One of the best and hardest parts of this project is sharing women's stories. I say best because everyone deserves a voice, and I say hardest because of knowing what every woman has gone through. These stories that I receive (almost on a daily basis through messages, not just via a letter on the day of a woman's session) are poignant, beautiful, and raw. They're honest and brave. They're perfect because they're real. Every woman who is photographed will have their story told alongside their image in the book, but occasionally I come across a story that needs to be told now, not because it's better, but because it needs to be said. This is Elisabeth, and she chose her naked ring finger.
I grew up in a home with a supportive mom and dad, got a fantastic education, went to college, won a few beauty pageants and then got a good job. I was never one to dwell on the negative, so while there are parts of my body that I don’t love, there are none that I can honestly say I hate.
Except my ring finger.
While I do consider myself a feminist, and have always been told that marriage isn’t a requirement, some part of me never accepted that. I felt for years that if I was alone, I would die single, and what fate could possibly be worse than that? I’ve been in relationships with assholes and losers, guys so far below the acceptable standard that I’m sure more than once I was the girl you look at across the room and think, “What is she doing with him???" About a year ago, my third serious relationship in ten years ended in a phenomenally public breakup, and once again I was overwhelmed by the fact that at nearly thirty, all of my friends seem to be married and having babies, while I am once again alone, single, and trying to start over.
I hate my naked ring finger, and I hate what it says about me. I feel like society sends just as many mixed messages about that part of our body as it does about every other part - if I go along with the plan he suggests, I’m too compliant, if I demand what I want, I’m pushy. The girl who meets a nice guy with some flaws is settling, the girl who holds out for Mr. Right is impractical. I shouldn’t let marriage define me, but a good marriage will support my dreams and hopes, too, so I should definitely find the perfect husband ASAP.
that shell to be appreciated and loved by another person. I can’t pretend that I don’t want that, nor would I like to. I honestly wish I could hate a part of my body as much as I’ve hated my naked ring finger - my heavy thighs, or my flabby arms, or my weird eyebrows that never seem to grow in completely.
I don’t hate these parts of me, though, and never really have. They’ve always been there, always been a part of who I am and what I look like. The ring finger, that was supposed to change. By now, that was supposed to be filled, to be wearing a ring given to me by the man who is supposed to love and honor me until death. The fact that it isn’t feels like a failure, and THAT fact makes me feel like a failure, as a feminist, a modern woman and an intelligent human being. I can’t tell you how hard this is to reveal to a stranger, but I think that there must be other women out there who feel like I do. I want them to know - I want MYSELF to know - that my hands are perfect, as they are. With or without any rings.
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