All I’m Doing Is Looking for Reasons to Live Happily
September 2014. I was working a dead-end retail job that neither made me happy nor paid the bills. So I went back to school as a mature student, hoping to develop a freelance writing and editing career. It was an excellent long-term goal, but unfortunately I needed a more immediate financial solution. So I made a decision that few guys in monetary peril would make: I would male model for art classes.
It wasn’t a thought process that came out of nowhere. A few years before, I had met a woman–an extremely fit dancer with every reason to be proud of her body–who told me she modelled for art classes. She wasn’t ashamed of her body, she had explained to me. And taking her clothes off in front of others was never a big deal to her. Remembering her, I realized that I too didn’t consider taking clothes off in front of strangers a big deal. So why don’t I do it and get some spending money?
So I contacted all the universities and colleges in Toronto that offered art classes. I created a modelling resume, complete with a head shot (a selfie, actually) and phony past modelling jobs, and two days later, one school called me back. They needed a male model. I felt confident. I felt happy. They chose me!
Words Never Say What I’m Really Saying
They initially scheduled me for one class, a portrait class, meaning that because the students would be drawing only my head, and possibly my torso, I would be wearing my clothes. I accepted the gig.
Except I had no idea what I was doing. When I arrived at the class, the instructor, a graduate student of no more than 25, explained that we would start the class with 5 2-minute gestures. So I got on the stage, a 6-inch-tall platform, completely encircled by a class of 30 students, and did various gestures: I saluted, I frowned, I bowed my head. I thought gestures meant acting out exaggerated facial features. I had no idea that gestures meant short poses. The instructor was polite enough not to laugh or say anything. It turned out that the job was more complicated than I had anticipated, and I had a sharp learning curve. The remainder of the class went without a hitch, and nevertheless I thought that it was a really easy way to make extra cash.
At the end of the class, the department secretary offered me three more sessions, all anatomy classes. I heard myself saying yes, not really realizing the implications of what I had just uttered.
Time Changes Me and the Person I Love
I arrived for the first anatomy class not knowing how a model acts poses in the nude. When I walked through the door, I discovered that the class was mostly female (I didn’t mind!) and young (it was a university class, after all). The professor, a French Canadian, introduced himself and asked me about myself. “I was a student in the film department,” I said. “and now I freelance copy edit.”
The professor told me I could change my clothes in the washroom and we would begin with a series of 1-minute poses. I stood on the platform and because the students were encircling me, I would have to rotate after each pose. The professor announced: “OK, this is Adam, and he edits for texts, and he’ll be modelling for you for the next four hours.” The moment was here, so I pumped myself up with thoughts: “I can do it. Remember: I love my body. They will too.”
In My Dreams I Used to Feel I Was Being Sucked into a Huge Hole
As my bathrobe hit the floor, thirty pairs of eyes looked at me with the hot intensity of a thousand suns. One of the young women, who looked about 17 or 18, very obviously moved her eyes to my crotch and eyed it for ten seconds, although it felt about ten minutes.
To my surprise, I began shaking. I was actually nervous! And it hit me: my penis was shrinking. It turns out that nervousness has the same effect as being in cold water. So while I’m standing there–and I’m supposed to be still–I slightly moved my legs to make my penis un-shrink. (It didn’t really work.)
I got a 10-minute break from posing, during which the professor lectured to the students about how to draw muscles and definition. He then let me know that he needed me to do 2 hour-long poses. He handed me the spear he was holding in his hand and asked me to do a pose with a huge gesture. It never crossed my mind that I would have to basically act out a role, and I realized that I was becoming self-conscious about my body in a way that I had never been before. During my first hour-long pose, I heard the professor talking to the administrative secretary in the hallway. “He’s fine, but I get a sense that he’s new at this.” Obviously the class heard too, and because of my embarrassment, I felt like I was falling into a deep abyss.
Art Is the Humanizing of Forms
I thought that the class would never end. During the breaks I would talk to the students, who would thank me for modelling. Many said that they didn’t know how models did it, how they had the nerve. I told the students that it was no big deal, that a body is a body, and that if I had a conventionally unattractive body, they’d still find me interesting to draw. As I talked to the students, I calmed down. And the most unusual experience came at the end of the class, when, after I dressed, I happened to walk behind two students in the hallway, both of whom were holding large canvasses pictured with my naked body while immersing in a large crowd of students.
But I knew that my biggest challenge was allowing myself to create the large gestures that the professor wanted. I sensed that he wanted me to choose poses that would exaggerate my body and muscles. After all, he was teaching these kids to draw the human form realistically and artfully. I had two more modelling sessions, and they were with the same professor. My concern was how do I, who have never acted or danced professionally, teach myself to let go? (I eventually solved that problem by taking burlesque classes with 8 women. If I can develop a dance routine during which I strip down to a bra and women’s panties in front of strangers, I can do anything.)
To Define Myself, One Word: Indifference
By the end of those three sessions, I was a lot more comfortable with being nude and the centre of attention of a large group of people. I had posed for the same class each time, and I got to know them a little bit, and they got to know me.
In the two school years that I’ve been modelling, I have modelled for many types of classes: portrait classes, anatomy classes, sculpture classes. During my modelling sessions, I’ve listened to countless student conversations: the two female students who talked to each other about how hard it is to date as a lesbian in a small town, students talking about how they were affected by the teaching assistants’ strike, or students who were struggling to juggle their work loads. It took me back to when I was their age and the struggles I had in my 20s.
I’ve become the school’s go-to male model. I’ve gotten to know the professors and administrative staff, and I’ll probably be called back this September. And as one student recently reminded me, I’ve posed for hundreds of drawings. And she was right. So if you ever happen to stumble upon a nude drawing of me, be kind. And let me know what you think.