I couldn’t sleep that night.
It was around 4 in the morning when I sent Emma a text.
Emma, I’m sorry. I never should have said the things I said to you. I asked for your opinion and took my frustrations out on you because you were so honest and didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear. I’m ashamed of how I reacted. Please forgive me.
I woke up the next morning around 6:30 with a response from her.
Babe, I’m sorry too. I totally understand why you got so heated. This is about you, your feelings, your insecurities, your career. I freaked out because it scared me and I did not know how to process it all. I don’t want to see you humiliated and ruined.
I don’t want you to lose respect that you can never get back. Respect you have worked so hard to receive. I don’t agree with what you’re doing but I understand it’s your choice and I should have expressed myself without attacking you or making you feel like shit for something you feel is right. I’m sorry for that. I love you.
I wrote back
Can I see you before my flight?
She wrote back.
Sure. Call you in a sec.
We met up with each other later that morning in her hotel. After hugs and apologies were again exchanged for the snippy comments we’d made, I thanked her.
“What are you thanking me for?” she asked.
“Helping me come to my senses,” I said. “Everything you said was spot on. And after you left and I calmed down, I decided I’m not going to do it.”
She looked at me hard, as if gauging how I was feeling about cancelling my red carpet stunt before she allowed herself to smile. “Really?”
“I called Dawn and Jennifer Todd about an hour ago and let them know.” I could have left it there but I wanted to erase all doubt. “I also text Darren that I wasn’t going to do it.”
“How did they take it?”
“They understood,” I said, truthfully summarizing Dawn and Jennifer Todd’s reaction to the news. Darren had yet to text me back. “But it doesn’t really matter what they think. It’s my choice.”
She asked me a few more questions about my change of heart. She clearly wanted to know if I was being truthful about it being my choice. I was an award winning actress. I could lie with the best of them. There was always the possibility that I was acting the part. That I still harbored the desire to show up naked to Sunday’s show, but had only given up the dream to appease her, for the sake of our friendship.
“You’re not doing this because I said I wasn’t come to come? Because I was just saying that. I’m going to come regardless.”
“No, that’s not why,” I smiled. I’d tossed and turned all night about my decision, weighing Emma’s words, as blunt as they were, with my own admittedly selfish desires. Admitting to myself that I was being selfish ultimately turned the tide. Plus, if I had trouble explaining to my best friend why I was naked, how in the hell was I going to do it in front of hundreds of reporters? “I honestly just decided that it was selfish and wouldn’t be worth it to overshadow everyone.”
“I’m proud of you,” she before giving me another long hug. After giving me a kiss on the cheek and breaking the embrace she smiled. “Hey, I want you to know that you did look gorgeous last night. And I know you want to show it off. So we’ll throw our own tertulia, I’ll invite a bunch of hot guys.”
“Larry David?” I joked.
“For you I’ll make sure Larry fucking David is there,” she said. “We’ll sip wine, and eat cheese and crackers, and you can strip off your clothes and waltz around naked and we’ll spend all night talking about your butthole. ”
We both broke out in laughter before I gave her another hug. “I’d love that.”
“Of course you would,” she giggled. “And I’m going to give you that.”
I left her hotel room with a smile on my face, despite the implication of what had just occurred. She supported me being an exhibitionist behind closed doors. She would even provide a therapeutic setting for me to bask in my bizarre love/hate relationship with my own objectification. Just not on that red carpet.
That carpet was a sacred space where women wore elegant gowns and men wore black tuxedos, a paradigm that made the platform the most prestigious and distinguished in the world. And on this special Sunday, the carpet would be an even brighter spotlight for women.
Dawn and Jennifer Todd said it would be the most inclusive red carpet event yet, where all women would be heard, and seen, and celebrated. But my naked body had no place there. Even amongst self identified progressives, the politics of wearing just my naked skin was too radical. Too distracting. Too offensive..
I didn’t yet live in a world that would embrace me for stepping out of a limousine completely naked. Emma was wise enough to see that. And she loved me enough to tell me the truth. But what did that say about Darren, who had done everything in his power to convince me that I did live in that world? Or even if I didn’t, that I was the right person to change things?
I didn’t ask him that question directly when we talked later that night. I guess I was afraid of what he would have to say. Emma had pointed out that I was weak to his charms and if I gave him the opportunity to explain himself, it would result in me once again changing my mind.
But Darren didn’t try to get me to change my mind when I got him on the phone. He didn’t even express disappointment, even after I summarized my night with Emma, including the fact that she thought I had only committed to showing up naked to appeal to his prurient interests.
“I can see why she would think that,” he said, without showing any hint that he was offended. He didn’t even attempt to defend himself. “I like Emma. She’s a straight shooter like you are. And she’s right that anything you do will affect her.”
“So you agree with my decision?” I asked him.
“I support your decision,” he said. “As long as you’re happy I support it a hundred and ten percent.”
As long as I was happy. I spent the next few days dissecting that word. Happy. As long as I am happy.
But was that how I felt? Honestly?
I felt a tremendous amount of relief from being free from the pressure of having to follow through on my desire to be naked in front of the entire world. But was relief the same as happy?
How about no longer having the all encompassing anxiety that came along with counting down the minutes, hours, and days before what I knew would be a life changing experience? Was I happy that I no longer had to juggle excitement and dread?
I’d allowed myself to believe I was going to become a new woman on Sunday after I bared it all to the world. Was I happy that I wasn’t going to become new? Was I happy remaining same ole me?
I wrestled with these questions throughout the day but failed to pin down any satisfying answers. I couldn’t even escape the internal dialogue in my dreams. If anything, sleeping gave light and color to my unconscious desires, as I dreamed that night that I was back in Kentucky, riding my horse around naked in the field. I rode under a blue sky with the sun kissing my naked skin and the wind blowing against my face, throwing my hair around. I felt wild. I felt free. I felt happy.
And then I woke up.
I spent the next morning wishing I was still sleeping, partially because it was 5am and I was still tired, but also because I still wanted to be dreaming. But I had to stop chasing dreams and focus on the long day I had ahead of me.
I was scheduled for two meetings, one with a producer, another with a director, two hour long workouts, lunch with my mom and step sister, and a private dinner later that night for an artist that was on the board of my foundation. But first, I had to meet with Maria, the fashion icon that designed the Academy Award dress I was supposed to wear Sunday.
I skipped breakfast because I already knew my gut was going to be a problem for Maria. After unrepentantly pigging out on pie, pasta, and cheesecake the last week and a half, I knew I wouldn’t be the desired size to fit her carefully constructed masterpiece.
I was still physically in shape – most people would not have noticed much of a difference at all between how I looked now and how I would have looked had I skipped the junk food – but going off diet for just a week had surely done enough ‘damage’ to my body that someone like Maria would notice.
I came into my fitting expecting that she would make a fuss about my gut. Of course she would say something. She made a living off of working with outrageously thin models that molded their bodies through diet and exercise (or starvation and vomiting) to her desires , so she would absolutely pout about having to work around a body that failed to live up to the ideal shape and size.
But I had tough skin. I’d spent the last several years of my life hardening it. You had to if you wanted to make it without hating yourself. It was no surprise why so many stars needed the drugs and alcohol to maintain their dignity.
The beauty industry was a machine that forced you to become numb to their degrading methods of maintaining the illusion that you were flawless.
And since I was paid generously to be complicit in upholding the illusion, I kept quiet as magazines erased my imperfections from their covers. I turned the other way as my waist became slimmer, my arms became smaller, and my skin became smoother and whiter.
That’s just the way it worked. Your body? Put quotation marks around it being “your” body. “Your” body was a brand that needed to remain attractive for investors. A tool that needed to be sharpened. A public offering that was bought and sold by corporations and the masses. If it belonged to you, it was a 51% stake. For lots of stars, it was few less than that. And sure, we signed on the dotted line. But the cost was more than the dollars we received in compensation.
I put out a distorted image of me to the world, retouched to the point of complete fabrication. The hot woman on that magazine poster is not actually me. Being a willing participant in hiding or outright erasing the fat, the ugly, the not-perfect, meant acknowledging, even if indirectly, that I wasn’t nearly as pretty, nearly as sexy, nearly as beautiful as my fictional doppelganger. But I’d grown secure enough in myself over the years to accept that.
But it wasn’t easy, as illustrated by non-famous people constantly asking “why did [insert famous woman] destroy herself with [insert cosmetic alteration]. She was so hot before.” When so much of your value depends on how you look, it should come as no surprise that women that supposedly have it all, still need the liposuction, the nose jobs, the boob jobs, the butt injections, the botox, and ‘plastic’ to boost their self confidence. And when that failed, there was the pills and alcohol to cope with the pain.
I’d managed to avoid those things, mainly by having a good sense of humor, not taking myself too seriously, and using good dieting and exercise to make me look good, which in turn made me feel good. Getting myself to look and then feel good was a positive feedback loop that I was usually able to tap into at will, but especially whenever I had a movie shot, or more relevantly, for awards season.
But this awards season had been different, and the failure to buckle down reflected in Maria’s eyes when she got to see me out of my clothes. Just two days earlier, when looking at myself naked in the mirror, right before I revealed myself to Emma, I’d thought of myself as delicious. But watching her look so disappointed at the sight of me was crippling.
I wanted people to see my naked body as awe-inspiring, but Maria saw my body as a living mannequin, and she was accessing if it was fit to carry her glittering metallic dress. In her eyes, I wasn’t the star of this show. Her dress was. “Not much has changed since your last fitting,” said while staring at my waist and stomach. She looked up and found my eyes. “Did you diet at all?”
“I’m sorry,” I apologized as if I had offended her. I looked at the dress in her hands. I felt as if I had even offended that too. Where was my dignity? I looked away to my stylist. “I had a bad week.”
Maria responded with a huff before mumbling “let’s see how it fits you.” I held in my breath and sucked in my gut as Jill and Maria crowded around me to get the thing on. It took several moments of careful tugging and repositioning, and squeezing of my body parts before the form fitting dress was secured to my body.
“How does it feel?” Jill asked.
I tried to exhale but it felt like my torso was being hugged by a sock. “It’s tight.”
“Well it’s supposed to be,” Maria said. She didn’t mention that I was supposed drop a size to make it easier. The dress was designed specifically to emphasize the hourglass figure of a woman with a shape perfect enough to squeeze into the carefully calculated dimensions of the material. It demanded the woman have a thin waist and the right curve to her hips. No love handles. No beer belly. No fat at all.
“It still looks good, right?” Jill asked out loud, before answering her own question in an upbeat and excited tone. “Yes. Hell yes. You look really good Jen.”
But Maria refused to back her up as she took a step back to assess me. Instead she asked me to walk in my heels and tell her how I felt. I felt constricted and uncomfortable as I moved around, the tight form fitting dress showing my chest, waist, and stomach no mercy. “I feel fat.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jill said. “You’re not fat. You look amazing.”
“But I feel fat,” I said while putting my hands on my stomach. It wasn’t perfectly flat like the dress demanded. “Too fat for this at least. It hurts to even breathe.”
