Saturday, March 04, 2006

charlie the lab

Has been with his person for nine years. As a puppy, he was about as big as his head is now. When he lays on the floor of the Dane's studio, Dolce and Guido come out from under their blanket mound to sniff at him, which looks a lot like any science fiction movie where there are shuttles or fighters docking on a much, much larger spaceship. Yesterday I noticed that Charlie's tail was as long as Dolce's whole body.

One of the reasons I've been so busy the past few weeks is that modeling has become eerily similar to a full-time job. I modeled every day this week, and four mornings out of five I started at 9 am. One of those days I spent at a high school in Oakland, working on a stand made of four desks pushed together, and the students arrived in waves, every ninety minutes. I wore a leotard, which was a strange experience. I felt more exposed than if I had been nude. Is it riding up on my butt? How's the bikini line? Can they see down the front if I lean forward? Not that I needed to worry about that last, as I had less bustage than most of the girl students, which I tried not to think about.

The whole thing was really weird, actually; I kept thinking about that Drew Barrymore movie where she's an adult who goes back to high school undercover for her newspaper, and has to deal with all the insecurities of being a teenager again. I found myself caring entirely too much about what these kids thought of me and what I was doing. I wondered if my clothes seemed hopelessly square. I imagined that I seemed impossibly old to them, and wished that my legs weren't covered in "need to let the hair grow out long enough to wax" stubble. When two girls sitting directly in front of me didn't understand an exercise they'd been assigned and gave up three minutes into a ten-minute pose, choosing instead to giggle and whisper and write notes to each other after staring at me, I wanted to grab my dorky clothes (jeans and hoodie, mind, same as everyone else there except the teacher) and flee the room.

Excuse me ladies, please, I tried instead. That's very distracting, and makes me feel like I'm not doing my job. They looked shocked. I fervently prayed for the class to end. Somewhere to my right, a faint whiff of bass rose from someone's iPod. To my left, a dark-eyed boy in long shorts and the ubiquitous hoodie, a boy who had asked as he sat down but what if you can't draw?, softly swore.

They don't understand that it doesn't come easy, any of it. They get upset with themselves when they don't get it "right". They think they should be able to get it the first time, and lose focus when it doesn't happen that way. Which makes them no different from adults, I suppose; the big difference seems to be that as you get older, you get better at concealing your distress.

I was glad when that day was over, even if it turned over some compost for me and gave me interesting stuff to meditate on. Modeling is some of the most vulnerable work I've done. True to the writer stereotype, I've held a lot of different jobs, but I never felt like I was offering myself in quite the same way when I held down a desk. Not because of the nudity, really. That's almost secondary. But the essence of what I do: try to help other people access their own creative core, with all the feelings that can stir up.

Feelings that adult artists are much better at masking.