Back To The Beginning

Been a while since I wrote, huh? To be honest, the biggest reason I haven’t been active lately is one thing – and that thing is called Guild Wars 2. No lie, I’m obsessed. 12-hour days playing? Three level 80 characters? Yeah, that’s healthy. We’ll get to my whole lack of a real life issue in another post soon enough.

At any rate, a lot has also been happening on top of that dragon-killing background, but I figured I’d start with the positive, to jump back into this blogging thing without sounding too depressed and whiny. So let’s talk about modeling again, the whole reason I started this darn thing in the first place.

I recently had the opportunity to do something totally different, that is, I actually did some photo modeling as opposed to letting aspiring artists draw me like one of their French girls. Being part of a photo shoot is ridiculously more glamorous-feeling than taking my clothes off in front of some college art kids. It’s more exciting, more dynamic, but also a lot more nerve-wracking. What if my eyes cross, or I have a double-chin? What about my fat rolls (though I wasn’t naked for the photo shoot)? What if I simply look like a derp?

All of my modeling fears rolled into one.

All of my modeling fears rolled into one.

Like I said, I wasn’t naked, but these weren’t exactly innocent, sexless pictures either. To be frank, it was a lingerie shoot, no I didn’t get paid, yes I control who has access to the pictures, no I don’t ever want to run for public office. I’d go into more detail, but I don’t think I’m ready for you to know me that well yet.  I’ll admit, some of them came out pretty fucking amazing, but others… It kind of sucks to have a collection of halfway decent photos that you’re afraid to show anybody out of embarrassment that you also can’t bear to throw away because what if one day you have to prove that you were actually there? (Like in a dramatic murder investigation led by a sexy detective with nothing to lose who gets a little “rough” during interrog– wait that only happens in bad romance novels? Whatever, it’s a possibility, I’m still keeping the pictures.) On the other hand, having all the pictures in one place, with each file directly under your control is also really nice in comparison to a painting that gets thrown in some drawer somewhere

In case any of you are worrying about the violation of my privacy or my reputation being smeared on the Internet for all eternity, please don’t. The photographer was a friend, not some rando, and he was over-the-top respectful every step of the way.

The photo shoot really made me look at my body differently than from a figure modeling perspective. I’ve both gained and lost weight since my last art modeling sessions and the photo shoot occurred somewhere during my time of my less-than satisfactory self-image. But those pictures that turned out amazing? They were amazing because of my body, not just because of the lighting and artistic composition. Fuck yeah I have curvy belly, and thighs, and hips (and I mean, HIPS)! And day-um gurl you look GOOD! I may not have been overall happy with the way my body looked on that particular day, but the pictures reminded me how each shape and size really does carry its own assets. So to speak.

I think I should just stop there before I blather on anymore. Modeling, it’s fun, you should try it sometime. I’ll probably write more about health and weight in my next post, but for now, I just say hello, and it’s good to be writing again. See you soon!

 

Objectification for the Sake of Art (Or Vice Versa)

I haven’t written about figure modeling in a while. I just finished up my only scheduling of the semester (hence the lack of material to write about…), which was for a color composition class. Pretty simple schedule, gesture poses for a few minutes at the beginning, then a long pose for the remaining two and half hours. Easy peasy.

But this was the first time I ever actually felt uncomfortable posing for a class. Actually, not the class as a whole, just one particular student. No he didn’t leer at me or say anything inappropriate or try to take a picture (I mean, you can be expelled for that shit). No… he just made me feel… weird. Maybe it was the fact that I was laying down, one knee bent and vertical, the other bent and laying flat on the model stand. And this kid, his scrawny self with a bushy beard (hey I don’t have anything against beards, I have lots of friends made more manly by copious amounts of facial hair) sat himself directly at my feet.

Now, I’m about to talk about vaginas, so gentlemen feel free to look away.

You’d think as a figure model I’d have no problem with an artist looking at, or consequently drawing, my hoohah. But this time it just felt weird. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I didn’t even realize he was at that angle until after my first stretch break… Awko Taco… if ya know what I mean.

So I spent the next two hours feeling tense and uncomfortable, which really detracts from the whole experience. I mean, modeling isn’t exactly like laying on a bed of clouds; your limbs fall asleep and your hips and neck start aching long before your 25-45 minutes are up. Tight muscles and anxiety really don’t help.

So both days I’m feeling weird about this guy drawing me, especially when I sneak a glance at his paper and see how awkwardly and overtly sexual of an angle it’s at. It also doesn’t help that every time I get up to stretch he opens the door to outside to go smoke a cigarette. Cause he was a hipster of course. Did you know it was 45°F today? Yeah, not so cool man, I’m fucking naked. Not gonna lie, one of my toes went numb.

