Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Naked I stand - and stand and stand and stand

In my rather unstructured life, I've had many, many jobs: bank teller, ticket seller at a porno theater, guinea pig contestant for game shows in development, Paddington Bear in children's cancer wards, carpenter on a crew building sets for fashion shows, imagination tutor to a 10-year-old, Amtrak reservation clerk, hogie-maker, vehicle maintenance clerk for Coca-Cola, office manager for a Beverly Hills real estate company.  

The job I had longest is one of the least conventional. For 30 years, I was an art model.  This is the job that was both easiest (no training necessary, no special skills needed besides the willingness to be naked in front of strangers and the ability to hold still) and the hardest (it can be very, very boring and sometimes painful).

When Sweet Hubby and I flew to Tennessee early in our marriage so that I could meet his (devoutly Baptist) mother, the subject came up of what I do for a living.  I was concerned about losing her approval, but certainly didn't want to pretend to be other than I am, so I said "I'm a model for art classes", hoping the art in the classes would redeem me.  She gave it a moment's thought, then asked, in her thick accent, "With or without clothes?"  "Sometimes with but usually without."  She thought for another moment, then said kindly "Well, you just keep warm."  And I knew we would be all right.  Which we were.  

For some reason, I have always been unself-conscious about my body.  In the first class I was hired for, I had a moment of queasiness in the second before I took off my robe, but once I'd passed that marker, I was at ease for the remainder of my career.  I was always treated respectfully, usually as an object (this is one arena in what objectification is appropriate), although in some of the classes I modeled for frequently, the teachers and I, and sometimes the students, dealt with one another as people with personalities and lives outside of class.

I was much in demand (my ego loved that) because I enjoyed taking eccentric poses, with twists and bends and off-kilter balance.  My favorite classes were the ones in which I did mostly short poses, one minute, five minutes, ten minutes.  My least favorite were the sculpting and painting classes, which called for one pose for the three hours of class for a series of up to ten classes.  Those were awful,  Even a reclining pose is painful after a while; something always hurts or goes numb.

Fortunately for me, art classes need every sort of body, so I continued to do this work even as I aged, gained weight, became less strong and less limber.  At one institute, there was a teacher who gave anatomy classes; for the class on skeletons, he hired a thin model; for the class on muscles - you get the idea.  I was hired for the session on fat and aging.  Which didn't bother me at all.  I know how old I am, and I know what I look like.  I was happy to be someone who could cheerfully fill that need, as older models are harder to find.

I don't know why I'm so comfortable naked. There's something about bodies which intrigues and enchants me.  They are so fragile and so resilient.  So beautiful and so odd looking.  They betray us in so many ways, and also are able to heal themselves almost miraculously.  We identify and are identified with them and by them, and yet they are are not who we are; they are merely the meat package which allows our Selves to experience the world.  What a gift that is, to be able to smell baking bread, and hear a Scott Joplin rag, and see the intricate mosaic tiling of a mosque, and taste a perfectly ripe peach, and feel the velvety fur of little girl cat Stachie.  To be able to hold another person's body in an embrace.  (Oh my lord, do I miss hugging.  How have single people survived this era of distancing?)  I think we should all stand naked in front of a mirror now and then and celebrate what we see, with no judgment nor condemnation, but just to glory for a moment in the gift of our corporeality. 

1 comment:

  1. You are so fortunate to be comfortable and happy with your body. So many of us have been shamed or terrorized about our bodies. Though I'm the lowest weight now of my adult life (as much as 60 pounds lower),I can still grab handfuls of flab off my hips. But, I no longer cringe at the sight in the mirror and accept that flab and those wrinkles and droops.

    I miss hugging, too. Once when meeting a new member of our book group and hugging her up right away, she said, "Trudy SAID you would hug me." In the last few weeks, though, I'm feeling okay (and they are, too) hugging friends who've also been fully vaccinated. That's been a beautiful thing. Hugs to YOU! xoA <3