Getting professional photos of yourself can be an incredibly intimidating process. With imperfect bodies subject to an exposing flash that magnifies each forehead wrinkle, thigh dimple, and tiger-striped stretch mark, it’s not surprising that many women sink into the comforting mask of the Photoshop “magic wand.”
But this photographer’s story of one client has become a body-image campaign that is piercing straight through the cellulite of women everywhere. What’s most endearing, is that it isn’t inspired by imagery, but words—and the source is not other women, but a man.
One email from a heartbroken husband is officially the ode to love handles every girl needs to hear.
The man’s wife went to Victoria Caroline Haltom, a professional boudoir photographer, to get intimate photos taken of herself as a gift to him. She was in her mid-forties with a voluptuous size-18 figure, and she wanted to give her husband the perfect gift. She wanted to feel pretty, if only for a moment in freeze-framed, picturesque time—so she had a very specific request:
“I want you to photoshop all of my cellulite, all of my angry red stretch marks, ALL of my fat, and all of my wrinkles….just make it go away. I want to feel gorgeous just ONCE,” she told Haltom.
To her surprise, her husband was not impressed; in fact, he was quite disappointed. He looked at these photos, and decided to reach out to the photographer with an email that has changed the way she looks at her line of work for good.
It wasn’t exactly a complaint about her work. He knows Haltom was only doing as instructed, but there’s still something he needed her to know…
“I have been with my wife since we were 18 years old, and we have two beautiful children together. We have had many ups and downs over the years, and I think…well, actually I KNOW that my wife did these pictures for me to ‘spice things up.’ She sometimes complains that I must not find her attractive, that she wouldn’t blame me if I ever found someone younger.
When I opened the album that she gave to me, my heart sank. These pictures… while they are beautiful and you are clearly a very talented photographer…. they are not my wife. You made every one of her ‘flaws’ disappear… and while I’m sure this is exactly what she asked you to do, it took away everything that makes up our life.
When you took away her stretch marks, you took away the documentation of my children. When you took away her wrinkles, you took away over two decades of our laughter, and our worries. When you took away her cellulite, you took away her love of baking and all the goodies we have eaten over the years.”
He wanted to be clear that he wasn’t mad at Haltom. It wasn’t her fault. In fact, he was thankful for the powerful reminder her photos gave him about what his wife really needed from him as a husband. Perhaps the one person he forgot to tell all this to—was her.
“Seeing these images made me realize that I honestly do not tell my wife enough how much I LOVE her and adore her just as she is,” he continued. “She hears it so seldom, that she actually thought these photoshopped images are what I wanted and needed her to look like. I have to do better, and for the rest of my days I am going to celebrate her in all her imperfectness. Thanks for the reminder.”
But he’s not the only one who needed reminding.
There’s a twisted inverse relationship between waist size and perceived beauty in our culture that needs a serious awakening. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that the closer we are to a size 0, the closer we are to a 10 on the ever cliché ‘hotness’ scale. In a society where youth is king (or queen) and waif is the womanly standard, everyone could use a lil’ pinch in the love handles about what that little extra cushion really means.
An apologetic Haltom replied with a Facebook plea that echoed the wise words of this man:
“Ladies, I can photoshop just about anything. But I encourage you to think twice about how much ‘altering’ we do. Our loved ones cherish and adore us just as we are. This email was 100% real, and I cried like a baby with guilt for at least 6 months after that whenever I read it. I encourage you to embrace YOU just as you are!”
We all hear the spiel about loving yourself and loving your body, but it’s eye-opening words like these that really bring them to life.
Next time you’re loathing the skin you’re in, just remember, those stretch marks are the proud battle scars marking the birth of your babies. Those crows feet say you laughed until your eyes brimmed with tears—and that cellulite may just say that you’ve blessed your family with the meanest melt-in-your-mouth blueberry muffins that make them blind to the muffin top you’re so worried about melting off…