Today I will be nude modeling for an art class at a local college. This is such a huge deal to me that this is my fourth attempt at writing this blog because I don’t even know where to begin.
Backtrack to a year ago, or thereabouts. I got this idea in my head that I really wanted to model nude for the purpose of art. I think that creative expression is vital to human existence, and the mediums we choose are our own business. I tend to write, as you may have noticed, but this seed planted in my brain that it would be an amazing experience to model nude for an art photographer, or a painter, or the like. Of course this idea was not well received by my husband and it wasn’t worth the fight so I kind of let it go. But the seed was there, waiting patiently.
A few months ago, I was having lunch with a friend and I found out she does this as a source of income. Immediately I told her that this is something I have wanted to do for a while. We didn’t really get into the specifics, but I told her to let me know when the opportunity arose for me to do this.
A few days ago, she let me know that today there is an art class and they need a model. My first reaction was, um, terror. Terror is probably a little dramatic but I definitely had a knot of tension in my tummy. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything… because now I actually have to do it, or come to grips with how spineless I am.
To me, a body is just that – a body. We are born into it, grow into it, use it until it’s all used up, and then it goes back into the earth. I have a hard time feeling pride for features that are not mine to take credit for – I was born into a slender figure that requires very little maintenance. I don’t eat the right kinds of food and I don’t exercise. I don’t watch my weight and I just change clothing sizes when my body changes. My hair cooperates just because those are the genes I was born with. I recognize that I am very lucky, but I don’t take any credit for something that I had nothing to do with. My parents can take credit for creating me.
So, with that being said, I figured out a long time ago that a body is just a body and it’s not a big deal. Does that mean I go around and dress provocatively and slut it up? Not really. As a product of my raising I am extremely modest. If I lift my arms and my tummy shows, I need a longer shirt. Short skirts bother me and excessively tight clothing is uncomfortable. It is possible to feel sexy without looking like a prostitute. This idea is so deeply ingrained in me that I have a war going on between two beliefs: that a body is just a body and that it should be covered as much as possible at all times.
The other piece of this is that no matter how I appear to you, I appear to myself entirely different. There is no person on the planet that doesn’t have at least one thing about themselves they would change if it could easily happen. For me, there are several. That doesn’t mean I’m not okay with my body, but it’s not exactly to my liking. So I find clothing to be comforting, I can manipulate the way my body looks to feel good about myself and alter the impression that others have. I don’t go all out, as some say, but I do enough to feel good.
Taking all of that off leaves no barrier between the things about myself that I don’t care for and the people who are there to see it. Interestingly enough, I have no problem being nude with someone who I am romantically involved with. Probably because the sex part makes up for whatever it is about my body I think is undesirable. But this is completely different, I offer these people nothing except a figure to draw. So there’s that.
Basically what I’m left with is a mess of feelings. I have to come to grips with whatever fears I have about my body because once I take that robe off, I have to sit completely still for three hours. Yes, we have a break for five minutes every twenty, and I put the robe on during breaks, but twenty minutes is a long time to be completely still. I can’t even fidget to take my mind off how uncomfortable I am. The only thing that will have my undivided attention is this mess of feelings going on inside of me.
After giving it a considerable amount of thought, I decided to go ahead and do it. This is an opportunity to really push myself. To see what I’m made of, what kind of balls/spine/chutzpah/guts I have, because to me this is about confronting the way I feel about myself and the way I feel about the world. People shouldn’t take their clothes off in front of strangers, it’s just not proper. It would be better if I were at a nudist colony or something, and we were all in it together. But this is just me, in the flesh, with a bunch of complete strangers looking at me.
Once I talked it through with my friend, it was easier to make the decision to do it. For example, it’s not a bunch of eighteen year old brats in a random art class they took to fill their schedule. This is an advanced course and these artists are professionals, and I am a professional as well. I am discouraged against making conversation with them, my job is to sit still in twenty-minute intervals. I don’t make eye contact with them on purpose, and they don’t come near me. I am on a platform in the middle of a circle of artists and I have a bubble that no one invades. I will not be asked to do anything racy or promiscuous or even remotely sexual (as silly as that sounds, considering I will be naked). And these artists are looking at my body and they see shapes and lines and light and shadow. It’s not about sex or arousal or flirtation, it’s about art and the female figure. I might as well be a basket of fruit.
So, when I took all of that into the equation, all I was left with were my fears and insecurities and this internal struggle. And I wasn’t about to let THAT dictate my decisions… because no matter how I feel about my body or my view on the world, having to look myself in the mirror and know that I couldn’t do it because I was AFRAID? Don’t have the stomach for it. So I have to wrestle out every ounce of courage I’ve got because I’m committed to this. And writing about it, in the safety of my bedroom and fully clothed, it doesn’t seem so bad. But there is going to be a moment in a few hours when I have to untie my robe and take it off in front of a whole lot of people who I don’t know, so I’m not kidding myself. This won’t be pleasant at first.
But, I’m hoping that at the end of it, I will be permanently different. I will feel empowered and probably silly for being so afraid. I will have challenged myself and succeeded in facing some of the most vulnerable parts of my own psyche. I can’t wait to write about it later today.
You are brave and beautiful…and I look forward to reading the next installment…I don’t know what this will be like for you, but it has already been rich, it seems.
I’ve been a nude model for 28 years, so it is sometimes difficult for me to look back on that first modeling experience and wonder what life was like before. I was 18 at the time, and I had grown up in a home where nudity outside of the bath or shower just wasn’t proper. I went off to college, and when I heard about the figure drawing classes, I immediately wanted to be a model for them. I didn’t even have to think about it. I signed up, and I got my first booking not too long after.
Your last paragraph struck me, and I can honestly say that I was permanently different after that first modeling session. I was a lot more confident, and I felt a sense of freedom I had never felt. It seems that I’m always dressing for something, wearing different clothes for different functions. I had school clothes, church clothes, exercise clothes, work clothes, even swim suits. Modeling nude was the first time I could just be me. Nothing but me.
Needless to say, I was hooked. I continued to model all through my college years, and even though I currently have a corporate job, I still model for evening and weekend classes. I’m 46 now, and I can certainly see myself modeling until I’m 86.
Good luck today. I hope you find as much in modeling as I did…
You got a lot of guts. Though you don’t believe it, those art students will be lucky to paint you.