Vodka Yonic features a rotating cast of women and nonbinary writers from around the world sharing stories that are alternately humorous, sobering, intellectual, erotic, religious or painfully personal. You never know what you’ll find in this column, but we hope this potent mix of stories encourages conversation.
I decided I would do it on Monday morning after my husband left for work. Not because he hasn’t seen me naked. He has. But because he hasn’t seen me creating content without any clothes on. That’s how I found myself in nothing but three-inch wooden clogs, setting up a tripod in the middle of my office, considering how to re-create a professional portrait of myself in the nude, all while my cat watched from atop his three-tier cat tower.
Veronica Leto, an artist I know, was participating in a local exhibition called “Radical” Thoughts, and she asked if she could paint me for one of her pieces. She said I wouldn’t have to do anything but give my consent, that she would comb through my social media feed for an image she wanted to paint. It sounded both easy and flattering, a combination that is appealing to me, so I agreed. In the picture she chose, I am in my office, reclining in front of my computer with my feet up on the desk. Except she did add a request — she asked if I would re-create it naked.
I have recently recovered from disordered eating and have struggled with body image for most of my life. I’ve been reluctant to let people see me in a healthy, weight-restored body, and that’s with clothes on. My brain said no, but my Venus in Taurus said maybe. I decided to explore the possibility before committing.
First things first: How do I take a nude? I called the photographer who took the original photo. A single woman dating in a pandemic, she had some experience with it herself. “I just took a bunch of nudes. I’ll send you some to show what I mean about the lighting.” She sent them, and I got a glimpse not only into how shadows play into photography, but how online dating works in The Year of Our Lord Anthony Fauci 2021.
After the call, I felt somewhat confident I could pull this off. I responded to Veronica’s email and said I was game to re-create the picture naked, to which she responded something like, “Well, since you’re already going to go through the trouble of being naked in broad daylight, would you mind trying a couple other poses?” Then, for inspiration, she attached a few stock photos of seminaked women in corporate settings.
(Sidebar: Who needs seminude office photos? For whom does the corporate nude bell toll? There can’t be that many brochures that require a pantless woman sitting astride an office chair in an empty conference room. )
I let my friends hype me up over these photos. They were unequivocally in support of Naked Office Kim™️, and they thought it was hilarious that my photographer sent me her nudes as examples. There’s a reason hype women exist. They’re effective.
I knew I was going to do it, but I needed to leave room for any last-minute showing of common sense or future prospects of running for office. I also had a deadline. The pictures were due in three days. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that if you have to do something, do it as soon as you wake up on Monday morning — because the next day may be the first day of a stay-at-home order, a bombing in your city or an attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol.
Monday is also the day I deep-condition my hair. While I was in the shower, I realized that I should probably shave my legs, which is funny in hindsight, because I did not wear a stitch of makeup. Totally ignore your roots that haven’t been highlighted since March 2020, I thought, and your under-eye circles that haven’t seen concealer in six months. But yes, let’s worry about that leg hair that no one will see. Shaved, conditioned and moisturized, I was ready.
I was in the zone, the naked zone. Why not try more poses? Mind you, these are not meant to be sexy photos, despite the overtly sexy photos my photographer sent me as examples. In one picture, she was sitting back on her heels, arm across her chest and hand covering her pubic area. It was playful, and I do enough yoga that I thought I could pull it off. And for the most part, I did. You can tell by my expression that it was killing my knees. And my posture was all wrong. Because I have more body to cover than my friend, I had to reach farther to cover my parts. All that reaching caused me to twist and lean in ways that weren’t … artful.
At this point, my stubborn Taurus kicked in. I had spent too much time on this photo shoot to quit now. I decided to go look for a chair to straddle. Turns out, the sexy pantless secretary was me. The chair picture was the winner. I kept the best two of every shot and then got dressed for the day.
Now people can see me naked. In a museum. It’s scary, but it’s also empowering. I worked hard to get here, and goddamn it, you’re going to look at me.