I looked at myself in the mirror. I thought I looked okay in the dress. I might have even looked hot if I I didn’t look as if I was in pain. But that was exactly the look I was giving off as I frowned at myself in the mirror, using all of my energy to keep my gut sucked in. I wanted this thing off me right now. How in the hell could I ever hope to keep it on all night long?
You could just get naked.
I shook my head at myself.
Shut up. I don’t need that right now.
“What do you think Maria?” I asked.
“You’re a beautiful woman Jennifer,” she told me. “You’ll look nice no matter what you wear. But nice is mediocre. I refuse to let you walk out on the red carpet looking nice. And if you can’t even breathe, then…”
“Well couldn’t you make just a few alterations?” Jill asked.
I briefly closed my eyes. I knew even asking Maria such a question was considered an insult.
“The dress is perfect as is,” Maria spoke sharply. “If Jennifer wants to wear it, she needs to put in the work. That’s all. I won’t destroy the aesthetic of the bodice because of a snug fit.”
“So what are you saying?” Jill asked.
“It’s totally up to Jennifer,” Maria said as she looked at me. “I can get you some high-waist Spanx. You can put in some work in the four days we have remaining until showtime. Or I can fit you for an alternate dress out of the collection. But I’m not making any alterations.”
I cringed at the idea of wearing skin tight underwear under an already super constricting dress. Maybe an alternate dress wouldn’t be such a bad idea. I looked at Jill. She best knew how to style me, how to make me look my best, and I always wanted her opinion.
“I think putting her in a different dress for Sunday could work,” Jill said. “She really liked the tan one. We were already thinking about doing that one for Vanity Fair, but it could make a good dress for the show. What do you think, Jen?”
I looked at myself in the mirror again and caught Maria looking so disappointed in the reflection. “I feel like I’d be letting you down Maria if I don’t wear this. I know this was your favorite dress. I really do want to wear it.”
“Well couldn’t we just save it for another event?” Jill asked. “The Met Gala is just a few months away.”
“No, no, no, no, no,” Maria shook her head and waved her arms. “This is not a dress for the Gala. I design my dresses for very specific events. And this is a dress for the the glitz and glam of the Oscars. This Oscars. It represents the power of a woman’s strength. I came up with the design after watching Wonder Woman with my granddaughter. And with meetoo and timesup the theme for this years show, the dress will be like armor for a woman going into battle. I won’t compromise my vision. If Jennifer can’t wear it then I understand, she can wear something more comfortable. But I have several other actresses that would jump at the opportunity to wear this.”
“Sorry, I don’t want to compromise anything,” Jill said.
“Who would you be giving the dress to?” I asked as I turned away from the mirror to look at Maria.
“That’s confidential,” she smiled. There was always bullshit secrecy about awards season dresses, and politics around who would be wearing what. I’d signed a contract with Dior that gave me first selection from their entire collection, which went a long way with me constantly making the best dressed list every award season.
Topping these lists weren’t meaningless either. Beyond appealing to our ego, making best dressed lists helped us with negotiating for better endorsements, and gave us access to designers who would pay us to wear their dresses and accessories.
My publicist told me during the first Academy Awards that I attended that the real competition between the women wasn’t for Best Actress or Best Supporting actress, but the beauty competition that took place on the red carpet. If I was ceding a sure fire “best dressed” dress to one of my peers, I wanted to at least know who.
“Nope,” I waved. “If I’m giving up this work of art, I want to know who it’s going to.”
“Who would motivate you to drop that tummy in the next four days?” she asked.
I knew the list of actresses signed to Dior. Emma Watson, Felicity Jones, Mila Kunis. But there was only one name that motivated me enough. The woman I lost my first oscar nomination to. The woman that was Darren’s actual first choice for the role that brought us together as colleagues and lovers.
But I didn’t mention her name out loud. I wouldn’t give Jill or Maria the knowledge or satisfaction of knowing which of my peers I felt a need to compete with. All it took was for me to imagine Natalie Portman wearing this amazing dress, walking down the red carpet looking like a strong, powerful, warrior woman. That did it. That gave me the necessary push.
Maria mentioned that she knew of a guy that could help. But she looked undecided of if she actually wanted to recommend him to me. “He trains with athletes that need to cut weight. But I’ve had many models and actresses work with him when they needed to quickly transform their bodies for a role, or catwalk, or red carpet event.”
She talked up his ability to transform fat into muscle, flab into abs, droopy butts into tight asses, thin waists into even thinner waists. But still, she seemed reluctant. “He’s….not a walk in the park. I would not recommend him or his methods if we weren’t in a pickle,” she said. “But he gets good results on short notice.” It was clear from the way she talked around him that he achieved these results by any means necessary, legality, health, and ethics be damned.
“It’s totally up to you, Jennifer. I don’t want to pressure you.”
Yet and still, I felt pressured. And I told her yes.
Maria made the call to her waist “fixer” and he came right over when he found out his next client was none other than Jennifer Lawrence. He was tall, tanned, and looked as if he lived at the gym. Smelled like it too.
He introduced himself as Buddy. That clearly wasn’t his real name. My first thought after shaking his hand was “I don’t like you, Buddy.”
Was that fair? Probably not. But there was just something about his shit eating grin, something about his disgusting smelling cologne that was obviously masking that he hadn’t showered first before rushing over to meet me that turned my stomach. But honestly, I disliked him even before I noticed any of that. I disliked him because his reputation precedes him.
I knew who he was. Not him specifically, but his type. His ilk. The kind of cloth he was cut from. It was the same feeling I got whenever I talked to a car salesman. An icky, distrustful feeling.
But where nearly everybody had to deal with car salesman and their sneaky, high pressure, manipulative tactics to get you to sign your soul away for a depreciating asset, people like Buddy only existed where the stars of entertainment shined brightest, Los Angeles, Miami, Paris, London.
They lived in the shadows of stars and sex symbols, right along with plastic surgeons, operating behind the scenes, doing the ugly work nobody wanted to admit went into forging beauty from skin and bones.
He was the bridge between sexy catwalks and anorexia. The plug for steroids and diuretics. A bodybuilder with the moral compass of a pimp.
I couldn’t necessarily blame Buddy for everything that was wrong with the entertainment and fashion world. He was just a cog in the machine. Providing supply for the demand. Capitalism working as intended. But even if I couldn’t blame him, I didn’t have to like him.
His first order of business after having me step on a scale and taking measurements was to cancel my lunch and dinner. No time for family or friends, he said. He only had four days, so he had no time to waste. I’d worked with nutritionist and trainers before, but Buddy went beyond any of my previous experiences by bringing with him several padlocks.
“I don’t want you to be tempted,” he said before instructing me to put a lock on every pantry, cabinet, and refrigerator in my kitchen. “I’ll provide all the food and drink you’ll need.”
Aside from consuming only what he allowed me to consume, he also wanted to flush excess water weight, tummy fat, and undigested food out of my body. He even wanted me to have daily colon hydrotherapy, tomorrow until Sunday so I would have minimum bloat when it came time again to squeeze into the dress from hell.
He probably noticed the distrust I already had for him in my eyes, so he tried to convince me that he was some sort of body whisperer.
“Look, I know how it sounds. Daily colonics and locking up your kitchen. Super silly…excessive…crazy. But there is an art to sculpting bodies. A science to the psychology of diet and exercise. And I’ve studied it like I imagine you studied acting. I’ve worked with all of the stars. I’m working with several of your peers right now. Who does Cate Blanchett and Brie Larson and Kendall Jenner go to when they want to look flawless on that carpet? Me. They call me because they accept that I know their bodies better than they do.”
Hearing him suggest that I needed to concede that he knew my body better than I did while he looked at me with that self-satisfied grin made my skin crawl. And it put me into that paranoid space of wondering if he had ever looked up my naked photos on the internet. He probably just got through looking at them, for research, or judging by that smug look on his face, to jerk off.
And now I had this creep in my home, objectifying my body, seeing it as a project to add to his resume of A-listers that he “fixed.” In the future, when he went into his obnoxious ‘trust me’ spiel to convince some other girl to lock away her kitchen so she could drop a size in a week, he would be able to say “who does Jennifer Lawrence call? Me.” I was giving him that power.
And for what? A stupid dress? To fulfil contract obligations? To win “best dressed” and feel like a winner again after suffering some of the worst box office and critical failures in my career?
He didn’t seem to pick up on the fact that I was disgusted with this whole thing. He just kept on trying to convince me to trust him. “If you do everything I say, drink when I say drink, not eat a crumb more than what I provide for you, I promise I’ll have your body where you want it by Sunday evening.”
“Whatever,” was all I allowed myself to say. I was too frustrated and beaten down to be disagreeable. I just wanted to get this entire week over with.
The diet and exercise regimen that Buddy placed on me was the most intense I personally ever experienced. Several multi-hour long workouts a day, a calorie intake that was basically starvation, supplements, coffee, and multiple daily trips to the sauna to sweat. Every waking moment would be spent trying to get red carpet ready.
It wasn’t a very healthy or sustainable approach but the goal wasn’t to be healthy or keep this water and poop weight gone for good. It was all about appearing flawless for a snapshot in time.
That seemed like a good enough goal on Wednesday but by Friday night while I lay in bed listening to my stomach scream at me, it all felt so pointless and stupid. I was hungry. I was exhausted. I had no energy but I was too frustrated to sleep. After what felt like an hour of tossing and turning in bed I grabbed my phone.
I ended up watching some of the Robert Obel documentary again. I’d watched it twice on flights after Dawn and Jennifer Hudson told me about him, and even memorized one of his speeches so I could repeat it on the carpet. It seemed like a smart thing to do. But now I was just watching it because I found it entertaining.
Robert had been a really interesting man with an intensely sexy life that included taking lots and lots of photos of cocks. And watching those cocks made me want to look up actual porn, so I switched to my porn tab and went to searching.
A good orgasm should put me right to sleep.
And the sooner I slept, the sooner I could wake up to something to eat.
I rolled my panties down my legs before scrolling through my go-to sections on the porn sites. I was into watching babysitters getting fucked by the the man of the house, and other young women/older guy fantasies. But as I lay in bed naked and started touching myself, it just wasn’t doing anything for me mentally. I clicked around to several videos, and even tried some gay twink stuff but that didn’t do it for me either. And usually watching two hot guys blow each other totally got me off.
I set my phone down with a sigh and just stared at the ceiling. I couldn’t get in the mood because I wasn’t actually horny. No, my chase for an orgasm was just a desperate attempt to give me some sustenance, to satisfy my hunger and feed the yearning for a chemical reaction to bring me some feelings of pleasure. If I couldn’t get my dopamine hit from food, then perhaps the dopamine hit from an orgasm could temporarily keep me sane until breakfast.
I know what can get you off.
I tried to fight off the temptation in my head, I really did, but after several minutes of trying not to think about it, which only led to me thinking about it even more, I picked up my phone and reluctantly typed “Jennifer Lawrence naked leak” into the search browser.
Hundreds of sites responded to my query with results of exactly what I wanted. It was that easy. And that gave me the warm tingly feelings that I could never escape from every single time I initiated this embarrassing search. It never failed to get a rise out of me. Anger, of course, but also bittersweet arousal.
