This post is the second part of a story I recalled while walking down memory lane. It involves a life drawing class with nude models. It may interest you to read part 1 first, and I would highly encourage you to read the comments, as well.
Given the interesting events of the first nude model drawling class, and the subsequent attention from a male student in a dorm, I spent the rest of my week fretting.
Partly I was intrigued about the the philosopher student’s offer to pose nude for me in the name of ‘practicing’ my sketching. But it was weird; he was a few years older, and he had a fiancée I had never even seen in the dorm.
She did finally make an appearance during that week and I was surprised to find that she was relatively tall, with a nice smile and long, curly red hair. I don’t know why I had expected a short, bespectacled dark-haired girl…
The fiancée and I only saw each other in passing; the philosopher declined to introduce us but I do remember him looking a little bit shocked when he saw her and me standing mere meters apart in the hallway outside of his dorm room.
Perhaps he *forgot* to mention his plans to strip for me to his fiancée? 🙄
I just roll my eyes now but back then, I didn’t think anything of it.
I do remembered pondering how this engagement of theirs worked since the philosopher was living in a single room in a dormitory, and the girl lived…I don’t know where, somewhere off campus.
But I didn’t ask any questions. I wasn’t romantically (or sexually) interested in the philosopher, just curious. After all, he was the one who wanted to be naked in a room with me…
All of these events prepared me for the next nude model drawing adventure. I felt a lot more prepared, even somewhat sophisticated, for having experienced the first class with the nude girl model and then the philosopher thingy.
Here I was, a freshman in University sampling what adulthood had to offer:
I was going to classes with naked people in it, and dealing with men who propositioned me, offering to do *adult* things with me that I hadn’t done before.
Finally, my art class rolled around. This time, we were going to sketch the male model.
We anxiously anticipated his arrival after we filed into the room and set up our easels. Then, the professor started her speech again, and reminded us of the professional nature of this event.
We waited a while, but the man who was to pose for us didn’t show up. After several long minutes, the prof left the room, probably to go find him.
She returned a little while later with a scrawny, very embarrassed looking older man. Older being relative to us ‘kids’ – most of us were around 18 or 19, and he was, best guess, probably around mid 30s. But he looked much older.
He was skinny, awkward, had wispy hair of some indeterminate colour and was dressed in a very odd looking polyester robe. I think the pattern was paisley or something…
I remember seeing some students exchange looks with each other. This guy wasn’t exactly what we expected. But, we sat patiently in front of our easels and waited for the prof to direct the man up on top of the table so we could begin sketching.
I remember clearly seeing his struggle: should he drop the robe before getting on the table, or after he was on top of the table?
His embarrassment made us feel uneasy too, and this bothered me somewhat. We were just getting used to confidently sketching a nude body, and now this?
Today, I have maturity and hindsight to analyze these circumstances. The man was probably doing this as a quick way to get some money – it was an easy way to earn income after all.
But the embarrassment he displayed was a little unusual. Why did the University pick this guy? He was clearly uncomfortable with the entire scenario. Could they not find a man who was a little more confident? Or at least neutral in his expression?
I guess I’ll never know now.
The only way to get rid of the discomfort, both his and ours, was to get through the class, so we all commenced sketching quickly but without much enthusiasm.
The nude male model was actually more difficult to capture than the girl was because he was hairy…pretty much everywhere. How does one sketch hair with charcoal?
After a while, perhaps halfway through class, we noticed a change in demeanor in the man. He started to relax. It was visible enough to me, so I’m sure other people noticed it too. This makes me wonder about the transformation that he must have felt while up there on the table.
He went from being embarrassed, maybe a bit humiliated, to relaxed, and perhaps even enjoying himself.
I was left with many questions:
- Did he ever feel regret for having decided to model nude? It was pretty evident that this was his first time (whereas I wasn’t sure if it was the girl’s first time).
- Did he feel pressured to take this job? Maybe he had a wife, perhaps a child…or maybe he was just short on rent or food… sometimes, these decisions influence why someone does something a little out of the ordinary.
- Did he ever feel vulgar, or cheap, for posing naked?
- How did he feel about his own body, in the privacy of his own home? Was he as uncomfortable there, in his bathroom in front of a mirror, as he was here in the classroom full of young art students staring at him, drawing him?
Before you ask, no, he did not end up with an erection the entire time he was posing. I mean, we all checked occasionally, because we were all sexually crazed first year students, and sex was always on everyone’s mind, but he did not, um, express any arousal.
I don’t know… lol
There were other questions that came up:
- Does body image matter? Clearly, he was not the most attractive person I’ve ever laid eyes on, and yet, the University hired him to pose for art students
- Does attractiveness mean you’re more worthy? What does this mean for those of us who struggled with self-image or self-esteem issues?
Body positivity is all the rage today… I know, I see it on twitter. 🙄
We’ve all heard the expression in the eye of the beholder – attractiveness really had nothing to do with someone’s ability to pose nude for a life drawing class. We needed a nude model, any nude model, whether he was considered attractive or not was completely irrelevant.
Today, when I look in the mirror after my shower, the first thing I see is a c-section scar, and some scar tissue below it. It bothered me, for a long time. There are still days when I’m bothered by it, because the tissue makes my tummy stick out a bit. But that scar is part of who I am today, and it does not define whether or not I’m attractive to you (or him or her or anyone). What matters is that I feel good about myself, scar or not.
(Don’t worry, I won’t post a full frontal nudie here…) 😛
I’ll tell you something else. When I write these reflective stories here in my blog, something happens to my self-image. I start to think of myself differently, more positively. I have learned, over many years, to accept myself.
There is really nothing any of you can say to me here or anywhere that will make me feel inferior, unattractive, cheap or narcissistic.*
*No matter how many selfies I choose to post here.
The comments are the best part of these posts. I encourage you go to back to the first one and read some of the stories readers have shared expressing their own views about nudity, nude modeling, and related topics. And read AVWalter’s experience with a family member who freaked out over a painting…it’s really quite insightful.
Another side note: my shy or repressed nature about sexuality and/or nudity has changed over the years. I spent my formative years in Switzerland which was much less prude-ish than North American culture was/is to this day. Women on public beaches or on lake-side parks lay topless on blankets in the middle of the day, suntanning in my Swiss town where I grew up. Sure they got ogled by some of the coming-of-age boys (and girls) but that was part of the culture at the time.
When we moved to North America in the 1980s, I was 11, just on the cusp of becoming a teenager. I remember well that nudity, or even semi-nudity, was not considered ‘appropriate’ – some people even complained when a mom changed a small child out of a bathing suit at the public pool into some clothing without holding up a towel. This did not happen in Switzerland, and I was surprised to witness such a thing in Canada, in the early 1980s.
There is a story I will share about a personal experience regarding a bikini top that I will save for another day.
Thank you for reading. I’m looking forward to the comments. ❤