First time I remember being called “raw” was when I posted a picture of my hand with an engagement ring. An acquaintance commented with “first of all, congrats! Second of all, now I really know how honest and raw you are! I have never seen a picture of an engagement ring before on a hand without a perfect manicure!”.
It was this photo.
Never mind a manicure, there is dirt under my nails.
Italian proposed to me on a weekday evening, as I returned from the gym - sweaty and smelly. Under my nails - who knows what. Trail dirt? General grime of the public exercise space?
The most recent photo that got similar “yay, you are so raw!” comments was this one:
You are so raw! Honest! Authentic! All compliments. I think. I have this mental tick where I look up definitions of words when I’m trying to figure something out. I look up “raw”. -- Uncooked (like meat) -- Not yet analyzed or evaluated (like data) -- Coarse or crude (like lyrics) To be fair, “raw” and “honest” are the words I hear often applied to my writing. It’s gritty, it’s heavy on the detail, and it does not avoid messy shit. But hearing those words applied to my writing somehow makes more sense, than hearing those words applied to describe my face. My face is raw? And honest? Thank…. You…? I like raw things - like writing, music and fruit. I like honest things - like writing, music, and people. I like being brave and courageous - like leaving your kid for the first time with someone who is not you? Terrifying. All the courage. I don’t super like being called raw and brave for things that (at least on the surface) are neither raw nor brave - like… having a face. And yet… Bare face on camera - raw. My bare arms at a wedding - brave. Shorts while pregnant - authentic. Soft belly post-birth - honest. These comments are really a reflection of what people see and DON’T see on a regular basis, aren’t they? When we pause, when we say “whoa!” at something, it signals a deviation from what we normally see. Did you know they use the length of time babies stare at something as a measure of interest in developmental psychology research? You show babies two things and see which one the baby look at longer. The idea is that the longer the baby looks at something, the more they find it interesting. We look at a thing that is new and unusual longer. We linger. We comment. We go “whoa!”. Want to hear something funny? The very first linea negra I have ever seen on a pregnant woman (you know that dark line that runs down the belly?) was on my best friend. I was in my 30s, and have been working with women for years. I mean, sure, I was not a labour and delivery nurse, but still… Why have I never seen that line before? Well… go ahead and Google “pregnant woman”, and see how many bellies will show that line. None of them. All bellies are smooth, and perfectly round. You’d need to actually Google “linea negra” to see images of the dark line running down the belly. It’s not the default image that pops up when you simply look at images of pregnant women. I think the same goes for selfies, and engagement ring hands, and shorts while pregnant. We just … don’t see too many of them? Not unless we deliberately expose ourselves to those things. I still remember being slightly let down, when I started going to a REAL HIGH SCHOOL IN NORTH AMERICA, and while rows of lockers looked exactly like they did in all the shows I watched growing up, people surely didn’t. People seemed… how do I say this… not as tall, not as White, not as conventionally attractive as the cast of a typical afternoon sitcom that took place IN a high school. Thank goodness for that, of course, because who wants to receive an education in a fake made-up place full of cardboard cutouts, but… I did go “whoa” there for a second. Many of us have the same notion of what human physical bodies look like. Many people’s idea of what a normal human body looks like is about as realistic as my idea of what a student body at a North American high school was. One blessing of working in the health and wellness industry is the sheer amount of exposure to a variety of bodies. I am constantly changing in and out of clothes at a yoga studio, a gym, beside my car at a race - often surrounded by humans of all shapes and sizes doing the same. As a health coach, I have seen hundreds of women in their underwear, as they document their progress in getting stronger, or faster, or leaner, or more pregnant. But if that’s not your reality, and most human bodies YOU see show up on a little lit-up screen, then it’s quite easy to construct an incredibly warped perception of reality, fueled by magazine covers, Tiktok reels, and IG grids. I worked with a client once - mostly sedentary, living in a large body and managing a chronic condition - who subscribed to dozens of bodybuilding magazines. Her own body was THE only body she saw on a regular basis that was not eight percent body fat AND covered in tanning oil. When I discuss body image with clients, I often ask where they see bodies like theirs. Living, breathing, being active? And if the answer is nowhere, then I encourage them to curate their social media feed, to find those people, to find those bodies - to start shifting their perception of reality closer to… well… actual reality. So, I’ll ask you the same thing today - from unmanicured nails to makeupless selfies to linea negra to just human bodies - where are ya getting those? And if the answer is “just you, Kate” - I’ll make sure they keep coming, AND will encourage you to get more. :)