Even though the loser that had stolen my private photos and dumped them one by one on the internet in an event called “the fappening” had been sentenced to nine months in prison for his crimes against me and his other victims, his work was still readily available for anyone that wanted to continue to victimize us. The Feds never took them down. Google never took them down. They were there forever.
How many people were making money off ad revenue and subscriptions to sites hosting my naked body without my consent? How many people were logged on those sites right now, looking at every inch of me, without my consent? If I went by the pornhub statistics, I was a top 100 pornhub performer, based on whatever algorithm they used that factored in searches, page views, and comments.
Videos of my naked photos, in addition to my film scenes and interviews were ahead of actual prolific porn performers with hundreds and hundreds of hardcore videos.
I felt so ashamed as I scanned through dozens of sites before settling on one that had a lot of user activity.
Even years later, I found it incredibly surreal to click on a site and see my name, face and naked body on the front page. It’s a lonely, helpless, degrading feeling to see yourself naked online and not be able to do anything about it. Both the Hollywood Reporter and Time Magazine had named me one of the most powerful and influential people in the world. Yet the feeling I got when I clicked on these sites and saw myself naked in intimate poses made me feel absolutely powerless.
There were even videos of guys masturbating to my photos and then blasting the pictures with cum. They were called “tributes.” And sometimes, in my darkest moments, I received my tributes with a shameful masturbation session of my own.
I scrolled through the dozens of photos and videos, but didn’t dwell on any one of them in particular. The sheer number of them was more erotic and humiliating to me than any individual image of my tits, or ass, or pussy. I continued scrolling until I was to the end of the page. But the end of the photos was where my interest heated up.
See, I never searched my nude photos so I could masturbate to them. I’m not that much of a narcissist. I searched my photos to confirm they were still easily accessible, and once confirming they were and reacting sexually to the embarrassed arousal, I moved to the comments left by anonymous people. It was there that I found my sexual high as I chased after the complicated feelings of humiliation and anger that for some inexplicable reason, turned my nipples into stones, and wet my pussy.
I held the phone to my face with one hand and used my other hand to caress my breasts and pinch my nipples.
“Wow is that really her?”
“That little freckle above her nipple is always a dead giveaway that JL.”
“When these came out, I could not stop jerking off, I nearly pulled my dick off. ll never forget The Fappening. Greatest moment in leaked nudes history.”
“Was watching the movie Passengers with my wife and all i could think about was the leaked photos of her in that slutty lingerie. i would fuck the beejeesus out of her.”
I rubbed my nipple, right where that little freckle was and let out a heavy moan as I continued to read their unabashed comments about me and my naked body. The more I read, the hornier I became until I just had to move my hand to my wetness. I began to rub myself as my eyes scanned the page and I sought out comments that would really push the right buttons. Explicit comments. Nasty comments.
“Gorgeous body on this babe. Would love to spurt my cum all over her luscious tits and belly. She looks like a freak.”
“It’s nice to see in her pics that she is a pervert and slob just like the rest of us.”
“She has such a sexy pair of tits and an absolutely beautiful pussy and ass. Would love to give her anal and fill her ass up with cum.”
Being so objectified made me furious, but that only led to me furiously rubbing my clit. There was something inside me, something broken, or at the very least knocked out of whack, that needed to read these filthy words about me from the faceless void of male lust.
But lust obviously wasn’t the only energy fueling the people that felt the need to comment on my naked pictures. Hatred, either for me, or just women like me, seemed to be a bigger driving force behind their words.
There was always a point in the comment section, probably after blowing their load, where they stopped talking broadly about my body, and started engaging in a kind of one-ups man ship, where the point seemed to be to degrade me as much as possible.
It wasn’t enough that my naked pics had been stolen from me and exposed online. They couldn’t just jerk off and shut it down, no, now came the circle jerk on top of their soap box where they exchanged every slut shaming, victim blaming, red-pilly, mean spirited comment they could think of with each other.
I was prepared to read such exchanges. It came with the territory. But the sad thing was every time I looked up my own photos online, I actually anticipated reading these kinds of responses. My budding orgasm depended on reading them.
“How many pics of her naked body does this dirty slut take. She is obsessed with herself. She probably leaked them herself.”
“A girl like her should be in porn making gangbang scenes instead of acting in terrible movies. Her body should be put to good use and make lots of guys cum.”
“She’s such a cocky ass cunt so full of herself. It’s justice that these pics are on the internet. Just a wonderful reminder of what a white trash slut she is. Bless her heart.”
“These narcissistic celebrity Millennials cum rags are all the same. If you take a picture or a video being a slut its going to find its way on internet one day. Yes daddy your daughter is big cam whore.”
“Well you take that risk when you are super popular and take these kinda pics. She was fooling herself for thinking these would stay private.”
I should have been revolted by what I was reading – and I ultimately was – I broke down when I met with federal authorities to discuss the comments I’d received, but still, I couldn’t help being drawn to reading them anyway. No matter how disgusting they were, I had to know what people were saying.
I justified to myself the first time I did it that I only looked them up for research, to document the abusive comments to authorities. But that excuse became null and void the second, and third, and fourth time I found myself seeking out abusive comments. And it certainly didn’t explain why I ended those search sessions with self-induced orgams.
I knew I was an exhibitionist. That partially answered why I felt sexual excitement from knowing I was being viewed by so many people. But was I also a masochist?
I always pictured masochists as women that wanted to be tied up in the bedroom and spanked. But I didn’t enjoy reading 50 Shades of Grey. I had no desire to be spanked or choked or called a dirty submissive whore by my lover. So why was I so fascinated with the feelings I had to process as I encountered such abuse online?
Maybe it had something to do with my childhood obsession with wanting to be liked, especially by men. And that obsession had been corrupted enough that my stupid brain started rewarding me with pleasure when I read men talk about what they liked and disliked about me. And maybe I’d become addicted to the feeling. Or maybe this was a coping mechanism to deal with my mistrust of people in general.
I was completely blindsided when the leak happened, and my natural response to that was to be in a constant state of distrust. I even questioned my own boyfriend at the time, wondering if maybe he had something to do with my exposure, even after it was clear that he didn’t. I still ended up breaking up with him. And the next guy after that received zero naked photos of me, as if he couldn’t be trusted with them. I wouldn’t even sext with him, which put a big strain on our long distance relationship.
But my greatest distrust came from the general public.
When I walked into a room, I wondered if the group of people laughing together were laughing about me.
When I saw a guy showing another guy something on his phone, I feared that he was showing him a photo of me in the lingerie I wore for my boyfriend at the time.
When I walked into a meeting with a prominent director, I wondered if he had just got done stroking it to photos of my butthole as he extended his hand to me for a handshake.
Perhaps I was being paranoid. In fact, I’m sure that’s exactly what it was. But I couldn’t help being so hyper aware of the loss of power and credibility that I felt.
I feared being devalued permanently. That my credibility as a spokesperson, as a feminist, as a role model, as an activist, as an actress was just gone. And seeing tangible expressions of those fears helped to confirm them. Sexualizing those fears felt like I was at least being more than passive about them. Making lemonade out of lemons?
But was it healthy to sexualize the most hurtful opinions about me? Was I harming myself in getting off to this crap?
“Looks like someone got a hold of Harvey Weinstein’s IPhone. And with these out, her days of getting good roles are done. “
“I’m glad this happened to her. We now all get to see her nude. She deserved this. It’s her fault for taking the pictures and she was stupid to have them saved online.”
“She may be a retard but I’d go balls deep if the opportunity arose.”
“I’m so glad she’s out there saving democracy, and stuff. Nothing like an average looking eighth grade educated over-rated actress from Kentucky thinking anyone takes her seriously. “
“..I read somewhere that she felt UTTERLY VIOLATED by these pics being Hacked—somehow that makes fappeing to her cunt and spread asshole even better. Sanctimonious feminazis like her need to be humbled.”
I guess it would have been one thing if I read these comments and then emptied out the trash when I was done with them. But I had to admit to myself that I was hoarding these negative opinions in the recessions of my mind.
And in my daily life, I would randomly think about them, usually whenever someone was complimenting me for being so beautiful, or talented, or intelligent, or wonderful. I had to downplay it, make fun of myself, do anything to wiggle away from accepting that it were objectively true.
AskMen voted me the world’s most desirable woman when I was barely old enough to drink.
A year later, I knocked Mila Kunis from the top spot in a prominent men’s lifetyle magazine poll for the sexiest woman alive.
If there was a woman that should have been insulated, or immune from self doubts about her beauty, it should have been me. But whenever Maxium recognized me as their most beautiful actress, mere months after the icloud hacking, the first thing that popped in my head were random internet comments I’d read after searching the comment sections of sites hosting my leaked nude photos.
“I don’t find her particularly hot. I don’t understand what the world sees that I don’t. And her girl next door persona is fake. She’s clearly a whore.”
“Jennifer Lawrence without makeup is very boring. Her face has a chubby look to it, almost resembling the start of a double chin. Overall, you realize how wide her face actually is, kind of like some slavic women, except she has reptilian eyes. Some of her facial proportions are out of whack – she in no way resembles the golden rule for beauty.”
“J Law isn’t as busty as she looks in movies. Hollywood magic. Her body is a 7 at best, and her tits don’t look that great out of a bra.”
“the fappening killed her status I think…guys with lots of money don’t want to be associated with a ghetto girl like that. “
“Completely accurate. A guy with higher SMV than her can afford to choose a woman who doesn’t have pics of her open asshole all over the web.”
“Exactly. She’s destined to become pump n dump material for high power men, but no one with high SMV will want to wife her. She’s not attractive enough with her beaty eyes and cancerous skin to overcome her sluttiness. “
It made no senses. But there I was, a sex symbol, letting ridiculous vocabulary like SMV, which I learned through a google search was ‘sexual market value’, enter into my thoughts.
I guess I had to admit that I found a certain thrill in kicking the hornet’s nest and inviting in the abuse just to see how bad it would get. It was exciting in some perverse way, wondering what the next comment would say.
In some ways, it felt more honest than anything I ever received in my daily life. No one was concerned with being politically correct or polite. No one cared if my feelings were hurt. They were just there to tell it how they saw it. And i guess I’d allow myself to believe they were just telling it like it was. That maybe there was some truth there.
I found clarity in my fears, anxieties, and desires being so thoroughly parced, my life broken down by the molecule. And the rush I got by pulling all of those disparate emotions together into one, indescribable, indiscernible explosion was…well, orgasmic.
And I caught that feeling once again as I read comment after comment and reached my peak of arousal. I collapsed on the bed naked, breathing heavily, tears in my eyes.
I thought I could satisfy my hunger pains with carnal fare. But as I lay there reflecting in post-orgasm clarity, I realized I was still hungry. I didn’t feel any better. I didn’t feel anything. I felt empty. Not just in my starved belly, but also emotionally. Where was the fire that made me, me? Where was my dignity? And after my stomach screamed for my attention, the more pressing, where were my keys?
