"Written on the Body is a secret code only visible in certain lights: the accumulations of a lifetime gather there." ~Jeanette Winterson from her novel Written on the Body
IN 1986, I walked into World Gym in Venice, California—at that time, a small, funky space that women typically did not enter, except for a few female bodybuilders. At age 34 I’d left the tights-and-leg-warmers world of -Jane Fonda’s Workout to come to a hard-core, -pumping-iron, no-frills place, having decided I wanted more muscles, more strength. And no more pink leg warmers. I had a very clear idea of what and whom I wanted to see in the mirror, and I had a long way to go.
Ironically, one of the first things that greeted me when I walked up the stairs into a cramped room full of clanking weights and harsh fluorescent lights was a wall of black-and-white photographs—nude images of a bodybuilder named Lisa Lyon. I found myself staring and realized this was the image of who I wanted to be. She was confident and proud; her muscles were lean, defined and beautifully sculpted. (This was before some female bodybuilders began taking steroids.) I thought, Someday I want to feel that I deserve to pose nude like that. Not yet, but someday.