Last night, I put aside the emotional upheaval of the past few weeks for a couple of hours and entered a whole new world. My friends over at Red Bat Photography (who also shot our wedding photos) wanted me to do a model shoot for their portfolio, and I happily obliged. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was blown away by how much fun we all had.

In my day to day life, I spend most of my time wearing the same old pajamas or yoga pants. I hardly ever wear makeup, especially now that I’m not working, and I rarely spend longer than three minutes on my hair. So it was an untold luxury just to spend an hour gussying myself up on a Tuesday night and picking out the most fun things I own, most of which are rotting away in the back of my closet. But to follow that procedure with almost three hours of wardrobe changes, wine, aesthetic discussions, and two very good friends… well, I was in heaven. Not to mention that I got to hear how beautiful I am on an average of every 30 seconds or so. All in all, not a bad way to spend an evening!

At one point in these proceedings, they showed me a shot that actually brought tears to my eyes. There is still a hideously self-conscious little girl inside me, one who spent about fifteen years hating her chunky — excuse me, “curvy” — appearance, and she simply could not believe that the person on that tiny two-inch digital screen was actually me. I have experienced life both as a size 14 and a size 4, and frankly I felt exactly the same in both incarnations. But the way the outside world sees me has changed dramatically. Yes, it’s superficial, but to be seen as conventionally beautiful after being the fat girl for so long… it’s still a totally novel concept.

And yet, when I came home, I washed all the makeup off, put on the same old pajamas as I always wear, and curled up next to my husband on the couch to watch Sex and the City. And you know what? My appearance made absolutely no difference in that scenario. He would have loved me if I was still a size 14, just as he loves the size 4 me while I’m wearing my PJs with my hair sticking out everywhere. He sees the me that I’ve always wanted everyone to see, whether I was a chunky adolescent girl or a stick-like — excuse me, “willowy” — young woman. I am a history geek, I am a huge dork with a ridiculous sense of humor, I am a semi-neurotic, impatient, mildly obsessive runner who over-analyzes everything, and I don’t cook. I am and have always been these things, and am lucky enough to have married someone who sees all of this along with my appearance… and still has the balls to love me.

That is the lesson to be learned here, one which I wish I could go back and impart to that same miserable teenager. It doesn’t matter what form you take, or whether or not people want to take glamorous photos of you. It matters who you go home to at night, who you curl up next to on the couch, who offers you no judgement about your weight, the zits on your chin, or any other part of your appearance. And, if you just stick it out long enough, you’ll find that person.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure if I would’ve listened. But it sure would’ve been nice to hear.