After finding them on my dresser, I threw on my robe and slippers, and slipped out to my car. I only had 20 minutes to make it to Sunset Boulevard before In and Out closed. I made it to the drive-thru just in time and didn’t even wait until I pulled off to begin scarfing down the hot and salty french fries. This was the pleasure, the comfort, the happiness I was looking for.
I wanted something sweet to go with my salty food so I made another stop by Dunkin Doughnuts before heading home. I gobbled down nearly 3,000 calories right on my bed in what was nearly a sexual experience as I relished grease, salt, frosting, and chocolate. Delicious.
But as soon as I tossed the empty bags aside and lay down, my happiness vanished, replaced by what felt like a bottomless pit of despair. I felt like a pile of shit. Much larger than the pile that was removed from my colon earlier that morning. Just 130 pounds of disgusting, stinking excrement, plopped right on my sheets. A pile of shit 5 pounds shittier than it should have been.
I rolled out of the bed and sprinted to the bathroom. As I knelt at the toilet with two fingers down my throat, something remarkable happened. My pooch called for me. No, she didn’t grow vocal chords, or learn how to speak English. But there was no mistaking that little yelp that came from her. I heard the concern in her voice. And the doggy speak translated in my mind as
“Mommy? Mommy what are you doing?”
“Go,” I said, face still in the toilet. I turned my head to see her walking towards me. I didn’t want her to see me doing this. “Out, Pippy.”
But my little mutt, normally obedient and quick to listen any time I raised my voice, wasn’t having it. She just stood there staring at me as I leaned over the toilet.
“Bad girl,” I pointed towards the door. “Get out of here. Now.”
But she didn’t budge. She was standing on principle, choosing to defy my command with a loud and angry bark.
“Please Pippy, leave,” I begged her while the urge force myself into barfing intensified. But I felt scolded by the way she was barking and looking at me. Like she knew what I was up to.
“I see you Mommy. I see what you’re doing. I’m not leaving until you stop!”
“Got dammit,” I sighed as moved away from the commode and sat flat on my ass. I thought I might have been able to resort to this in the darkness of my bathroom. With total secrecy, where no one knew what I had done except me and any diety that spied on girls in the privacy of their bathrooms. But I couldn’t gag and puke in front of my distressed pooch.
“Come here,” I said before she leapt into my arms to give me wet, sloppy kisses that I read as her telling me to never scare her like that again. “I’m sorry,” I apologized, as if we were indeed having a conversation about my behavior. As if she truly understood the significance of what she’d just stopped me from doing.
Perhaps I was being silly. I could have just been projecting my own cry for help onto my dog. It was possible, likely even, that the dog had just reacted to sudden movement and loud noises. Her barks could have been explained by her being afraid, not of me hurting myself, but some broad sense of fear that a dog might feel in the dark with loud gagging noises startled her out of her sleep.
Perhaps after a week of emotional ups and downs, starvation, dizzying exercise, and now a cocktail of supplements, fat, sugar, and sodium in my body, I was chemically imbalanced and delusional.
Not in my right mind.
A girl that wanted to self medicate her body issues by being an exhibitionist slut couldn’t have been on stable ground. A girl that was as fit and beautiful as I was still irrationally choosing to shit out of the wrong hole after a big meal wasn’t mentally healthy.
That made me a hypocrite as well as sick.
I’d been quoted in magazines telling girls to love themselves, their bodies, and never resort to unhealthy habits that led to eating disorders. But I’d fallen weak, proving that I shouldn’t have been a role model for body positivity, or a poster girl for women that ate what they wanted and lived a healthy life.
I was absolutely not worthy of being seen as different from the other girls that did resort to unhealthy habits to maintain their beauty. The only thing separating us was a dog I could pretend heard my cries and implicitly understood my pain.
And as she licked me, I heard her saying “I love you just like you are. Now cuddle me and let me sleep on your boobs.”
I cried. But more importantly, I also laughed. And even if irrational, I gave in to the demands she may or may not have actually spoken. I cuddled her spoiled ass and let her sleep on my boobs.
I managed to get through the night without puking but what weighed on me more than the food was that I was supposed to get weighed by Buddy when he came over to bring me breakfast. And then I had a few hours of working out to look forward to before sweating in a sauna and then another morning of shooting water up my anus.
I fired Buddy through text. It was fucked up, I admit it, but I really had no desire to ever hear his voice again. Or see his shit eating grin. Or smell his body fragrance. Or interact with him. I told him I’d pay him for his time as soon as he dropped the keys to the locks off in my mailbox.
He tried calling me several times but I ignored the calls and voice messages and eventually he got the hint and text me back, complaining about me being unprofessional but saying he would drop the keys off later that day. I actually typed out “I guess you didn’t know my body well enough to know it would reject your bullshit” but I didn’t actually send it. It just felt good to type it out.
I made a stop to the store to get some food, and after having a few bowls of Raisin Bran Crunch with bananas I went on a jog with my dog. I came back, showered, and watched some reruns of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Around noon, I decided to head out to my parents place in Malibu.
I’d all but begged my mom to move to L.A. after the icloud hacking. I picked the neighborhood and everything. Close enough so she could bring me homemade soup whenever I was sick or her famous country fried steak mashed potatoes whenever I wanted a home cooked meal, or so I could just go get a hug whenever I felt lonely, but far enough so she wouldn’t just be popping up all of the time. The two hour traffic jams to travel the 30 miles to my place usually kept her impromptu visits to once or twice a month.
But this was one of those times where I wanted a hug. I felt bad for cancelling on her so I could spend all my time with Buddy and his soul sucking diet and exercise. When I pulled into her driveway I saw that my sister in law Sherry’s Chevy parked out front. Even though Sherry was a recent mommy herself, having given birth to my nephew a few months earlier, she still hauled ass around the city in that pickup truck every chance she got. Grocery store, doctors, church. It always made me laugh. Sherry made me laugh. My mom made me laugh. My family made me laugh. And I wanted to laugh.
I let myself in with my spare key and found my mom and Sherry out in the backyard patio lounging on chairs by the pool. Sherry was breastfeeding underneath an umbrella while my mom was doing a crossword puzzle. Sherry had on a sun dress while my mom was wearing one of her swimsuit tops with sweats. Both had on shades. I could see my mom was wearing the $300 mirrored shades she’d purchased last summer while we were out shopping for dresses and accessories to a private 4th of July BBQ.
Her purchase had surprised me. Growing up, she was frugal as all hell, and made a fuss about having to spend $10 on reading glasses. Now she was sporting the latest stylish frames. It was funny to me. My mama was a Kentucky country girl through and through, but the years out in LA were slowly but surely changing her.
She was doing yoga and pilates with her neighbours, becoming less religious and more “spiritual”, drinking Kale smoothies every day, and going on hikes every week. She was even learning Spanish because several of her hiking buddies were Mexican. She sounded so adorable with her country accent trying to string together spanish sentences or force her spanish word of the day in casual conversation.
“Hola senoritas!” I announced after sliding the glass door open and stepping outside.
They both turned towards me with smiles already on their faces.
“Ooooo, buenos dias mi bella hija,” mi madre said.
“Heeeeey chica,” Sherry waved with a wide grin.
After we got our elementary school spanish greetings out of the way we hugged and kissed and laughed and I held the baby until it drooled breast milk on me. Sherry joked that the baby was getting me back for canceling lunch on them. Although she was just teasing, I still felt like I needed to apologize.
“I’m really sorry about that,” I said as I finished cleaning myself with wipes. “Last minute and everything.”
“Jenny don’t be silly,” Sherry said. “We know you’re busy.”
“Right, all that matters is you’re here now,” mom smiled like a mother does whenever she hasn’t seen her baby for too long. But she frowned a second later and tilted her shades so she could see me clearly. “Wait, you are staying for awhile, aren’t you? This isn’t one of those pop in and leave five minutes later visits, right?”
“I’m down to stay for ten,” I grinned.
“I’m just kidding,” I said before giving her a sloppy kiss on the cheek. “You know I’m here to have lunch with you.”
“You better be,” she said before leaning back in her chair.
“Yeah you better spend time with your mama,” Sherry smirked. “Otherwise I might start looking like her favorite daughter..”
“Nuh-uh,” I shook my head before grabbing my mother’s arms. “I’m alwaaaaays going to be her favorite.”
My mom shrugged. “I dunno Jennifer. I have been spending a lot more time with Sherry lately while you’re off in Budapest, and New York, and London all the time. Not saying Sherry is right but…”
“Mother!” I pouted. “Okay fine. I’m spending the whooooole day with you. And I’m going to give you the honor and privilege of fixing me dinner tonight. Happy?”
“That would make me very happy sweetheart,” she smiled.
“I’m still her favorite,” Sherry whispered. We all shared a laugh.
“Whatever,” I rolled my eyes before grabbing a lawn chair and dragging it next to my mom. “Where’s dad?”
“He went boating with your brother,” Mom said. “They’ll probably be gone until dinner.”
“So they go boating and you guys decided to stay home and sunbathe in Winter,” I said.
“Well it didn’t start off as sunbathing,” Mom said. “Sherry wanted some fresh air and I wanted to do my crossword. When we felt how good it was outside, I was like why not get some sun? so I changed into my top. First time it’s felt this nice out in awhile.”
I realized that she was right. It was a beautiful day out, no clouds, not too hot, but not cold either, a clear sign that spring was just around the corner. And with mostly blue skies and the sun right above our heads, it did seem like a perfect day for sitting out by the pool with a bikini on. Unfortunately, I had no bikini. But fortunately, I didn’t need a bikini to take advantage of the awesome weather.
I started with my smokey grey flats, sliding my feet out of them and wiggling my toes once they were free. Though I was being watched by the two ladies, I could see it wasn’t immediately clear to them what I was doing. Or maybe they had an idea of what I was up to, but weren’t sure if I was actually going to go there. I couldn’t help the smirk that appeared on my face as I reached for my waist. Without any hesitation, I pulled my loose grey tee shirt over my head and placed it on the table next to the bottle of sunscreen.
It took the sound of my zipper coming undone for someone to actually say something. And of course it was Sherry. She’d seen me naked before. I stripped naked before her like it was nothing as we tried on dresses for her wedding all those years ago. She also got to see me naked the day I convinced her to let me take her to the spa for a day. But even if this wasn’t totally unexpected behavior, I could see that she still thought of me randomly stripping down to my bra and panties as fun and perhaps even exciting.
“Ooo take it off, take it off,” she teased as I pushed my black jeggings up over my knees, before pulling them off a leg at a time.
My mother on the other hand put her hand to her head as if she felt a headache coming on and shook her head. “Jesus, Jennifer.”
“What?” I asked, feigning puzzlement while reaching behind my back to undo my black bra.
“You haven’t been here five minutes and you’re already getting naked,” she said, whispering ‘naked’ as if it was a bad word.
“I need to get some sun,” I said matter of factly as I freed my breast from the top. “I’m going to have a million photos taken of me tomorrow. Need to make sure my tan is perfect.”
