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A Short Career in Life Modelling

Dimecres 13 Febrer 2019

Well, for some reason, and I can’t identify it, I was always a very shy child. This moved with me through my teenage years, when I was extremely self-conscious. What people thought about me was always on my mind. It was always very difficult for me to talk to others, especially strangers, and to keep eye contact during a conversation was almost impossible.

I somehow managed to get through teacher training, even though my levels of anxiety were at times extreme, and eventually began to gain confidence in myself and my abilities in the classroom. Through my career I had many teaching and leadership roles, and to a large degree, the anxiety and self-image issues became less and less, for which I am very grateful. In my 40s and 50s I felt as though I was functioning as a normal human being, though I still found some difficulty in starting and maintaining a conversation with strangers. That all changed when I went for my first massage. I was very nervous, but intent on following through with my decision to challenge myself in accepting my body for what it was. By my second massage, I was hooked. It became clear to me that when lying naked on a massage table, with the hands of another person moving across my whole body, with nowhere for me to hide, and no judgement from the masseur, that my body is acceptable and precious and beautiful. I decided to become a masseur. After some training I set up a small business and also enjoyed massage exchanges with other guys. I found that this was the perfect way to make conversation and to get to know other people better than I ever had before.

An artist acquaintance, who I had massaged once, asked me if I would be interested in modelling for a life drawing class he was conducting. My immediate resistance to the idea was based on the old feelings of low self-worth and the thought: Why would anyone want to draw an overweight bald man in his early 60s?” However, I reminded myself that to challenge myself was to grow, and even for an older man I still had plenty of growing to do. So I agreed. First, there was a one-onone drawing session where the artist made some drawings of me. He taught me some basic poses and protocols, and to be honest, I felt very comfortable. My background in massage I am sure helped. Soon came the drawing class. I arrived at the venue very early and had a wander around. The artist met me and showed me the studio and explained a few things. I asked him to direct me in the poses which he was very happy to do. He explained that there were about eight people coming to draw. While waiting, I began to pace around the room; low levels of anxiety, but manageable. The time came for me to remove my clothing and take on the first pose. Immediately I knew that all was well, and that I could do it. I realised that there was a difference between the stare of someone examining one’s body in a sexual way, and someone doing it for an artistic purpose.

And so, two hours of poses seemed to go so quickly. I felt a buzz; a sense of achievement. I couldn’t help but reflect on my younger years, when such a thing would have been out of my selfimposed comfort zone. I may have made a more attractive model to draw back then, but I have come to realise that that’s not what life-drawing is all about. Gender, size, shape and age have little to do with it. Acceptance, by the model and the artist, has everything to do with it. After discussion with my dear wife, she’s not so keen on me modelling again, but we’ll see, maybe. Maybe this was just an episode in my life story.

Maybe it will be repeated, maybe not.

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