Yes I know I should have said something, especially about being cold. If you’re cold – or even tense – you’re more likely to move, which is not good for the artists. #1 rule of modeling? Don’t. Fucking. Move. I was extremely flattered when at the end of the session today one of the artists thanked me and said I was one of the only models on campus who could stay still for more than five minutes. That’s a really great feeling… but then again, I’ve been doing this for almost three years, if I hadn’t learned to stay still by this point, well, let’s just say I’d be a bit of a failure.

I don’t feel like I’ve ever mentioned the awkward parts of modeling, other than the simple act of taking your clothes off. Vagina aside, there are other parts of my body I really don’t feel comfortable with looking at in the mirror, much less showing other people. We all have those areas of our bodies that we don’t like, or that we wish could be more toned, less flabby, more attractive. If I’ve learned one thing from the artists though, it’s that the size and shape of your body matters much less to them than your ability to hold a pose. There is beauty in every curve, in every fold, in every inch of skin and muscle and bone. When a professor tells the students to emphasize the bony landmarks of my body (the sternum, the hips, shoulders, clavicles) to help create proper proportions, or to notice the curve of muscles in my back as I twist, or a myriad of other dynamic points of interest on my body, I feel respected as an object.

Yes, it’s strange to hear that a woman, especially a woman with generally feminist views, enjoys being viewed as an object, but I think you misunderstand. I’m not a sexual object, I’m an artistic object. Something to be viewed with curiosity, interest, and a desire to learn something about form, shadow, value, proportion, or temperature. I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination and I love listening to the discussions the students have with the professor and the advice he/she gives.

So I admit, I sometimes feel sexually objectified when I model, such as during this last session. I don’t like it, it doesn’t flatter me, and it definitely doesn’t make me feel attractive. But on the other hand, there are many times that I feel that my body has become an object of learning. A pathway on which students can develop a sense of their own artistic ability and talent. It’s not an altruistic feeling, just one that permeates my attitude toward the job (because yes, it is a job) and makes getting naked in front of strangers that much easier. I really hope that I can avoid situations where I feel uncomfortable with the artists drawing me. I’ve had one that snapped at my for wiggling my toes so my foot wouldn’t fall asleep (she was just a bitch, whatever), another who asked if she could take a picture with her phone because she hadn’t been in class for the first session (yeah… no.), and the guy this time. Perhaps I’m being to sensitive, but I honestly didn’t feel comfortable around him, even though I didn’t feel threatened.

Here’s to hoping my next session will be one of pure art and not one of sexualization for the sake of “art.” There’s far more that can be said on this topic, but I think I’ve rambled on enough and I should probably quit my bitchin’ for the day. Until next time!

Modeling Again

Fair warning, this post is gonna be super boring. Sorry audience, I wasn’t writing for you this time (oops)!

So last night was my first night figure modeling since… April? That sounds about right. It’s been a while at any rate, and as always I had to readjust to the, you know… nakedness.

I think it’s pretty needless to say that being naked immediately puts you in a position of vulnerability. It’s not that I ever feel threatened by being around any of the students or professors while modeling — after all, they are there to practice skills that they can’t really practice anywhere else. It’s just that being naked always digs up body image problems and self-image concerns which can really make the whole experience unpleasant. Thankfully, the longer I do this, the easier it gets, and the better I feel about my body. I was actually able to see a marked change in my body this session, based on how I’d been drawn in other sessions. In other words, I could tell that I’ve lost some weight and gotten a lot more toned (fuck yeah free weights!). When you can see something as superficial as that in a picture of yourself, it can be a huge confidence boost. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t suddenly gotten skinny and fit, I just started feeling more comfortable in my own skin.

A lot of friends ask if (or just assume) it’s awkward to be naked in front of people who I know. Generally the answer is no, which often comes as a surprise to them. I knew a couple of the artists drawing last night, one being a sorority sister, another the little brother of a different sister (that one was a tad more awkward for me, considering I’d never modeled for him before). Knowing people in the room well enough to trust them can really help a model overcome some of the initial fear she (or he) may have when the robe comes off for the first time.

The whole point of starting this blog was to talk about the random crap that floats into my head during my modeling sessions. Last night, I thought extensively about how I can choose my friends. Just like any romantic relationship, if a friendship goes sour and doesn’t seem to be healthy, then you have to cut ties. I have this terrible habit of hanging on to friendships that have ended in the hopes that maybe something meaningful can be rekindled. Much like learning how to let go and feel comfortable dropping my robe at the beginning of a modeling session, I have to start feeling comfortable dropping the dead weight of people who don’t actually give a shit about me. That doesn’t make them a bad person, it just means that we aren’t exactly compatible with one another on a platonic level. Sometimes that realization hurts. But sometimes it’s exactly the thing to set you free from an unhealthy tangle of emotions.

Just… let go. Sometimes it’s simply easier that way.

