“You can be anyone and do anything you like in New York” they told me before I came here, and I believed them. And since my arrival, time and time again I have been and done things I never before imagined, never before dared. Some of which you will have read about in this blog.
So coming to the last few weeks of my stay, I had to ask myself what was left on my bucket list: was there anything I wanted to do in NYC which I would regret not fulfilling? Last chance to … dye my hair pink? That had been one of the ‘I could if I want to’ ideas, but my children dissuaded me by telling me that brown hair dyed pink goes the colour of offal after about a week. (An effective deterrent indeed; I owe you one, guys.)
I have done the ‘chiro and shrink’ thing (yes, I came believing that all real New Yorkers have both of these (although I met no-one who does)). I have taken ballet lessons and tried tai chi. I have made friends with a car park attendant and a deaf 102 year old lady. I have sung songs over dying women, had spiritual conversations with homeless people and hugged complete strangers on the street. I have drunk cocktails with a burlesque performer and talked about sex with gay men. I dared to criticise the CEO of a charitable organisation in support of a colleague and got fired (and I walked away with my head held high).
The list of wonderful, satisfying things that I have done could go on, for sure, but … I never did the life model thing, did I?
Until last Monday, that is.
Just a month ago I had written to an art school on the Lower East Side to enquire about their classes, and had been told they offer modelling try-outs throughout the summer on a just-turn-up basis; there would be students drawing as well as ‘spotters’ from other schools on the look-out to employ models.
So, I did it.
Yep, the real thing: you know? Au naturel, dishabillée, in my birthday suit … nude. A session of 60 minutes shared between 4 models with a class of 20 artists; an atmosphere of concentration, silent apart from the occasional shuffle of papers and the faint scratch of pencil or chalk. While the other models posed I got the chance to draw (a free class!), and then it was my turn: drop the gown, step onto the stage. Take this or that pose: sit, stand, recline. Turn variously to face each part of the room, twist your body and limbs, use the props and stools for interest. 1 minute, 2 minute, 5 minute poses …
And it was over.
Thanks and appreciation for my modelling – no comments, of course, on what I had displayed – and, from the friend who had accompanied me (but not dared, at last minute, to join the challenge), enthusiastic admiration: ‘you looked like a pro, Anna, you were fabulous!’.
No fear, no shame, no problem: I did this at least partly in defiance to the undermining feeling I have had all my life that my body is odd, and not acceptable, but last Monday I proved that I am just another woman. A member of the human race. A real body, with all its scars and marks, its ins and outs; my personal history told in my flesh and with no ornamentation. Marvellous, and beautiful as is. Hooray, hooray, hooray!
Do you believe me?!
I was given the sketches that two of the artists present made of me, but – strangely enough – I choose not to display them here.
Proud? Yes. Totally.
Repeat the experience? Probably not.
At least not in my home town.