Sandi Hutcheson grew up a preacher’s kid in Atlanta, Georgia. Following Southern tradition, Sandi married young and set out to raise a perfect family. Three kids later, she was on track, when Sandi’s mother gave her an unexpected “gift”: a copy of a book filled with diet and exercise tips called Look Great Naked, and told her “I think your husband is having an affair.” The unspoken message was: your husband is straying; go fix yourself.
Instead, Sandi learned to peel away the scales of image and strip down to her authentic self. No longer addicted to perfection and the notion she has to hide her weaknesses from everyone, Sandi teaches Short Story Writing at Flagler College and Creative Writing for the University of Phoenix, and has a PhD in Creative Writing from Warnborough College, Ireland.
With an MFA from Spalding University, Sandi’s work has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Doxie Digest, and Southern Journal magazines. Her novel, Looks Great Naked, follows the struggles of Grace Adams, a woman on a similar journey of despair and hope – sometimes side-splitting, sometimes heartrending – that will empower people who are afraid to take off their masks.
Here’s a letter from Sandi to her readers:
Dear “Naked” Friends,
Remember Narcissus? The guy so in love with his image that it destroyed him?
Named after the tragic Greek hero, the narcissus is a flowering bulb that blooms in spring. The embryonic flower is housed in a casing of fleshy, moist tissue called “scales,” with just enough food for one season.
The little flower has to shed its outer layers in order to bloom.
In 2001, my mother handed me a “gift,” a copy of a book filled with diet and exercise tips. The book was called Look Great Naked. When she handed me the book, she said to me, “I think your husband is having an affair.”
Turns out, she was right, but not about the affair.
(Well, she was right about that, too.)
She was right that I needed to learn how to look great naked, stripped down to my authentic self. I was addicted to perfection and to the notion that I had to hide my weaknesses from everyone, including myself. Ironically, the image I portrayed was terribly unattractive.
Mom’s gift and my husband’s affairs helped me peel away the scales of the image and helped the flower begin to bloom. After all, it’s really hard to portray an image of perfection when your husband leaves you for a shot girl he met in a strip club. I found a happy place in realizing that I’m at my most beautiful (and loveable) when I’m genuine.
And for that, I’m overwhelmingly grateful to both of them.