The Marilyn Myth

Marilyn Monroe. The name itself evokes feelings of desire, speculation, and even disdain. Some women love her, some hate her. She’s reviled for her provocative image and drug and alcohol abuse, not to mention the suspicious circumstances of her death. Frankly, none of these things really measure up to the real impact she had on American pop culture. Don’t deny it!

What IS she thinking about?

What IS she thinking about?

This is a topic that’s been explored by many bloggers, health magazines, gossip columns, and the like. I just figured I’d rehash it all again, seeing as I’m currently reading The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, and am having a marathon of all her movies Netflix will stream directly to my eyeballs (The Seven Year Itch is hysterical, just fyi – that’s the one with the famous dress blowing scene). Unfortunately, there are a million and a half misconceptions about Marilyn Monroe that are just plain false. And these misconceptions have given rise to this phenomenon whereby women these days justify their own behavior. And by behavior I mean justifying their lack of healthy lifestyle by telling themselves that Marilyn Monroe was their size.

You hear it all the time:

“Marilyn Monroe was a size 16!” Er… by what standards? U.S.? U.K.? Or how about the most important standards, those of the 1950s.

Based on measurements of dresses, and dressmaker records, you have to realize, numbers don’t lie. The following are average for her, as she definitely had some weight fluctuations (as we all do during our lifetimes), especially during times of depression.

  • Height: 5’5.5″
  • Weight: 118 lbs
  • Bust: 35″
  • Waist: 22″
  • Hips: 35″

Marilyn Monroe was a really beautiful, shapely, womanly woman (being called “womanly” is one of my favorite compliments to receive). She had an exaggerated hourglass shape, which was – and still is – quite rare. Look at her waist, 22″, which is a full 12 inches smaller than the average waist size today. She was even smaller than the average waist size of the 1950s. This woman was not plus-sized.

This quote is often used to perpetuate the “Marilyn Myth”:

I’ve always thought Marilyn Monroe looked fabulous, but I’d kill myself if I was that fat…I went to see her clothes in the exhibition, and I wanted to take a tape measure and measure what her hips were. She was very big – Elizabeth Hurley

Black Versace dress of Elizabeth Hurley

Black Versace dress of Elizabeth Hurley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ok… So what does this really tell us? Marilyn Monroe was a larger than Elizabeth Hurley. Have you seen pictures of Elizabeth Hurley? Let me help you out.

She’s thin. Beautiful, also womanly, and a completely different body type than Marilyn. Elizabeth Hurley is also a full three inches taller. Different body, different weight, different everything.

Honestly – and we all know this – it’s a matter of perspective. But it doesn’t actually matter what size Marilyn Monroe was, because she was healthy. Check this shit. Goddamn she was beautiful. She also took care of her body, she tried to stay fit, even though she was suffering from mental disturbances, crippling stage fright, and a number of other problems. No, she wasn’t the epitome of health, but she was not a “natural beauty.” She worked hard to keep her image, such as it was, and was even somewhat ahead of her time in terms of trying to keep a healthy lifestyle. Alcohol and drugs aside.

Marilyn Monroe was a sex symbol of America, still is in fact. Hugh Hefner credits her with a great deal of the success of his magazine in its early days. You know what? She was happy with her body. She worked to keep it the way she wanted it, worked to be fit,

Yes, Marilyn Monroe’s thighs touched. So do mine, I bet yours do too. There are models whose thighs touch too, just fyi. See a previous post regarding ladies and their jiggly bits. 😉

But you know what actually matters? You feeling good about yourself. There are women out there, too many women, who aren’t happy with themselves and their bodies, and try to use their faulty knowledge of an idol to justify laziness? unhappiness? lack of motivation? I don’t know. But let’s stop lying to ourselves. Marilyn Monroe was beautiful, and by many accounts, content with her body. I’m not saying women should emulate her, as she certainly had a ton of problems we don’t even have a full understanding of. But we do insult to her memory by pretending that her “curvy” is the same as our “unhealthy.”

Remember! This isn’t about being thin. This is about being fit, healthy, and happy. Thoughts?

This Is Not A Workout Blog

I think the title pretty much says it all here. But then again, I’m NOT here to bash workout blogs, much less exercise. On the contrary, I love browsing workout blogs for concise tips on short strength and cardio routines. Makes me feel motivated and all that.

But this is what I’m here to complain about:

Wait, what?

Now before you start defending this ridiculous statement, understand that I DO recognize the sentiment here. Running, exercise, athletics, all of these things are great for your body (football tackles and concussions notwithstanding). But running until you don’t “jiggle?” I hate to break it to you ladies, to whom I’m sure this statement is referring, you’re never going to not-jiggle. You may tone your stomach flat, work your thighs into muscular machines of speed, fight underarm flab, and sculpt your back into something the gods would envy. But you won’t be able to attain not-jiggliness.