My mom was shaking her head but Sherry was looking in the direction of my chest, which forced me to look down at myself. My nipples were already hard. I wasn’t aroused. But I was stimulated from the sunshine that felt like it came from spring and a light breeze that felt like it belonged in autumn. I could never get over how good it felt being outside without clothes. I also couldn’t get over how much I enjoyed basking in the reactions my naked body produced. I was addicted to it.
“Sure you do,” mom said as I folded my bra and placed it on top of my shoes, socks, and pants. But I had one more garment to add to the pile.
“Oh Gosh, your bottoms too?” mom all but barked while I slid my cute little black panties off my ass. I stopped before getting them completely off my backside. I didn’t mean to laugh as I sat before my mom with my underwear halfway down my buttcrack. But my moms exasperation was just too funny to me.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked. She just stared at me without answering, letting her silence chastise me. I pulled my panties back up. “What?”
“We do have neighbors,” she said, looking away from me and motioning with her hands at our surroundings. The backyard was walled off from two ends, with only one side open to the view of the ocean, but the wall was only so tall, and many of the houses and condos surrounding us were at least 2 stories.
“Not like they can’t see me naked with a google search,” I threw out there.
“Don’t go there,” she said before locking eyes with me. Then she looked at my boobs and turned away.
“Mom, does my nudity embarrass you?” I asked.
“Of course not,” she said sternly before even she had to laugh at the levity of this situation. Her laughter was contagious and got me, Sherry, and even my nephew laughing. ”Not the baby too,” my mom whined.
I rubbed a nipple as I looked at the baby. “Aww, he likes his tias tatas.”
“The only tatas this little boy is allowed to like are mine,” Sherry retorted, bouncing her 5-month old baby boy on her knee. He no longer seemed to care about the conversation. He was staring at the butterfly that was flapping above his head.
“He isn’t allowed to like tata – breasts at all,” mom said, shaking her head. “You girls are so gross.”
“Oh so my boobs are gross now,” I said.
“Yeah, ma. What’s wrong with our boobs?” Sherry asked.
“Oh please, you know what I mean. And you both know you have the loveliest breast.” She looked at me for her next statement. “But do we gotta go showing the whole neighborhood? And if you do that, you gotta take off your underwear too? ”
I shrugged. “For the perfect tan I do.”
“You know ma, you probably should let Jenny sunbathe nude,” Sherry said before she gave me a wink. “I’m sure she has a trip planned later to the tanning salon. She might cut her trip here short if she can’t knock this out now. Isn’t that right, Jenny?”
I decided to play along. “Oh yes Sherry. You are right. If I can’t sunbathe nude out in this perfect sun, then I’m afraid I’ll have to leave soon.”
Mom shook her head. “Ain’t that something. To get my daughter to spend some time with me, I gotta give her permission to let it all hang out in my backyard.”
She gave my topless body another look as Shery laughed and relented with a reluctant grin. “You two are evil,” she pointed before reaching for the sunscreen.
“Yay!” I said as I slid my panties down so I could be totally free and naked out in the sun.
Mom sighed but said “let me get your back.”
I turned my back to her and she helped with making sure my skin was protected from the sun’s rays. She was thorough too, getting my neck and shoulders, then having me stand so she could get every inch of my back. I was about to sit back down but she snapped her finger and said “Nuh uh,” while squirting sunscreen into her palms and then pointing towards my rear. “If you insist on having your butt cheeks out then we’re not done here.”
Hearing my mom say ‘butt cheeks’ made me laugh again, as did the awkwardness of standing in place and letting her rub those cheeks down. It wasn’t a sexual feeling, of course. It made me feel like a little kid again.
My mother was super protective of me, especially when it came to skincare. She’d been that way as far back as I could remember. I was molier than most, and while she told me as a child that this made me unique and beautiful, it was also clear that it made her worry about me.
I had vivid childhood memories of her examining my naked body in the bathroom after I had a bath. And many more memories being examined naked by a dermatologist. “What’s melanoma?” I remembered asking my parents after one particular trip where the doctor had examined my naked skin in the cold and sterile office. I had to have been young enough to still believe in Santa Clause. And I wanted to understand why my doctors visits sometimes meant undressing and being examined as they threw words like “melanoma” out.
My dad told me melanoma was something bad the doctor had to check for every so often. Mom followed up by telling me I had nothing to worry about because God would protect me.Then they took me to get ice cream. Even at that young age, I knew something was up.
As I got older, my mom educated me on skin cancer, ultraviolet light, and the need to always make sure I used sunscreen and lotion whenever I went outside. I was usually good about listening to her.
But sometimes, 10 year olds forget to turn off the stove, or forget to lock the door, or forget to put on sunscreen. And in my household, the latter of these slip ups could devastate my mom.
There was one particular time where I felt the full weight of her maternal instincts to protect me.
I was 12 at the time, and part of a cheerleading squad that had just raised enough money by doing car washes at gas stations every Saturday to have a day trip over at Six Flags.
It was a grueling hot day that summer, and my mom had bought me a brand new bottle of sunscreen as well as shades and a red Louisville Cardinal fitted hat.
But in the excitement of going to an amusement park with my squad, I totally forgot to touch the sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses, and left the house wearing shorts and a crop top that exposed my arms, shoulders, and belly.
I had a blast riding heart-dropping roller coaster all morning but doing loopty loops at 60 miles per hour could not compare to the anxiety and fear I felt while eating lunch and seeing one of my friends point and say “Hey isn’t that your mom?”
This was during the early 2000’s. None of us had cell phone. When your mom needed you, she had to track you down and find you. And this is exactly what my mom had done.
She had drove all the way from home to Six Flags, paid park admission, and searched all over the park for an hour until she found me. And when I turned around to look at her, the anger I saw in her eyes was palpable.
“Oh shit,” I had mumbled to my friends as I saw my mom approaching.
“She looks pissed,” one of my friends had said.
“What did you do?” another asked.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged as my heart pounded. I hadn’t yet realized the lengths she’d gone through to find me, which included calling off from work after she went home for lunch and discovered the sunscreen sitting on my dresser, unopened. All I knew was I had never seen her so obviously angry before.
In what was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, my mother all but dragged me away from my burger and fries into the public restroom, all while the other cheerleaders looked at us with a mix of confusion, amusement, and pity spreading through them. Only when we were out of earshot did I say “Mom you’re embarrassing me.”
In the moment, I was frustrated and annoyed at the lengths she would go to embarass me. It took a perspective change for me to reconfigure that into the lengths she would go to protect me.
She ignored my embarrassment and instructed me to look at myself in the full length mirror of the restroom. The image of me in the mirror was frightening. I was red. Really red. On my arms, chest, back, and face. I guess I’d been having too much fun to even notice the sunburn. It was a bad look.
When I turned to look at my mother, I was shocked to see that tears were falling down her face. Her eyes were leaking.
“Do you want cancer, Jennifer?” she had screamed at me, her voice shaking with a disheartening mix of rage and fear. “Do you want cancer? Huh? Is that what you want?” It was one of the only times I could recall my mild mannered and soft spoken mother yelling at me. Seeing her so hurt and out of character seriously shook me to my core.
“I’m sorry, I forgot,” I remembered telling her as she tried to hide her weeping face from me. She seemed as if she was embarrassed by her own outburst. Or maybe she felt guilty for asking me if I wanted cancer. Or maybe she was just so angry at me that she couldn’t even look at me. Either way, I felt awful. “I’m so sorry mom. It won’t happen again.”
But she was so disappointed in me, so worried that I didn’t take my skincare seriously, and so desperate to protect me from harm, that for the next few months, she insisted on rubbing my body with sunscreen herself every single time I went outside.
For a young girl entering her teenage years and wanting to be independent , this was embarrassing as hell and made me feel like a baby, especially whenever I had friends over. But it also did the trick and stopped me from being so careless.
“Okay my little nudist, that’s all from me,” Mom said after she was done with the back of my thighs. She handed me the bottle so I could handle my chest, stomach, and legs.
“No fair, you didn’t rub my butt,” Sherry pouted.
“I cleaned your babies butt an hour or so ago,” Mom said. “This is my Saturday to relax. I’m not touching anymore butts today!”
It felt good being naked. And it felt really good laughing with my loved ones while naked. I took a handful of dark and white chocolate covered almonds from the bowl my mom was snacking from and lay back on the chair to get comfortable under the sun.
“So what amazing dress are you wearing tomorrow?” Sherry asked as I crunched down on an almond.
Sherry was always excited to talk with me about fashion, and always sent me texts complimenting me on what I wore to red carpet events, so the question was something I expected to receive at some point. But I didn’t really expect for the question to bring me down from my high. I was kind of over even thinking about that fucking dress.
Still, I didn’t want to be a sourpuss, especially when I knew this was one way me and her bonded, so I tried to find the excitement I originally had for the dress when I first decided to wear it. “It’s a really badass wonder-woman inspired dress.”
I described the material, the woman who designed it, how it emphasized curves, and how the midsection looked like a plate of armor.
She was giddy just listening to me describe it, and so was my mother.
“Oh my God, that sounds really cool,” Sherry said. “Easily best dressed material.”
“Yeah it does,” Mom added. “Can’t wait to see it on you.”
I had to admit that their excitement was contagious, and was making me a little more excited to wear it tomorrow. Even if I was sure it would be uncomfortable on me all night.
“Yeah, it really is an amazing dress,” I said, realizing that perhaps I was being selfish for not appreciating the opportunity I was given to wear this dress. FOR MONEY. What a privileged position I was in. And all they were asking in return was for me to go on a diet and get my body as fit and toned as possible. Why had I made it so difficult? I sighed. “I probably shouldn’t be eating these almonds.”
“Why? Are you on a diet?” Mom asked as she chewed on one.
“I’m supposed to be,” I admitted. “But I’ve been messing up. I went to In and Out last night. And I skipped exercise this morning with this asshole trainer I was seeing.”
“Is this why you cancelled lunch the other day on short notice?” Mom asked.
“Kind of, yeah.” I wasn’t sure why I was telling her the truth, especially since I knew she would instantly become defensive. But I guess there was just something comforting about telling your mommy that something was bothering you that compelled me to be honest.
Maybe I wanted her to become defensive. “This swollen, steroid taking asshole had the entire week planned for me to sweat in a steam box and work out. He didn’t want to tempt me with overeating so he made me cancel lunch and dinner and lock up my cabinets and refrigerator.”
My mom looked at me with the same expression she had when I told her Margy Patterson was bullying me in 5th grade. “No he did not. That is unbelievable, Jennifer. How dare her.”
“Yeah girl, why would he have to go to all of those lengths?” Sherry chimed in. “Your body is perfect.”
“Not perfect enough for the perfect dress,” I laughed, though no one laughed with me.
“This isn’t funny,” Mom said. “ Why would you be seeing a trainer telling you there is anything wrong with you?”
“It’s not that something is wrong with me. I’m just not as toned and fit as I was last year. I gained weight while dating Darren and never really dropped it.” I jiggled my arms and grabbed at my belly. “See the flab.”
“Hell no,” Sherry said, waving away everything I’d said. I knew she was trying her damndest to lose her pregnancy weight, and I could tell my words had struck a nerve. “Honey, this is flab,” she said while lifting her sundress and grabbing a handful of her gut. “I would sell my first born to have your body,” she said while holding her first born in her arms.
