It’s been a long time in hiding…but I’m finally ready to be noticed
I’ve gotten at least thirty nosebleeds this year. I know this is an unusual way to start an article about sex, but bear with me. I’ll get to the sex — I promise.
Nosebleeds aren’t unusual for me, but getting them so often definitely is. Maybe it’s because this region has been excessively dry this year (hence why we just experienced some of the worst wildfires we’ve had in decades). Maybe my body is changing as I get further into my 40s. Maybe it’s the crushing stress of 2020.
But after the most recent incident that caused me to spend ten minutes pinching the bridge of my nose, I looked up the symbolism of nosebleeds. (Yes, I’m the kind of person who does hippie shit like that.) Louise Hay wrote that nosebleeds are a symptom of a need for recognition and a desire to be noticed.
It felt like a gut punch to read that — which usually means there’s truth there.
Do I feel unnoticed? Unrecognized?
I don’t have to think twice about the answer, which, of course, is yes.
I have struggled with this since I was 12 years old. A series of sexual assaults taught me that being invisible was safer. That making sure no one recognized me — or my femaleness, for that matter — was the only way to protect myself.
And yet, who ultimately wants that? We are sexual beings. We long to be noticed by viable partners. We long to have our sexuality recognized.
We want to be in the game.
I felt this impossible tug-of-war within me all through my high school years. I always wanted to be beautiful and skinny and wear pretty clothes and capture people’s attention and attract their desire. And yet — I wanted to fade into the wall, pass by without notice, make sure no one looked at me too long and decided they had to have me — and take me with or without my permission, as so many had already done.
I always defaulted to invisibility. I would’ve rather been invisible, undesired, unnoticed than to risk putting my body and soul in danger again.
Little did I know that making this choice again and again would set a deep pattern in motion — one that I’m still fighting against today, in middle age.
I am hungry to be noticed. I want to take off my clothes and let the whole world see me. I want to step fully into myself as a sexual being and let people want me, and see who I, in turn, want.
I am even hungry to be noticed in other ways — for my heart, my creativity, my talent, my hard work, my determination, my kindness. Yes, I want to be noticed. I want to be recognized.
This also terrifies me now as much as it did 32 years ago. Despite all of our recent talk of consent, we have barely started the journey of respecting a woman’s sexual boundaries. Take a look at social media or even the news, and you’ll see that the “She asked for it” story is still the main narrative in this culture.
There’s some irony there that I can’t get past. Of course I’m asking for it. Sexuality is an energy of interconnection. It asks and it wants an answer.
The problem is, it doesn’t necessarily want an answer from any random dude passing by on the street — or on the internet. And the answer it wants isn’t necessarily a sexual encounter, or even a bid for one.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to put my sexuality out into the world (where it absolutely belongs — this world is starving for expressions of the full spectrum of female sexuality) and feel it received with gently appreciative, non-grasping arms? To feel it cultivated with validating smiles and whispers of encouragement? To feel it answered with an invitation never spoken so that we have the chance to assert ourselves in our own desire, in our own power?
As someone who has spent the majority of her life hiding and doing her best to remain in the background, there is a beast in me that often threatens to break free in the most unhealthy ways. Since I began writing here and publishing not just my most personal stories, but nude self-portraits as well, I have had to work very hard to try to temper myself. To make sure each share moves me closer to being the person I want to be, and isn’t just a reactive counterbalance of the ways I’ve suppressed myself decade after decade.
It is sometimes hard not to fill my website with photos of my naked body and even more explicit stories about my life, my dreams, my experiences.
I want to learn how to reveal myself. I want to learn how to be noticed in ways that are in alignment with how I want to be noticed. I want to do this right — otherwise, it won’t ultimately mean anything, won’t help me find what I’m looking for.
And yet, I recognize that I am not in control of why people notice me. Some see my work and think it’s nothing more than a shallow bid for attention. Some see it as trashy click-bait created by someone who wants to position women as sexual objects. Some will see me as a sex-obsessed woman who’s dying to fuck as many strangers on the internet as possible, including, hopefully, them.
People will notice me for all kinds of different reasons, many of which will be far from the reasons I’d like to be noticed. Reasons that aren’t accurate or real to me. Reasons that create a narrative around me that I didn’t write.
But even knowing that, I’m still hungry to be seen. I still want people to be shaken when they walk by me, subtly rearranged by this disturbance in the Force that is my powerfully thrumming sexual and creative energy.
I see this in many women — not the nosebleeds, but the desire to be noticed. How many friends of mine have taken boudoir photographs and felt overwhelmed with joy for weeks after the session? How many were so overcome with feelings of empowerment that they dared to post those photos on Facebook? (Hint: A lot.)
How many of my friends have confessed to me, upon hearing about my own explorations with nude photography, how much they long to do the same? Some already have a collection of nude selfies safely hidden somewhere on their hard drives. Others long to push the envelope and post them publicly as I have been doing.
Why? Are we just closeted exhibitionists?
No, I think it’s something else, entirely. I think women long to be noticed as sexual beings. But we’re also plenty keen to how dangerous that is.
How many of us are actually expending energy in order to live like the handmaids of Gilead? Think of the symbolic robes and visors we put on every single day in order to help us remain invisible — safe.
Do we want that? So many of us would answer with a fast and loud NO.
Of course we want to be noticed. We want to let our sexuality move freely in this world, converse with confidence and authority, invite exactly what we want and nothing more — or less.
But how do we do this in a world that still doesn’t know how to handle us?
What I want is to stand naked, without shame, and feel the power of my sexuality. I want it to call out for everything it desires, knowing it is safe to do so, that only the worthy can answer.
I want to be recognized by other wild creatures — recognized as one of their kind, not someone who has to pretend to be someone else, just to make sure it’s safe to be myself. I want to be able to see our sameness in their eyes with just a look and let them look right back.
See me. Notice me.
This is a delicate dance, unlearning invisibility. We have to be strategic and move slowly. And sadly, we have to be cautious because it is still not safe to allow ourselves to fully reveal who we are.
But I’m taking off one piece of clothing after the other and I’m not going to stop until I’m standing naked in that shaft of sunlight, there for all to see.