You can close your eyes…

She looks so relaxed, on the first day of her island holiday. Gently swinging in the hammock, a mug of chai tea cradled in her hands; those eyes are tired, though. She looks outward to the ocean.

It is glassy today, clear as air to look into. If she were out there wading in the shallows she would see fish, lazily cruising in the warm edges of the reef. On the horizon, a solitary white rimmed island marks the separation between water and sky. She saw a whale breach out there earlier this morning. The sum of all these things, warm air, calm seas, chai tea. It is all in stark contrast to her inner world.

She tries to let it all go, all the daily pressure of normal life. All the past. All the words unsaid and things undone. Lists unchecked.  It is hard to relax, and it should be simple. It is hard to carve out time where she can be nothing but herself. But she has, it is here; now, for the next hour or so. She sips on her chai, letting the cinnamon and spices swirl into her senses. The flavours of calm.

She’s not sure if she wants to spend time with herself after all.

Where is she, anyway? Losing herself has happened gradually. Task by task, caring for others. Loving others is a sacrificial pursuit, for women everywhere. Loving them with all she has is a habit of obligation and a daily choice. She didn’t know the cost of it when she signed up, but she knows now. Yet she would have paid anything to have this, have them. This life. And when the fabric of her wears thin and tears into the unwritten contract -of motherhood, of marriage- with hard words, she feels the failure. Sharp. So mean. She never really intends it for them. The words are really for herself. She sighs over it, swinging back and forth in that hammock. She is tired of turning herself inside out to examine it all.

So she walks through all of life in this body; this middle aged vessel of experiences, faded dreams and old philosophies, the mother-wife shell. The girl she also is; so shrouded now, by her roles and responsibilities. She has survived all the things. Her world is secure and her love is strong. Her family are happy. She thinks these thoughts like a mantra of protection. They have made together exactly the life she hoped for, the one she yearned for all those years ago, wishing into her teacups for a family of her own.

Her eyes close and she lets her head sink back against the woven hammock.

There is a woman here on the island, travelling alone. Her husband died three years ago, and since then, she has retraced the steps of all the travels they did together. She watches this woman in the restaurant, alone in her grief at her table for one. She wonders if there will be release when she has completed her solitary itinerary. She wonders if the goodbyes and the remembering are helpful. She wonders if she could be so brave. Life, on her own again. It makes her shiver in the tropical heat. No.

She thinks about her little family, out on the glassy ocean, casting handlines into the water in the hope of bringing home fish. She tries to imagine the joy and horror as they reel in slippery living creatures. It is the first time her children have been fishing. They are having much-yearned-for quality time with their daddy and she is struck by a sudden pang of… what is that? Jealousy?  He’s been so busy lately. He is a great Dad. She chose him for them and that thought makes her feel proud satisfaction. She did that. A gift for their future selves and developing psyches. It was a good choice. She’d choose him all over again, she knows it.

The girl she is, takes a big deep breath and sighs it out into the warm air. She is okay. No crises to avert this afternoon. A small smile contracts her cheeks upward, crinkling the skin by her eyes. So fortunate to be here, this day, in this way, in this place. She aligns her girl and woman selves and blows across her warm tea. Seriously, she thinks. The best way to relax is to stop thinking altogether. She reaches for her headphones and scrolls through until an old favourite fills her consciousness. Yes. You Can Close Your Eyes by James Taylor. Her empty tea cup now nestles in the sand. She drifts out of her messy mind on a tide of chilled harmonies.

She is the picture of relaxation, that woman on the hammock. Eyes closed, headphones on. The late afternoon quiet, deep upon her. Slowly, the tide creeps up the sand and the day sighs to a close. She muses softly about all of her sisters-in-arms, shouldering big burdens and costly contracts of love.

the sun is slowly sinking down
and the moon is slowly rising
so this old world might still be spinning round
and I still love you.
So close your eyes
you can close your eyes, it’s alright
I don’t know no love songs
and I can’t sing the blues, anymore
but I can sing this song
and you can sing this song
when I’m gone

Post Script
James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. It was the soundtrack for my holiday week; for me it is the song of parent to a child, or an adult to themselves. I love it so much.  Have you heard these two singing together before? Happy sigh…

Nodel Life

No, it’s not a typo.

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…am I a nodel?

Yesterday, waiting for a coffee-to-go in busy Gisborne, I flicked through the local rag.  I saw an article ‘Brands Waking to the Appeal of Real Women’ about recent research into fashion marketing.

[I don’t use the word ‘real’ myself, because all women are real women, regardless of size. I prefer the term ‘regular’].

The studies focused on the relationship between the type of models brands employ and people’s buying behaviour. The specific focus of the research was the use of diverse models. The article referred to these recent entrants into fashion circles with the slang term ‘nodels’  as in, ‘not-models’.  Pictured was one of the most iconic plus size models in recent years, Tess Holliday.

Research uncovered a desire for brands to promote images that reflected greater diversity and signalled that they felt this would lead to greater brand trust and longer-lasting consumer relationships. The media and brands are waking up to this…
from Suzanne Winfield, New Zealand Herald 26th December, 2016

‘NODEL’ stuck in my brain. I didn’t consider the ‘nodel’ label offensive; it’s just another nonsense word. But I mused for a bit about how I must be a nodel, and about how close the word nodel is to nodule, a very unattractive thing, or to noddy, something I am, often!

The word also made me think about the modelling work I have done.  Was I ‘not-modelling’ during those shoots?  Was the photographer ‘not-shooting’ and the makeup artist ‘not-making-up’? Was the job ‘not-selling’ clothes? No.
So the ‘not’ part must refer to the industry aesthetic attached to the word ‘model’.  To how I look, not what I do.

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I don’t look like a typical straight-sized (ie. size 6-8) model, I look like a regular woman.  I’m grateful to, and I don’t think nodels like me need a different label. Can we not all be models if we do modelling work? A simple thought to thunk, as my friend Pooh would say.  A mannequin is a mannequin regardless of it’s size. Come on fashion aesthetists, get with the program.  We all buy fashion, all sorts of bodies, it makes perfect sense that we want to see fashion modelled on bodies like our own.

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Today when I got home from our long Christmas road trip I was greeted by a package from Euphoria Design (thank you Monique and crew).
This beautiful New Zealand fashion label design clothes for women size 10-24.
Earlier this year they ran a model search called ‘Confidence is Beautiful’. You may have seen my post all about it. The shoot was about showing the relationship between inner confidence and beauty. It was about people like you and me. It was such a great concept! I was lucky enough to be selected along with nine other gorgeous kiwi women. We were from all over the country and all walks of life, we were many variations of ‘woman’. I made some wonderful friends that day, was spoilt rotten and enjoyed a glamorous shoot in a new season Euphoria Design dress.

Today, in that parcel was a cute framed shot from that day and a memory stick with all my photos, I’ve been waiting for them since our shoot and it is so cool to be able to at last share them properly on here! My Nodel Life! Haha! Seeing the pictures again brought back all the fun of the day and made me feel proud to be a nodel/model (whatever!) and a regular female of the human species.  I couldn’t be happier about being part of the movement for greater visibility in fashion media. We need to see more regular bodies. Our daughters need to, too. Desperately.

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PS. How gorgeous is this print?  The photos are black and white and don’t show the Navy and Milk white print in it’s true form, but it is such a fresh summer print. I love it, and unlike most ‘nodelling’ jobs, this time I got to keep the dress! I know!  Lucky!

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Do you like seeing bodies like yours in fashion media?
If you do, let your favourite brands know!