"She's so veiny. Yuck."
This was the comment left on one of my pieces that ran in HuffPost 50 last week. The commenter was referring to a photo similar to the one above, where the veins in my hands and arms are pronounced. My stomach lurched a bit when I read it. It reminded me of the time in 11th grade when I caught two frenemies loudly opining about my physical flaws to my boyfriend. The HuffPost comment was a nasty thing to say, and a silly thing to say. But it was true.
I read a great piece in Medium recently, about hands as erotic objects. The author, Sarah Nicole Prickett, wrote that there is no Botox for hands; they're the one place on the body that is sure to reveal your age. So when the HuffPost commenter said "yuck," to my veins, she was really calling me old.
My veins wander and traverse each other, like a road map beneath my skin. They've always been that way, to an extent. Phlebotomists love me. But as I've grown older, and my skin has thinned, the veins have gotten more prominent. My kids tell me my hands weird them out. And sometimes I look at them and they weird me out. Mostly, they remind me that I'm aging.
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The charmer who left the comment in HuffPost 50 was a woman. Women tend to be far more critical of themselves and other women than men. We're bombarded by images that have the life and uniqueness photoshopped out of them, so we think we're inferior: we're "too" something or "not enough" something else. And one of the worst things, for a woman, is to be told that she looks "too old."
We often lose all perspective of what makes us attractive, until someone with sense points it out. When I showed my first set of boudoir photos to a former lover, he lingered over an overtly sexual one, all latex and curves. I was expecting him to comment on the shape of my ass, or on my provocative ensemble, but instead he said that he loved the veins in my arms. He thought they made me beautiful.
Since then I've tried to be more philosophical about my veins. My 52-year-old hands, after all, are not supposed to look like they did when I was 22. They're the hands of a woman who's forged her own path and finally, five decades in, has grown comfortable in her skin.
* * *
Last weekend I did a photo shoot with a new, wildly talented photographer, Nick Holmes. When he sent me my digital file, I saw shot after shot of my hands. They're the focus of many of the photos. Since I don't usually show my face, the hands instantly give away my age.
This time, instead of wincing when I saw my veins, I thought they were part of what made the photos arresting. My hands, once merely delicate, now look strong and bold. They tell a story that the hands of a young woman don't. Seeing a 25-year-old in a photo that exudes sexuality is predictable. But seeing a 52-year-old woman in an overtly sexual photo -- that's compelling.
I don't know if Nick intended to capture the interplay of age and sexuality when he focused his lens on my hands. But his images express the ethos of my blog. They tell the world that sexual confidence is ageless.