones."
"No, it's the drape of the towel. I like that."
"But this is not a purely aesthetic project," argued Maine Blogger. "There is some value to being totally naked."
"I like the line of your body. There is no space between your upper body and legs."
Our second photo shoot involved Jaybird. That's her last name. Her first name is Nakedasa. Yes, that's what happens when you let friends choose their own pseudonyms.
By then it was Saturday, and we'd all been crazily busy, going to sessions and meeting up with friends and trying to talk to ten people all at once. So it was quite relaxing to gather in a hotel room and lounge on the bed with the camera, discussing lighting and angles, while Jaybird relaxed on a chair in front of the window, stark naked.
Artist Friend again arrived for lunch at just the wrong moment, and we made him first stand outside the room until the photo shoot was done, and then sit in the sequestered chair while we looked at the photos. If he felt excluded — well, it was his own fault. We offered to let him take his clothes off and join the exclusive "I've posed naked for jo(e) club" but he stubbornly refused to remove even his coat. There's a reason that my blog is the number three google hit for "photos of naked middle-aged women." They are the ones who think nothing of stripping for the camera.
The photo of Jaybird was lovely, of course. And it was taken on February 14th, which made it that much more special. I told her she could send it to her sweetheart. With a nice message: "Hi dear! Sorry we couldn't be together on Valentine's Day. But don't worry, I got naked with jo(e) instead."
(Readers who are mystified by this post and want to know the history of the naked photo tradition can check it out here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.)