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The Gauze Factor and The English Pinups

by Naomi Cavalier

My husband and I were recently in Savannah, Georgia for a few high-digit heat and humidity days to see the historic sites. To escape the weather but not to buy, we stopped in an air-conditioned store selling expensive glass objects. Displayed on the counter near the cash register was an item Id been looking for for months. And it wasnt made of glass. It was a calendar assembled by twelve women, ages 45 to 66, from the small town of Rylstone, England who had posed nude, each assuming a different pose for a different month. Their intention was to raise money for the medical expenses of one of their husbands who had leukemia. Money from sales in the US are intended for leukemia research. But aside from these worthy causes, the calendar has made regular older females like me feel better about themselves (as they say in my trade: social work) even driving some of us out of the closet where we changed our clothes so that no one could see how we looked without them.

      Breasts exposed, nipples at the ready, these gutsy British women in wide-brimmed hats, pearl necklaces and little else gaze calmly, if not seductively, at the camera as if they were taking tea at a nudist colony. True, genitalia are discreetly hidden  leaving their exposure just this side of a Full Monty, but their conventional accessories (oh! what an inspired touch) suggest that nakedness is perfectly proper attire for a photograph of honest-to-God grown-up women.  And the genteel quality of their poses as they perform their homely tasks: baking in March, knitting in November far removes them from the pornographic. In addition, they look great. A little old, perhaps, for Renoir but appealing in a similarly ripe, womanly way. Any of them would make a splendid centerfold in Modern Maturity. Who cares if the photographs have a  gauzy quality that blots out liver spots or wrinkles; the soft yielding of flesh on their bodies loudly announces their unembarrassed invasion of pinup art: the former realm of nubile young women.

Of course, youre not likely to see the calendar hanging on the wall of your  automobile mechanics shop; the bodies arent titillating enough (if you get my meaning) nor is their display likely to dispel the viewers surprise that older women actually have bodies. A surprise fostered by the notion of popular culture that female bodies belong exclusively to  the young.  But as the population ages, which it is rapidly doing, the revelation of these bodies may be a precursor of things to come. No longer will older female bodies be disdained by the public because more of the public will have them. No longer will a calendar like this one be a novelty because its success, particularly in England, has already attracted imitators.  An English insurance company is currently contemplating a similar calendar with disrobed older women reading insurance policies.

     Encouraged by the success of the calendar and by the favorable demographics, the gauze industry may be girding its loins for an outpouring of photographs of older women in the raw (if I were among them I might corner the market on gauze). But in the meantime, the humor and chutzpah in The Calendar of The Ladies of Rylstone have created a kind of soft-core heresy that amuses, surprises and delights while defying the aforementioned popular culture. And I love them for it.



The Express Newspaper Service published an interview with the ladies (clothed) and so we're including it so you can track their next project. 

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