The ad said models of all ages, shapes and sizes were needed for the community art program’s “Life Drawing” class (life drawing meaning figure drawing and figure drawing meaning nude). I found the all-inclusiveness of this cattle call to be very encouraging and intriguing. Still, as a 35-year old mother of two, it took me three attempts before I stayed on the line long enough to leave a message. “Maybe they won’t call,” I thought with relief after hanging up the phone.
As it turns out, folks willing to display themselves nude in a room full of strangers are hard to come by, especially at $10 an hour. I received a call within two days of submitting my name. “Surely those models in the nude magazines make out better than this,” I thought. But then, I wasn’t doing it for the money. I was doing it for the life experience, and to prove to myself that I could.
I forgot to bring a bathrobe to the class, something any model worth her salt would have known. The instructor loaned me a dusty, paint-stained drop cloth to wrap around myself. It was itchy, but I was grateful to have it. Making the transition from the tiny private changing room to the brightly lit platform at the center of the studio was difficult. The walk felt like it lasted an eternity, and I could feel eyes burning into me, sizing me up. “What the hell am I doing?” I wondered. “Couldn’t I find a better way to deal with my mid-life crisis?”
It was too late to turn back now. I struck the first pose and took a long, deep breath. “Behold!” I exclaimed, “The effects of gravity,” and let the drop cloth fall to the floor. And there I was. One moment I was an average, semi-normal person standing in the center of a room, and WHAM, in the next moment I became a nude model. It was as simple as dropping a sheet and as terrifying as leaping into outer space. And life would never be the same.
No one laughed, not even at my attempt at self-deprecation. In fact, the only sound in the room came from the artists scribbling furiously away at their easels. I stole some glances around the room, trying to maintain my pose. No one was running away in horror or throwing up in revulsion. Everyone was fully intent on their own effort to portray the nuances of my figure. Gradually, as I stood bathed in the warm white light, I allowed myself to feel confident and attractive, to revel in my nakedness and accept my body. I felt brave and strong and fearless and free.
At the breaks between poses, I browsed around the room at the gorgeous pictures I had inspired. Artists are optimists; they want their world to be beautiful. Consequently, they are very skilled at accentuating the positive, like a strong jaw line, and minimizing the negative, like heavy thighs. An artist will generally make you look at least 35% better than you do in reality, I discovered, and this can be a real ego booster.
As I left the class and walked out into the unsuspecting public, I enjoyed a secret smile and thought about what I had accomplished. I had allowed myself to be completely vulnerable and naked – literally naked – in front of a room full of strangers! I had triumphed over embarrassment and ego. I was a fearless warrior standing victorious over the scourge of insecurity. I couldn’t wait to do it again.
“Only next time,” I thought, “I’ll bring a robe.”
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