Poser by Beth Bates


In a darkened studio, draped in an ill-fitting silk blouse, I sat on a wooden stool and posed. Girl parts aching, I contorted my face into expressions of purity.

“How was your summer?” asked the photographer from behind his giant camera. He clicked away. He didn’t want an answer, but I yearned to give him one. Beneath my petite, dance team girl exterior resided a dumpy, used up chain-smoker in a housecoat. I felt weary and alone.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” I said. He adjusted the umbrella to light my face and tilted my chin with tobacco-stained fingers.

I needed to unearth the ache, to bring it into the light. A gnawing emptiness yawned, greedy to be filled. I needed help apprehending the adult turmoil that had slithered into my spirit.

I was a baby, and fourteen days earlier I had given away a baby. Per specific instructions intended to reduce emotional trauma, and to minimize proprietary attachment to the child, masked people dressed in scrubs swooped “it” away from my body and rushed “it” out of the room. Fleeting infant song was replaced by the hushed, sober sounds of medical personnel repairing surgical slices.

The blue-eyed Superman anesthesiologist stationed by my side throughout the delivery left to numb another patient. My mother and sister sat in a waiting room somewhere in the hospital, smoking bummed cigarettes, maybe calling the prayer chain.

To distract myself from the stinging needle in my lacerated young vagina, I guided my imagination to the closet of my childhood room and browsed the blouses hanging over rows of stuffed animals. The silk one. I’ll fit in it by senior pictures.

But I did not fit, nor would I, ever. Not in the blouse, not in my own skin.

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22 Responses to “Poser by Beth Bates”

  1. Annie says:

    So proud of you, Beth. So proud, and so happy. YOUR STORY – published!

  2. V Meyers says:

    So proud of you, Beth. So proud, and so happy. YOUR STORY – published!

  3. Curly Red says:

    Brilliant!

  4. Candace says:

    This should be required reading for junior high females. Very good, indeed.

  5. Amy says:

    How can SO MUCH be said in such a short story? I’m aching.

  6. Amy says:

    This story is as powerful now as it was the first time I read it.

  7. Kate A says:

    Beth… again- haunting.

  8. Cezarija Abartis says:

    The topic could have resulted in a sentimental story instead of the restrained and powerful one it is.

  9. Lysha says:

    Seriously, so proud to know you. Love you.

  10. Beth says:

    Thanks, kiddos.

    Candace: I’d be content for it to be considered “Nonrequired” reading. (Are you listening, Dave Eggers???)

  11. Cathy Z says:

    You are an inspiration. So proud to call you my friend.

  12. Visitor says:

    Again these are great! Seriously consider making these actual books! These are great.

  13. M S says:

    The flow of your story is slow and eloquent–I enjoyed it very much.

  14. Sandra says:

    This is really interesting! I would love to read more!

  15. Lucy says:

    very deep and good!

  16. Newcomer says:

    This is an amazing piece. It’s so powerful. You have a great talent; please keep writing.

  17. Guest says:

    this is wonderful writing, really enjoyed it!

  18. Bethany says:

    Once again, written beautifully. Very moving, especially reading as a teenager.

  19. Mindy M says:

    Beth, I think this is wonderful! Wow!

  20. bogan says:

    bogan, you continue to amaze and expand me. i’d like to offer you a stick of gum. blue gum

  21. Cindy says:

    Beth… the biting simplicity of this short, true story is amazing to me.. It really is gripping me and I feel the need to pull away and think. What amazes me the most is the vividness of the story. I feel it as if I was actually there. And I also regret that I wasn’t there because I distanced myself, for which I am very sorry. It was ignorance and lack of sensitivity to your feelings. So proud of you. Truly.

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