I used to volunteer at an Old folks’ home for 18months. Part was due to a resolution to do more good in the world and another part was me trying to fill the empty spaces of my weekend.
It’s the type of experience that renders you in absolute awe of the human body and its capability to endure. Another insight are the lives they led, the paths they took the wars and malice they must have seen throughout the years and the unhinged outlook they must have on life, death & relationships.
I remember loving the conversations. Well the conversations with those who weren’t beaten to a pulp by dementia and constant sleeping. To me they were amazing, to them, probably nothing but a tale to tell. They just smiled and said: “Let me tell you about the time…” and the time sounded as if it were on a different planetary scale.
So let me tell you about the time…
Rita said it was good to capture it all on film before it started to sag. She used to be a photographer and showed me some of her work. 1940s sepia shots with broody expressions on everyone’s faces. It felt like I was in a documentary. She showed me her nude shots. It shocked me. She was stunning. Young, pert, porcelain and curvy. But it shocked me. I didn’t expect a 70 year old to have a frisky past. Well, I did, but I didn’t expect her to show me. She said: “You need to capture it all, for yourself. Some days you need to look back and feel the nostalgia and the beauty you had at 20 or at 30”. I stared at the pages. Pages and Pages of the nude 20 year old version of this geriatric and then some of her lover. Boy, was he hung!
I believe in it. I’ve never taken an artistic shot, but I can see the logic in tasteful nudity. Beauty & art needs to be preserved. Why not preserve your youth? Sometimes I feel the longer I stay single and unwed (and un-laid) the more I feel like my young body is being wasted. It’s highly unfair that the prime of a woman’s sex life is in her 30s, yet the prime of her body is in her 20s. Biological bias much?
Then the battle goes in. Should tasteful shots be for yourself, your partner, or for a website like bigbootys.com? I should have asked Rita, but I don’t think she would know what to do if she was featured on bigbootys.com. Hundreds of scenarios play out in your head if your photos ever became public: partner being jealous, parents being humiliated, friends thinking you’re a harlot, losing your job, losing respect and ending up on bigbootys.com. It’s a hella of a lot to risk in the name of beauty & art. But if you have friends like mine, then they’d just advise you to cover your face and get over it.
Should I also mention the time….
Mable told me how much people’s mind-set has changed since she moved from Guyana in 1941. She had come to Oxford in her mid-twenties with her Aunt Velma. Like many black Caribbean immigrants she was bombarded with a chilling racist reality. She gained groundswork in a factory where her co-workers were predominantly white.
“One thing I remember is how cold and scared everyone was toward us. But I’ll tell you a funny story. One day I was careless, you know? I cut myself on a blade and I bled man, I was bleeding so bad and screaming. Everyone came and instead of helping me bandage my cut, they stood in amazement.” She laughed. “You know why? One said they couldn’t believe that I was bleeding red blood! Haha! You know I was scared and crying and they couldn’t believe my blood was red. One woman said, Look how I bleed just like white people.” That amazed me. At first I honestly I didn’t want to hear it or believe that level of prejudicial ignorance was experienced by this gentle lady. It was bizarrely too real. “The doctor eventually stitched me up, you know, but I still tell people that story. I never even used to see black and white talk like friends, now it’s an easy thing. Everyone’s easy, but I still know what it was like. I still know how they behaved. It’s still fresh man. Now, everyone’s changed. You know when my grandson married a white woman; I was a little scared for him. It’s that old history that I fear gon’ repeat.”
Mable struck me with her words. She smiled throughout and laughed at the minds of people. But that era was still so fresh and vivid in her mind. I wish more people were exposed to their tales, the power in their stories would make this generations trials seem so alien.