Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The meaning of "sexy"

I routinely post links to my Flickr images to this blog. One recent post was a cherished photograph of my friend Denise, a dance instructor in training at the local Fred Astaire studio. Yesterday, while checking my Flickr photostream, I discovered that I had been invited to post the image to a group called "Sexy Black Women," or something like that; in any event, the word "sexy" was part of the group's name. Because Denise is both a married woman and someone I want to treat with decency, kindness, and respect, I declined the invitation. I intended the photograph to be beautiful and appealing, but not erotic in any way, and I simply felt that Denise deserved far better from me than to be linked to a Flickr group with a name such as that one, with its less-than-savory overtones.

It was therefore with great interest that I read this article in today's edition of Meridian Magazine, which analyzes that word and its connotations. I have never doubted for a moment that declining that invitation was the right thing to do, but if I had had any doubts, I believe this article would have removed them. And I also think Denise, who strikes me as being a class act, would very much appreciate what I have done.

Incidentally, in a related development, I have made two 8x10 prints of that image and put them to good use. One was given to Denise at her request, and she, in turn, presented it to her husband as a birthday present. (It meant a lot to me, by the way, that Denise and her husband were both so delighted with that photograph.) The other print was for me, and I framed it and hung it in my office. It is there for a couple of reasons. First, I spend my workdays helping litigants to settle divorce and paternity cases, which at times can be unpleasant and acrimonious, and I thought the presence of that image in the room might exert a subtle psychological impact on the parties to my conferences. (A few days ago an attorney who attended one of them told me it had had precisely that effect on him.) The second reason is for my own benefit. I am basically a pessimist by nature, and highly prone to long episodes of dark, brooding introspection; but who, including myself, can possibly look at that pleasant, cheerful countenance without being infected by it? Moreover, it represents a sort of personal triumph for me as well. Denise was somewhat reluctant to pose for me at first, but ended up loving the result; and while making her look beautiful was very easy, I also succeeded in making her feel beautiful, which was far more important. So the framed portrait serves as a reminder that I used my camera and my developing talent as a photographer to bless and enrich someone else's life, and as an incentive to continue doing so.

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