I chuckled, even though I felt rightfully chastised. “You’re right. I know the diet and exercise they have me on is ridiculous. But Maria did design the dress a certain way, with her ideal dimensions. She doesn’t make adjustments because the measurements are just right. It’s in my contract with Dior to wear their stuff so I kind of have to make sure my body can fit their lineup.”
“Jennifer, the dress isn’t the star, you are,” my mother said. “Whoever designs it needs to make sure it fits you. Not the other way around. Do I need to give this Maria woman a call?”
“Oh lord,” I shook my head. “PLEASE no.”
“Cause I will,” she said, blowing right past my objection . “I absolutely will give these people a piece of my mind and make them spend all night adjusting that dress for you.”
And here was mama bear, willing to go to war for her little cub. I loved that about her. But I was a 27-year-old woman. Supposedly the most powerful woman in Hollywood. I couldn’t have my mama fighting my battles for me.
“Don’t worry mom, I can handle it. I’ll talk to her.”
“You better,” Mom said before giving me a stern look and then handing me some more almonds, as if to say I better not starve myself either. I took more of the almonds and ate, both to satisfy my mother and because they were delicious.
Mom eventually went back to her crossword and after enough time passed for the baby to fall asleep, Sherry put him in his carriage under the umbrella shade and then moved it away from her so she could get some sun.
“Any of you going to join me?” I asked to break what must have been about half an hours worth of silence.
“Join you?” My mom lifted her head. “In the nude?”
“Yeah, why not,” I smiled. “ Or if you don’t go nude, you can at least go topless. It feels really good out.”
“No, we’re not you,” Mom said.
But Sherry didn’t agree. “Honestly, I was thinking about giving it a try.”
My mother shot a half-annoyed look at her daughter-in-law. “You’re kidding.”
“Hey, it does feel good today,” Sherry shrugged. “And I kind of want to air my boobies out.”
“Not you too,” Mom whined as she watched Sherry move the straps of her sundress down her shoulders.
“Air em out sis,” I encouraged which seemed to be just enough of a push to get Sherry to drop her sundress down her gut along with her bra.
She exhaled blissfully as she revealed her breasts to everyone in the backyard, and potentially any perverts that may have been looking from their bedrooms through binoculars. Her boobs weren’t as perky as mine, they sagged a tad, but I thought they looked wonderful. They had gotten bigger since giving birth, and her reddish nipples looked a little swollen and puffy.
While they looked pretty damn suckable, the dominant thought in my head was if the changes to her body were painful. Still, I wanted to make this experience fun and playful.
“Look at you,” I smiled. “Just showing off those gorgeous titties.”
“Nah, you’re showing off yours, I’m just giving these titties some air,” she laughed. “You’re right that it does feel really good though. In fact, I think I’ll join you fully. I don’t want to be two-toned.” And with that, off came the rest of her dress and panties. Now two of us had stripped down until we were naked.
“Is it even safe for you to sunbathe nude while you are still nursing?” she Mom asked, as she grabbed her phone and started googling. Me and Sherry just looked at each other and grinned while our protective mother searched for and found the answer. “Well Doctor WebMother says it’s okay.” She sighed and shook her head. “Well if you’re going to go all nudist on me too then here,” she said before grabbing the sunscreen so Sherry was just as protected from the sun’s rays as I was.
When everyone was properly screened and relaxed, I pulled out my phone and played my easy listening playlist, starting with ‘Ode To My Family” by the Cranberries. It was a bittersweet song to listen to; soothing for sure, but Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries had recently passed away. My mom was the one to bring it up, saying how sad it was. “And she was so young too,” she said, her voice somber. She was really sensitive to that kind of thing.
Fortunately, the conversation between us that followed our condolences was lighthearted. Some reminiscing and nostalgia over timeless music, some disparaging of new school music, some jokes, some words of wisdom. The casual conversation even made me forget that I was even naked. It wasn’t until my mother chuckled out loud to herself did the reality of me and Sherry’s state of undress come back into focus.
“What you laughing at?” I asked.
She threw a thoughtful gaze my way before smiling. “I was thinking about the time your father took me to a clothing optional resort.”
“What?” I laughed. “No way. Dad?”
She nodded through her own laughter. “Yes ma’am. Your dad took me to a nudist resort.”
“Oh no,” she said, erasing that possibility. “Not recently. This was years ago.”
“How many years ago?” I pressed.
She seemed tickled by my inquiry. “This was many years ago. You weren’t born yet.”
“So this was in Kentucky?” I said.
“Oh God no,” she snickered. “He knew better than to do that. I would have killed him. We know too many people in that state. Too many families due to the summer camp. Too many church leaders and politicians. Word would have gotten out. This happened in Jamaica.”
“That is so cute,” Sherry teased. “I didn’t know you and dad were once nudists.”
“No, no, no,” Mom denied. “This was all Gary’s doing. I had no idea what he was up to. It was our first time even out of the country together. My sister agreed to watch the boys so me and my husband could go on vacation to celebrate our anniversary. He booked everything with the travel agent. Just told me to relax and let him handle everything. We took a cruise there. Lovely cruise. Great buffet and music.”
“Were you naked?” I asked.
“No I was not,” Mom answered. “No one was. The cruise was normal. It was the resort we checked into that featured that kind of stuff. And Gary didn’t even tell me! Here I was so excited and happy as we pull up to this luxurious resort with a great beach. We go to check in and all of a sudden a naked guy just casually walks on by with his….penis just swinging back and forth.”
Sherry grinned, “Was it big?”
“I don’t know I ain’t look,” Mom snapped, her country roots coming back.
Sherry and I both broke up with laughter at this.
“It’s the truth. I turned away from him and was greeted with the sight of two naked women. I covered my eyes, and asked what is going on here. That was when the receptionist informed me that this was a clothing optional resort. I thought we were at the wrong place but when I looked at your father, that’s when I knew. He meant to bring us there. Girls, the look I gave Gary could kill.”
“What did daddy say?” I asked.
“Tried to tell me to just go along with it and have some fun,” she shook her head. “We’d talked about spicing things up so I guess that was his way of doing that. He told me that if I didn’t want to stay there we could go somewhere else but I could see he wanted to try it and I didn’t wanna be a wet blanket, so I let them check us in.”
Sherry must have been reading my mind when she asked “So what happened?”
“We spent the week there,” she shrugged. “It was a nice place. Really nice.The gym could have used a few renovations and we had to request a room that blew cooler air conditioning. I thought one of the bathrooms also had a funny smell-”
“We aren’t asking for your yelp review,” I butted in. “Did you get naked?”
“Absolutely not,” she said. I’m not sure why I felt disappointed. But I did.
“Why not?” Sherry asked, again reading my mind.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable,” she answered. “I mean, there was a nude and prude sections of the resort. And I mostly stayed to the prude side the first few days. I think around the third day I did mingle in the pool with a few nude couples. But I kept my bathing suit on. Your father took his off in the water. I just wasn’t really in the right headspace to do more. I didn’t feel attractive enough to take off my clothes.”
Me and Sherry both reacted harshly to this bit of self depreciation. We immediately tried to tell her that she was hot as hell but she didn’t really want to hear it.
“You girls don’t get it. I was at least twenty pounds heavier than I am now. At least 30 pounds bigger than I was before having my boys. I wasn’t happy with myself and didn’t want to take off my clothes in front of anyone. It took a long time before I was even comfortable enough to make love to my husband with the lights on. I know Gary was trying to help me. Make me more confident in my body. He always told me I was the most beautiful woman in the world. And he wanted me to feel the same way about myself as he did. But I just couldn’t push myself to go nude around anyone.”
“Was he disappointed?” I asked.
She scrunched up her face in thought, as if the answer to the question was a math problem she had to solve. “If he was disappointed, he made sure not to let me see it. Maybe I didn’t feel comfortable taking my clothes off outside our hotel room. But I wasn’t allowed to have any on inside it.” She smiled then, finding happiness in her memory, and then looked directly at me. “A month later, I was pregnant with you.”
“Haha, you were conceived at a nudist resort!” Sherry laughed. “That actually makes a lot of sense.”
I casually brushed my fingers against my left nipple while my other hand rested on the soft hair of my pubic mound. “Whatever do you mean?”
“It explains why you obsessed with showing that body of yours off,” she said.
“Hey, it’s Hollywood that is obsessed with showing my body off. I have to do it.”
“That’s a lie,” Mom interrupted. “Don’t blame Hollywood on why you are so quick to get naked. You were always wild and free. The type of girl to ride her horse nude out in the field and have the sheriff chasing her.”
My eyes could have popped out of their sockets in that moment along with my jaw dislocating. “What? How…you knew about that?”
“Of course I knew,” Mom said while eyeing me with a grin. “I know you better than you think I do.”
“Wait, wait, wait, hold up,” Sherry said, getting my mother’s attention. “Riding a horse nude. Is this a metaphor or something?”
Mom looked at Sherry and pointed at me. “When this little nudist was a teenager, she snuck out of the house late in the night and rode her horse nude and had the Sheriff chasing her for miles.”
Sherry looked at Mom and then at me. “You little exhibitionist,” she laughed. “What possessed you to do that?”
“I’ve wondered the same thing,” Mom shook her head.
This was so crazy to me. Although this event had happened so many years ago, I still felt embarrassed by it. Or more specifically, not knowing that my own mother knew about it. But how? My brothers were the only people that knew. They were the only ones that could have told her, aside from Darren. And it couldn’t have been Darren. So it had to be them. I was going to kill them. “Did Blaine and Ben tell you?”
“No,” Mom said. “They didn’t tell me. The Sheriff basically told me. I mean, you were his number one suspect. And when we questioned your brothers, it was obvious they were lying to cover for you. You guys aren’t very good liars. Especially Ben. His stuttering gives it away.”
This revelation sucked ass. Who else knew?
“So dad knows too?” I asked.
“He acts like an idiot but he isn’t one,” she answered. I felt even more embarrassed now.
“We figured it was you because honestly it sounded like something you would do. Your father wanted to question you about it but I stopped him. Told him ‘oh dear she’s just a girl. Probably lost a bet or did it on a dare. You know how wild and determined she is. Let the Sheriff talk to her and scare her straight.’ I figured after you had the talk with the Sheriff about streakers going to jail that it would be enough so you wouldn’t do it again.”
“You were right,” I admitted. That had been the last time I was wild and determined enough to venture outside naked. At least until last week with Darren.
“So was it a dare?” Sherry asked. “A lost bet?”
I wasn’t a little girl anymore. I was no longer in danger of getting in trouble for telling the truth. At most, it was going to be embarrassing. But I was completely naked outside having one of my childhood secrets revealed to not be a secret. Any further embarrassment on the subject would have been just another pill to swallow after having already swallowed a handful of tough pills.
I told them the truth. It hadn’t been a lost bet or a dare. It hadn’t been a punishment inflicted by another person or a risk someone else put me up to. It was all me. I had decided to do it because I wanted to do it. Simple as that, even if the emotions that surrounded the adventure were complicated and varied.
