Her First Time: Thoughts About Modeling Nude

Clutching a glass of cabernet, I recline on the couch. I'm nude save for my beige socks. I try to look relaxed while he squints at me from across the room."You're going to have to put the wine down," he says. I'd like to comply, but it's incredibly disconcerting to have someone who does not know you intimately sketch you au naturel. How did I get myself into this?About a month ago, a local artist I knew mostly through reputation asked me if I would be interested in posing for him. We were at a party. I had imbibed much champagne. "Of course," I replied, puffing up a bit, flattered to be thought of as poseable. When we finally firmed up a date last week, I realized I had no idea what poseable might actually mean. Supermodel thoughts were replaced by images of heavy-hipped women with wispy hair holding a clump of grapes aloft. Flattered nonetheless, I agreed to meet him at his place that Sunday evening. It was Friday morning. Three full days of rumination stretched out ahead of me. I headed to the gym that afternoon for my second workout in two months. I climbed the scales. Shit. Five new pounds to show for my holiday merriment. I panic. I don't want my holiday merriment in his sketches!As I run on the treadmill, I mentally list all the fasting techniques I know. I could drink nothing but water till Sunday night. I am immediately embarrassed that I even think this. I am being ridiculous. Five pounds, my little neurotic self jabs. I decide to eat nothing but raw vegetables till Sunday. Yeah, right!I haven't even climbed out of my head long enough to wonder if this is on the level. I call a friend, and inform her I will be posing nude for someone I don't know very well."He's a pervert," my friend decides immediately. I decide not to tell my mother. I feel weary at the mere thought of telling her I know he's not a pervert because I have a "good feeling" about him. As I'm writing away, an image of Drew Barrymore from last month's issue of Vanity Fair comes into my head. In the photo spread, Barrymore is a good 20 pounds heavier than usual. The amazing part is, she's showing off. She's wearing a tank top and her stomach is hanging over her belt like a man's beer belly. I am impressed. Any creature who can sit in front of a camera like that, in this society, is heroic to me, brave and sexy and human.And for the first time, I think, I'll just let him sketch me the way I am. How I really look. All of me, for real -- my belly and my little love handles. My breasts, aging only semi-gracefully, hanging in their slightly asymmetrical way. I am ashamed that this is the first time this liberating thought enters my head. How brave I am, sitting in my favorite chair home alone, warm and comfortable. Who's going to see the pictures anyway? Does it really matter? They're drawings after all, not porno shots. I am proud to be part of someone's art. In my moment of braveness, I do not care. Who I am is who I am. Then a little truth intrudes: as long as I look good, I am who I am. I secretly hope he will offer me one of the drawings. What a cool, classic thing to have. I imagine it hanging in my living room, even when I am 72, hunched over and wrinkly. My grandchildren will not believe it is me. It will come to symbolize who I was, a certain attitude of time and place.I wonder for the first time about the artist's style. Is he some kind of modernistic soul who will give me two eyes on one side of my face like a flounder, and a breast above an arm? I sort of like the idea, and decide to suggest painting my midriff bright red to symbolize the baggage I carry, all out of proportion to reality. My head could be a mixture of groovy blues, purples and greens, maybe a little red for past wounds yet healed. My face would be a friendly orange.On Sunday morning, I walk around my apartment nude, making coffee, reading the paper, the heat turned up so I can barely tell the difference between under my covers and standing in the middle of the room. I pretend I am practicing. I open up my closet door so my full length mirror faces a chair. I sit there, trying to pose, then trying not to pose. I close the closet door, feeling foolish and vain -- and fat, of course. Later in the afternoon I start thinking about what I am going to wear -- I know, duh, to pose nude. But I still wonder. I sit in front of my mirror, all my bras in a pile before me. I think I might be sitting in my underwear for a sketch or two (I hope, anyway.) I look at my bras, which are a sad collection of pure utility or beat up lace.I try on my prettiest, a stretchy white lace demi number. Very sexy. Very ridiculous. I end up in what I feel most comfortable in: white cotton underwear and a frayed but comfortable bra. I decide to wear my motorcycle boots for psychic strength. I call to confirm and ask what I should wear.He laughs, then sounds concerned. "You're not going to wig out, are you?" I assure him in my most confident, carefree voice that I am not.In the shower I feel as if I am going to see a lover. I carefully shave off all my socially unacceptable hair. I lotion my entire body. I even put on make-up and do my hair.When I arrive, he has a bottle of red wine waiting, and I am grateful. The lights are dim in his apartment, casting long shadows. Coltrane plays on the stereo. He tries to make me comfortable. We walk around his studio, looking at some of his other work, talk about jazz. My voice is tight, tense. I hope he does not notice. I desperately want to be worldly and weary about this.I sit on the couch. He takes a chair opposite me. A lamp shines softly behind me. Pillows sit piled to my left. I sit with my knees clasped tightly together because I have on, for now, a short skirt. He flips on a bright, harsh light that arcs onto his pad, and begins sketching my face. I'm too nervous to sit there quietly and look back at him, so I talk. And talk. And drink more wine.I'm still not prepared, even after some practice sketches of my face, when he says, "OK, do you want to try taking your shirt off?" No, I think, even as I pull off my blouse, finally wondering if he really is a pervert. I stay half-dressed for a while, but it's no good. I cannot get comfortable on the couch. I worry how my breasts look. (So much for being brave and real, eh?) He's not "capturing me." I feel cheesy.Half a bottle of wine and a little weed later (it's OK, I have a note from my doctor), I finally undress completely, and stretch out belly down on the couch. In this position I am comfortable, and the evening starts to be fun. We talk nonstop, from Klimt to Blue Note to New Times. I am relaxed and warm -- except for my toes.For the first time, he finishes a sketch he is pleased with. He shows it to me. I fight the urge to hug it to my chest. I can hardly believe it's me. I look strong, beautiful. My little neurotic self reminds my happy self that I probably don't really look that good. I hush it, for once, and continue staring. Buoyed by this success, I want to continue, but I can ignore my feet no longer. That's when he graciously offers me a pair of his socks. We do two more poses before finally calling it a night. Each one is equally startling and beautiful to me. The socks look pretty cute, too. As I leave, he asks me if I'd be interested in coming back. If he does enough sketches and I like one, he says, I can have it. I do not even hesitate before I say yes.

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