#1 I’m just getting comfortable. Since moving to Alachua in August of 2008, big changes have taken place in my life. I feel like I finally moved out of the ashrama, and for better or for worse, have rejoined society. Personally I feel it is for better, since I have the responsibility of raising two kids in society…and I don’t want to miss a beat.
I have definitely shed most of my fundamentalist beliefs and am riding the pendulum to the other side, back to my more radical self, which feels oh so comfortable, like putting on a pair of well worn 4 inch wedge heels after spending the past 12 years in slip on kitchen shoes 😉
Nevertheless, I haven’t hit the thrift shops looking for my old mini skirts or see-through lacey tops a’ la’ early-80s Madonna. I am a 34 year old mother, after all. I wear bows in my hair like an aging school girl–that’s my idea of being age appropriately tarty these days. For the first time since seventh grade I have bought a bathing suit after going to the springs and feeling a bit overdressed in my multiple layers of mis-matched impromptu swim clothing. Parts of my body which have never seen the sun since childhood have gotten burnt. And the sky hasn’t fallen in on anyone as a result.
Still, it is something I am learning to negotiate. I feel inappropriate around other devotees in my swimwear. But hey, they are in theirs. I remember living in the temple and being grossed out by the men who would wear a dhoti and no top cloth. Like walking around in a towel (there were even some who would walk around the temple in their gamcha as if they were in the brahmacari ashram in Vrindavan). Grody. But here I am. Eating pasta salad in a bikini with a towel wrapped around me, talking to a friend’s husband in his swim trunks, no shirt, chomping on corn. It’s still awkward and I am highly self-conscious about it.
Taking these pictures helps me feel at ease with the situation. I am most comfortable with things that make me uncomfortable if I talk about them. If I bring it to the forefront. And then when I become comfortable with it, I don’t even think twice about it. No, I’m not silent on the matter, I just talk about it more and more without much notice. By taking these pictures I am letting you know that I know that this is awkward. For all of us. And I am hoping it will make us all more comfortable with one another. Or something like that.
#2 Don’t We All Look Good? I took these pictures because I am truly fascinated by the human form. Bodies amaze me. So many different varieties. And they are all beautiful. And even if I don’t personally find them beautiful, I know that someone else out there does.
Growing up I was pretty much always covered up. I hung out with a group of guys in high school. It was more comfortable for me (and for them) to just be one of the guys. I dressed like them, talked like them…all to the detriment of developing a confident feminine identity. We were not beach goers, so swimwear was hardly an issue. But the times that we did hit the water together, I did so wearing denim cut-offs (most likely below the knee) and some oversized cotton shirt from The Gap. I wasn’t around other girls and really didn’t get a good look at their bodies. I was all alone with my own form, unable to compare or contrast. Unaware of what was normal (which is everything!!!).
So now, when I see bodies, yeah…I look. I’m amazed. I’m intrigued. Which leads me to..
#3 I Like Reality I think a bit of skin is a good thing to show in this culture. I don’t mean in a skanky way. But in a “European” way (LOL). It would have been good for me as a young woman to see real bodies, as opposed to just the plasticized, air brushed bodies of celebrity women, looking more and more perfect in their 70’s than I ever looked in my twenties.
I enjoy being around people comfortable with themselves. It helps me be comfortable with myself. I appreciate men and women of different sizes, complexions and textures feeling okay with their God-given form. Stretch marks, cellulite, excess body hair, pimples and dimples…this is real life, baby!
And I think it is good for my kids. At first they were kind of shocked that, as they put it, I was out in public “in [my] underwear, showing [my] milk.” Hey, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But my opinion is that bodies shouldn’t be such a huge mystery. I’m 34 years old and just beginning to see what people really look like. It would have been helpful if I had this education earlier in life. At 16 any curiosity about other bodies, especially of the same gender as you, is promptly met with accusations of homosexuality. To that I give a big high school DUH!!!!
I know in Indian culture, the idea is to be chaste. To be covered up. But I have to say that the most skin I have seen over my years of being a devotee was in India. Boobs and butts. Legs and tummies. Indian streets are a display of flesh, but not fantasy. At least to me, the real life nudity was never a source of eroticism. Skin diseases, deformities, sagginess, new babiness–different stages of human existence lining the streets of villages and cities. Now, I am not saying we should all just drop trow and take a dump in the middle of the street, but I am saying we should be a little more forgiving of our own bodily faults and a little more realistic about what’s covering our soul.
#4 I Want to Give Them Something to Talk About In case you didn’t know, I like Facebook. I think it is a good forum to share and exchange ideas and, depending on your friend list, you may even be exposed to a whole new way of thinking/way of life/etc. How fun!
For some of my friends on FB, topless shots would not even warrant an eyelash bat. Boring, to say the least. For some, say…the Hare Krishna ones–these pics may confirm to people my low brow status. Or maybe validate the idea that I just want to be shocking. Personally, I have little interest in being shocking. To me, that’s boring.
But I don’t find conversation boring. I think it is good for stuff to be out there and for people to discuss amongst themselves. I think it is good for people to think about things. About what things mean to them on a very personal level. You don’t have to share it on a blog or on Facebook (we all have our different comfort levels), but I think it is good to at least share it with oneself!
We don’t have to agree about any of this. But, if you choose, I think it is good to think about it. I mean, here I am…completely disrupting my own narrative of who I thought I was. And it feels good. I follow the four regulative principles. I read Krishna’s pastimes to my kids at bedtime. We strictly limit media for our kids. Ninety-nine percent of what I feed my family is homemade prasadam. Yet I’ve adjusted my idea of chaste dress in terms of not only the local climate and greater American culture but also to include the attitude of the person. Heck, I’ve changed the entire way I view Krishna consciousness, which is now more about my heart than anything external. And I feel happy.
Personally I vacillate between being happy serving Krishna and finding happiness serving Krishna. This is a good balance for me. There are natural tendencies I have which spontaneously arise as service to God. And then there are parts of me which are resistant. Parts where things feel unnatural or forced. And I have found ways to make that less so…to find happiness in living my life for God. A little for me, a little for Him. But it is an honest effort and to me, that’s everything.