“It was just a primal and spiritual experience,” I admitted. “Just me, Holly, and the moon and stars. It was exciting, relaxing, exhilarating, scary, and fun.”
“You make it sound like sex,” Sherry said.
“I care to refer to it as a non-sexual ,sexual experience,” I said, thinking of my friend and lover that made that contradictory concept coherent and meaningful to me. Or, if Emma was correct, the puppet master pulling my strings.
“Oxymoron much?” Sherry giggled.
I flipped my hair and decided to play the part of a dumb blonde stereotype from horse country. It was much easier to do that than to try to articulate why an illogical concept felt right to me on a visceral level. “Hey I’m not the smartest gal in the world but I am not a moron!” I joked.
I swatted at a bug that landed on my breast. Instinctively, that led to me scratching an itch around my areola. Then suddenly, I found my fingers pinching my nipples. Stimulating them felt good.
Being naked felt good. Sexy, even. But did that mean this moment with my sister in law and mother was a sexual experience? “I know it sounds dumb,” I said out loud as I switched to laying on my belly so my back could get love from the sun, or maybe I just wanted to hide the fact that my nipples were really hard now and I could feel my juices beginning to flow. “How can something be sexual but not sexual?”
“I know what you mean baby,” Mom said, surprising me. I lifted my head and lay my chin in my palm to look at her while she spoke. “Your mind can be in one place but your body has a mind of its own. For your mind, not sexual. For your body…” Mom had said she knew me better than I thought she did. Did she know the internal debate I was having right at that moment?
“But that’s just life,” she said, swatting at the same bugs annoying me. “How can something be beautiful and ugly at the same time? I don’t know but I’ve seen it. Some things can make ya laugh but also make ya cry. Ya know, it isn’t always black and white. Way more colors than that.”
“Yeah that makes sense,” Sherry said. “Kinda reminds me of the little thought experiment about trying to describe the color yellow to a blind person. You know it when you see it but that don’t mean you can describe to others that haven’t seen it or felt it. ”
“Experiences are better lived than explained,” Mom said.
I thought to poke fun at them suddenly turning into philosophers but I was enjoying it too much to undercut them with a bad joke. And I seriously need to learn how to deal with my feelings seriously without immediately taking the air out of them with forced levity.
“I’ve actually thought about doing it again,” I admitted to them. “Maybe buying some property back in Kentucky. Acres of private land. Plenty of room for some horses to roam. A lake or creek to go fishing. Some trees to climb. Plenty of privacy for me. No cops to chase me if I wanted to ride across the field in the buff. Of course I wouldn’t do it just so I could ride naked again. But it would be a perk..” I wanted to add that I know this must have sounded stupid but I held my tongue. Stop saying what you want is stupid.
“That sounds like it would be fun,” Sherry said. I appreciated that she hadn’t responded with a joke.
“I haven’t heard you talk about going back to Kentucky since you left home for Hollywood,” Mom said.
“Guess I haven’t really thought about it until now,” I said.
“Tired of L.A. and New York?” Sherry asked. “Or just need somewhere where you can ride horses naked?”
“Maybe a little of both? Don’t get me wrong. I really love both cities. But I guess I’m also getting older now. Almost 30. Unlimited clubs and parties don’t have the same appeal as it did when I was 21. A quiet place in the country sounds good to my ears. Even if it’s just to get away for a few weeks.”
“Oh I see. Your mama comes to L.A. and all of a sudden you want to leave,” Mom said. We shared a laugh.
“No, never that. I’m glad we’re close again,” I said truthfully before looking to Sherry. “And I’m glad you guys moved out here too. You are my rock.”
There was a thoughtful silence and kind smiles shared between us before my mom spoke in my direction. “Do you remember when I used to try to make you bake cookies with me?”
I chuckled at how left field the question was. “Not really.”
“Yeah, you were young whenever you decided you didn’t like doing it. Maybe 5 or 6. You’d make a fuss about it being so boring. I told you making cookies and pies was fun. But you weren’t having it. I bought you an easy bake oven. You played with it for like a day or so and went back to playing with toy trucks.”
I smiled, remembering exactly what she was talking about. Though because I didn’t know why she was bringing it up, I didn’t say anything.
“Next I tried to get you into gardening,” she said. “Thinking, okay so baking is a bust, but maybe this is something we can do. But while out in the garden you’d see your brothers climbing trees and I could never get your attention.”
Because we were doing chores and they were having fun, I thought.
“I remember when I was pregnant with you and found out that we were having a girl. I was so happy. Finally, I was going to have some estrogen in the house. I was going to have a little mini me.”
“Didn’t turn out that way, huh,” Sherry said.
“Not even close,” Mom smiled before turning back to me. “I tried my hardest to keep you to myself but by the time you could run you were busy chasing after your brothers, wrestling with them in the backyard, climbing trees, scraping up your knees, and messing up your hair. When you were around 7 I had to accept that my little girl would much rather spend the day outside barefoot with her shirt off running around than stay inside and make a pie with me. You are your father’s child. Along with your brothers. Got his attitude, and mannerisms, and interests. So I said, well I guess I have four boys now.”
“Damn mom, I’m sorry,” I said.
“I’m not telling you this to feel sorry. I’m telling you because once I stopped trying to change you, I realized I had something much more precious than a clone of me. I had a happy child. A truly, independent, spirited, happy child. That is all any mother could ever hope for. Sherry is gonna learn this firsthand with her baby,” she said while looking at her sleeping grandson. She smiled. “A parents greatest joy is seeing their children happy. And you were happy.”
She was right about that. Between the horses, the camp, the outdoor activities, the sports, the cheerleading, the open fields, the derbys, and the house full of love, I did have a happy childhood. But while I wanted to enjoy this time reminiscing about how happy I was back then, I still didn’t know why she was bringing this up. But I could tell from the way she was looking that she was going to tell me. She was determined for me to understand.
“Something changed around the time you were 14,” she said, eyeing me. “We went on vacation to New York and you realized the world was bigger than Louisville. Came back home and I guess the horseback riding and fishing and suburban life wasn’t enough. You wanted more.”
“Was this the trip where Jen was discovered by that agent?” Sherry asked. She knew the public story of how I got discovered. Where I was walking on the streets and a talent scout randomly spotted me, told me I had “a look”, and told me to audition for modeling and acting agents. The version I told the press and friends and most family members.
But she didn’t know the real story. That the Disney-esque storybook fantasy of being discovered while visiting the Empire State Building on a family vacation was bullshit.
That ‘random’ encounter with a talent scout? Well it wasn’t so random. I’d been communicating with him for months beforehand after I sent in an audition tape to a TV show. He thought I had a special look. The “it” factor.
And while he did have connections in the industry, he also had more interest in me than what was professional or ethical. He never outright propositioned me, but he did tell me to lie to my parents about knowing him. And he showered me with compliments and gifts. I know now that nothing comes free.
What followed after I was famously “discovered” was months of arguments and tears that nearly destroyed the relationship I had with my parents. Beyond the anger they felt when they discovered their teenager was communicating with an adult agent behind their backs, and the misplaced fears they had that I might have slept with him, they also thought I was impossibly naive and irresponsible; bound to be destroyed by lying scumbags leading me on with false promises.
They had a point. I had no formal training in acting. I was just a pretty face with dreams. How many thousands of women have failed to turn that pretty face and those dreams into a career? On another note, how many of those women had sold their souls for success? It was metoo before metoo was coined.
I had been close to running away from home to pursue my dreams without their approval. Just packing my bags and taking off to New York where I was told by the adult talent scout that I could sleep on his couch. In hindsight, now that I was older and hip to the power dynamics of Hollywood, I knew that he was actually offering me his bed. But back then, I was too up my own ass to see past my dreams of stardom.
I had been signed by a talent agency by this point, which fed my ego, and only made me resent being stuck in the commonwealth. Where was I going to get acting or modeling jobs there? My agency wanted me to move. So I was going to move.
Thank God my mother had enough foresight to see how close I had been to fleeing to pursue my dreams. And rather than dig in her heels and continue to fight with me over whether I could actually make it, she caved. Told me she would take leave from work and let me take a few months off from school so we could stay in New York for three months. This would allow me to audition and network, and ultimately determine if a career was viable.
I only had to make her two promises. One, that I wouldn’t contact the skeevy talent scout that she didn’t like or trust, under any circumstances. Two, that I would finish high school.
I only kept the first one.
By the time those three months were over, I’d modeled for a product and appeared in two commercials and was officially part of SAG, the Screen Actors Guild. That small success was enough to convince her and dad to go into their savings and retirement to allow me to move out to L.A., on the advice of my agency.
I didn’t believe Mom would go into this bit of history with Sherry around. She rarely mentioned that period between us. I didn’t either. This was the first time we’d even skated around it in years.
Mom nodded at Sherry to answer her question before focusing on me again. “It was hell putting up with all of the gossip and rumors around the community when you moved away. People thought you got knocked up or something. Only a few people like your aunt and grandparents knew where you went and why. And even though they looked at me like I was a bad mother for letting you go. But I told them hey, my daughter is talented, determined, and pursuing what makes her happy. I support her.”
“I know you sacrificed a lot,” I said. “I’m so thankful for all you did to make this all happen. For believing in me. Being my number one fan.”
“You make it easy to believe in you,” she smiled. “Even when my head tells me you’re wrong, my heart tells me you’re right. You made this happen by believing in yourself. Following your own heart. Even when you weren’t getting roles from those auditions, I could see that this was what you wanted to do. It was what made you happy.” She paused for a long time before taking off her shades and narrowing her eyes. “It was what made you happy.”
“You think I’m unhappy?” I asked. I tried to giggle as I asked but somehow the giggle died in my chest.
“When those pictures of you leaked, I saw the change. Even now. You like to pretend like you’re past it, but I know when you’re forcing a smile. I know when you’re hiding behind a laugh. You may be an award winning actress, but I know when you’re performing.”
Laying bare before her while she told me hard truths about myself was very humbling. “I still get angry,” I admitted. And horny, and confused, and depressed, I wanted to add. But I couldn’t say all of that with Sherry right there listening to it all. I could barely admit these things to myself, let alone other people.
“As you should,” Mom said. “But you know what. I love how you respond to your anger. The day those photos came out and I checked my phone and saw hundreds of texts and calls, my first reaction was oh god, I have to pull her away from this. I have to hide her in the house for the rest of her life. I wanted you out of Hollywood, out of this industry. But I was projecting my own fears onto you. Had it happened to me? I would have ran away and never come back. But you’ve handled it so beautifully, so maturely. With the roles you’ve chosen, your interviews, everything. Even now, still comfortable enough in your own skin to just take off your clothes and say to hell with what you think. I admire that about you. You’re so much braver than me.”
“I get my bravery from you,” I told her. “You stood up for me when no one else would. Whenever your family, and friends, and church turned against you for allowing me to leave. You supported me. That’s bravery.”