Reason? Our lady parts. No not those, the ones on your chest. Those things that were designed to feed them babies that you may or may not decide to have using your OTHER lady parts.

Jiggle Exceptions: super-fit Olympic athletes, those suffering from severe anorexia, female body builders (actually I don’t think male body builders have much jiggle left either, even in their dangly bits – sorry, I’m not getting too graphic am I?).

Again, I will state that there is absolutely, positively NOTHING wrong with wanting to be fit. Being healthy, fit, active, and strong are foolproof ways to extend your lifespan and increase happiness and life satisfaction. Science says so. The problem here is that “jiggle” refers to fat, straight up lumpy, bright yellow, sexually undesirable fat, and NOT to a lack of muscle tone. By wanting to run until I don’t jiggle, in this blunt expression, implies that I’m focusing on merely the physical. Not physical rewards like strength and endurance, but physical attractiveness, which is determined arbitrarily. I’m not calling anyone shallow (I kinda totally am), but pointing out something that might have gotten lost in our zeal to get thin.

Having spoken to my boyfriend – who henceforth will be referred to as “The Boy” – about these things, which might illuminate how men feel about skinny women. Bluntly he said that if I got “thin” he wouldn’t be as attracted to me. Why? Because he’d have nothing to grab onto. And yes, he meant exactly what you think he did. He can be so honest. But regardless, the point is that, as a man, The Boy is attracted to my body as-is and he has no desire to see me significantly thinner. I think his attitude mirrors those of many other men and women who like women.

Why do we want to be thin? Is it because we want healthy bodies, or is it because we’re afraid of the social consequences of not being thin? Perhaps this will ring true for some:

Believe me, the Cornucopia would be my first and only achievement

Be fit, be healthy, get those Olympic muscles and work yourself until you collapse just for the joy of it. Not because you don’t want to “jiggle.” At any rate, I take a great deal more inspiration from these last two memes/ads than I do from the first. Your reason for exercise is your own, but I just wanted to inject some food-for-thought into the conversation.

How do you feel about women and their sometimes misguided pursuit of exercise?

Motionless

During my time in college I’ve spent several semesters as a nude model for the art department. Consequently, I’ve been allowed an inordinate amount of time to sit and do nothing but think. Many art models recommend using meditation as a means of enduring the challenge of remaining motionless for extended periods of time. I, however, am not so accomplished at centering my mind. Frankly, I’m just too anxiety-ridden to relax. More often than not I leave my sessions with tense muscles and sleeping limbs.

I’ve modeled for life drawing classes, sculpting classes, and independent studies. Each has offered a different perspective on the human form and the considerations that a model must take into account when sitting for a session. Regardless of the class though, there’s something entirely liberating about taking one’s clothes off in front of strangers. Of course, the first time you’re handed a wad of cash after a session can make you feel cheap. But don’t we only feel cheap because as women we are taught by society to be ashamed of our bodies? “Society” as I use it refers specifically to American culture (or lack thereof) and to some extent Western Civilization.

Now, I have as many, or perhaps more, body image issues as the next girl. I want perfection in the form of a skinny waist, modest breasts, mile-long legs, and baby-making hips. Pair those attributes with long hair, Cupid’s bow lips, and baby-blue eyes, you’ve got the perfect girl-next-door. But who the fuck is the girl-next-door? Is she your sister? Your girlfriend? Your mom back in the day?

I bet you’re saying to yourself, “She’s certainly not me!”

And therein lies the problem. We’ll never have the confidence to claim that role for ourselves. We can never be that flawless girl (again, defined as flawless by convention, not truth). No matter your image of perfect beauty, you can never attain it, because true perfection simply doesn’t exist. Humans are creatures constantly evolving to better themselves, not morally, but physically and mentally to better carry on their genes to the next generation. That’s what evolution IS, so it only follows that we cannot ever be 100% psychologically happy with ourselves.

HOWEVER, evolution doesn’t, and shouldn’t, determine our sole perspective on the world. Perfection needs to be separated from the ideal, and the only way we can do this is through mental shift.

Nude art, model in most poses is Miss Dorothy Lees

Nude art, model in most poses is Miss Dorothy Lees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nude art, model in most poses is Miss Dorothy Lees

Nude art, model in most poses is Miss Dorothy Lees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s take a look at this model, for example: I think she’s gorgeous, her body captured in its true perfection by the artists. She is both feminine and strong. Her musculature curves with a subtle beauty that is anything but artificially constructed. You may not agree with me, but that’s ok. We’re all looking through different eyes. One day I hope to look on this woman’s body, or any woman’s body and feel appreciation, rather than jealously. But until then, I endeavor to improve not just my body to fit my personal view of perfection, but my perspectives.

Please feel free to comment and discuss. I’m excited at the prospect of perspectives on body image that I haven’t heard before!

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