“That’s being a mother,” she smiled. “But the reason I brought this up is because I see you, Jennifer. I can see the award shows aren’t fun anymore. I see that the relentless schedule of flights, and appearances, and events have worn you down. That the relationship issues and breakups have made you question if there’s something wrong with you. That the pressure of box office returns and contract obligations have taken some of the joy out of acting and modeling. That the paparazzi and media have made you distrust and resent people. That being the face of Hollywood feminism has been stressful and made you hate Hollywood feminism. And then I hear things like you going on a diet to fit into some dress, as if you aren’t perfect, and it breaks my heart. If a parents greatest joy is seeing their child happy then imagine what the greatest pain is….”
I felt tears coming down my cheeks before I even realized I was crying. She leaned down and wiped a tear away. “The only reason I ever let you come to Hollywood was because it made you happy. But if it’s not fun anymore, if it no longer makes you happy, if you don’t have the passion for it anymore, then it’s okay to walk away from it.
You won your oscars. You left your mark. It’s okay to give the middle finger to all of the producers, directors, endorsements, award shows, fans. You don’t owe anyone any more of you. If you want to pack it all up and move back to Kentucky and ride horses naked all day, then do that. Whatever your heart tells you to do, do it. And I’ll be there to defend you and support you and love you. You hear me, my little nudist?”
She kissed me on my forehead while Sherry fanned her eyes with her hands to stop herself from crying. I felt so lucky. So loved and supported. So appreciative of the woman I was blessed to call my mother.
It took several minutes before we were able to recover from the emotional moment that had spontaneously snuck up on us. In fact, what actually snapped us out of the moment was that Suzanne Vega started singing “My name is Luka, I live on the second floor” from my phone speakers. Sherry found that hilarious. “Why is this song on your easy listening playlist?” she giggled.
“It’s relaxing to me,” I shrugged. “Puts me in a good mood.”
“A song about a little kid being abused puts you in a good mood?” Sherry asked.
“Hey, it’s catchy!” I grinned before singing along. “You just don’t argue anymore. Just don’t arrrrgue annnnnymore. Just don’t arguuuuuuuue anymore.”
“Jesus Jennifer, don’t ever say this out loud to anyone else,” Mom shook her head.
We were back in a playful, teasing mood when Sherry decided to turn on her stomach and asked Mom to rub some sunscreen on her back and neck. I got the bright idea to test my mother and see if we could make this get together even more fun.
“Mom, why don’t you join us?” I asked.
She narrowed her eyes. “Join you in what?”
“Enjoying the sun. “It’s like, perfect out right now.”
“I am enjoying the sun,” she retorted as she worked her daughter in-laws back and shoulders.
“Kind of,” Sherry said. “But not like we are.”
Sherry clearly knew what I was getting at. I knew she would play along.
“Yeah don’t you really want to enjoy today’s exemplary weather?” I asked.
“Again, I am enjoying it just fine,” she said as she sat back in her seat.
Sherry snickered as I burned a hole through her while grinning evilly. “Come on mom. You know you want to.”
“Want to become nudists like you two? No I don’t,” she shook her head. “I do not have to be nude to enjoy the sun.”
“You don’t have to get naked,” I said. “Just take off your top.”
“Yeah mom, join the dark side,” Sherry said.
“I’m not naughty like the two of you. I’m a very conservative and good grandma,” Mom said, looking towards her sleeping grandbaby as if she needed to remind herself of why she wasn’t allowed to show off her boobs in her own backyard. “You girls are young, beautiful, and free to live on the wild side. I’m-”
“Young, and beautiful, and free to live on the wild side,” I cut her off, still smiling at her. “Cut that grandma stuff out. You’re a milf.”
“I am not.”
“Oh yes you are. Dad has been telling me how you’re always up early to go for a jog, how the yoga is helping with your flexibility. How much more energy you have since moving out here. I know all of that is code for how much sex you guys are having now.”
“Jennifer!” Mom put up her hands.
“Jennifer nothing, I know I’m not lying. You’re hot and in the best shape of your life and daddy is loving it. If there was ever a time to be proud of that milf body of yours and show it off, it’s now.”
“Hardy har,” Mom rolled her eyes. But there was a moment – a blink and you missed it look to her face, that I implicitly recognized. She would have never admitted it, not then, but I could see on her face that she was not only enjoying my good-natured compliments, but in that brief moment she had actually considered what I had asked her to do.
Consideration was always the most dangerous aspect of the dilema. When you moved beyond asking yourself could you do it, and instead began to ask yourself should you.
I hadn’t actually thought she could or would. I’d only been teasing her to get a reaction and have some more laughs with Sherry. But seeing her debate it within her own mind had made me determined to get that top off her.
It wasn’t so much a desire to see my mom’s boobs. That didn’t hold much appeal to me at all. There was no sexual excitement there – even if there was something inherently sexual about encouraging a woman to recognize how sexy she was. Potential contradiction aside, there were several layers that excited me in the moment.
For one, I knew how great it felt being naked outside, hell I was enjoying it right now, and I wanted my mom to see for herself. Not only so she could enjoy her Saturday out by the pool a little more, but also because I wanted my mom to understand me. Having her enjoy her naked body out in the sun would be a step towards her understanding what I enjoyed about it.
In addition, there was no way in hell my mom should have had insecurities about her body. Not just because of body positivity doctrine that said everyone, no matter how fat or unattractive should love their bodies. But because she really was a knockout. She worked hard for her body and there was no need to hide it. She deserved to feel great in her own skin. I wanted to reward her with that feeling.
But beyond helping my mom see the light, or in Sherry’s words, see the dark side, I also found it really fun to be on the other side of the coin.
The past few months I’ve been the one struggling with myself over if I could or should, while others were gently encouraging me to say yes. Though exhilarating, it was also emotionally exhausting being that person. But this moment was offering me the chance to flip the script.
I was looking at a beautiful woman try to pretend that she wasn’t interested in exposing herself, all while her reluctant smile gave away that something inside her wanted to. And there was only one satisfying way for that story to end. She just needed someone to yell action and direct the scene.
“So now that we’ve determined that you’re young, and beautiful, and free to live on the wild side…” I smiled.
“You two determined that,” she pointed out, still being stubborn about accepting her that it was true. She looked directly at me. “Your father wasn’t even able to convince me to go nude 30 years ago. What makes you think I’ll do it now?”
It was simple for me. She wanted to do it now. Even if she couldn’t admit it to herself. There was something about breaking the social taboo that intrigued her.
But instead of making her confront that truth, I gave her an out by appealing to motherly instincts. “Because it would make us happy,” I said in my best innocent pouty voice. The kind of voice a daughter uses to get what she wants, when asking plainly doesn’t work. Best deployed for fathers. Half as effective on moms.
“Uh huh. You did say a parents greatest joy was seeing their kids happy,” Sherry said in her own version of the voice, which I’m sure worked many a times on her own parents.
Mom laughed. And it took her several moments of laughter before she was able to respond to this obvious trap. “Yeah but that’s when kids are kids. You’re not kids anymore. I ilve for my own happiness.”
“But it makes you happy to make us happy,” I said.
“Don’t you wanna make us happy?” Sherry added for evil effect.
“Not that much,” Mom said, trying to sound authoritative and final as she grabbed her crossword puzzle and pushed her shades back up her face. But everything from her body language to the smirk she tried to hide betrayed her.
I’ll give her credit. She managed to work on the puzzle for a good two or three minutes before she gave up the charade. “Fine, I’ll join you girls but I’m not taking off my bottoms,” she tossed the crossword puzzle aside and slowly, carefully, removed her top with one hand while keeping her breast covered with the other.
We cheered her even taking it that far. But the biggest cheer didn’t come until she took a gigantic breath and let her arms fall to her sides. She was topless now. Outside. With her two naked daughters. And the world hadn’t exploded nor had it stopped spinning.
I wanted to tell her it was okay to exhale now. But I let her adjust to being topless like this for the first time in her own way. I didn’t want her to think it was such a big deal that needed to be talked about before and afterwards. I was about to change the subject to something completely different when she caught me off guard by reaching for her sweats and pulling them down her legs, carrying her bottoms with her.
It had taken several minutes before she found the nerve to take off her top, but only seconds to decide to go all of the way. And I could tell from the look of her flushed face that she was experiencing a feeling she likely had never experienced before. It was crazy how such a simple act could produce such deep emotions. I was both proud and jealous.
“Wow look at you,” Sherry said, clearly just as shocked as I was.
And with that I actually did look at her. Her boobs, smaller than mine, were creamy white, her nipples were hard, her tummy was flat and perfect, but what shocked me even more was that she was completely shaveds.
Before I could even say anything she started laughing. Deep, embarrassed, excited laughter from her belly.
I didn’t have to ask her why she was laughing so suddenly, so hard. I just laughed right along with her. For as absurd and taboo breaking as this all was, laughing felt entirely natural and appropriate.
What followed was some of the most pleasant and low stress relaxing that I’d felt in a long time. Being naked with two other naked women that I loved and admired put me in a space where I felt so comfortable and open and free. No shame, no stress, no mistrust. I’d felt at least one of those, and most days, all of them every day for the last several years. It was a joy to not feel it, if at least for a couple of hours.
That serene state nearly carried me into a naked and blissful nap in the sun, but before I could fully doze off, I was startled awake by two traumatized voices yelling at the same time.
“Oh my God.”
Oh my god was right. My eyes shot open. And there they were. My big brother and daddy, jaws dropped as they were greeted with the sight of three completely naked ladies.
The boys went running back into the house, covering their eyes and cursing while us girls went scrambling for our clothes. “I thought you wouldn’t be home until later!” Mom threw out as she stepped into her sweats, and yanked them up. She grabbed her bottoms and balled them up as she went after her husband.
“Mom, why?” I heard my brother ask before he literally screamed “Aaaaahhhhhhhh!”
It was an epic scream that put a cap on what surely become family lore. The day the baby boy walked in on his mother and learned a fact he never wanted to know; his mommy had a beautifully shaved pussy. The day daddy saw two daughters bare assed.
It was the kind of story that would shared over Thanksgiving dinner as if it was a horror story, the kind of thing that would be remembered fondly as the years went by, and joked about whenever we wanted to get under each others skin.
I could handle it. But I was sure Mom was going to be blushing with embarrassment for years to come.
I spent the rest of the day with my family. Mom tried to make it up to her baby boy by making him his favorite dessert, banana pudding, and she made her famous meatloaf for dinner. When she mentioned how Dior wanted me starve myself for a size 0 dress, dad said “screw that,” and made sure I got seconds of the meatloaf and pudding. I ate it without even complaining because it was so good. It was my first time having seconds in months.
I would have stayed the night if I didn’t have to feed and walk my dog, but made sure to give daddy a big kiss on the cheek as he and Blaine washed dishes and cleaned up the dining room. I tried to give Blaine one but he said I turned his mom into an exhibitionist and pretended to pout before grabbing me for a hug and kiss while messing my hair.
I kissed the baby goodbye and gave out more hugs and kisses to my sister but my longest embrace was with my mother. “Regret anything?” I asked her as she hugged me close.
“No, I had fun, plus I made my daughter happy,” she said while squeezing me even harder. When we broke the embrace she took a step back and looked at me hard. “Remember what I said. Don’t let Hollywood ruin you.”