AK Essay: Barenaked

Nude is what is it is called. Nude is artsy and sophisticated. But when I crumpled onto the small wooden platform, I was just plain old naked. And then when I crawled the several feet between me and my robe, I was even more naked.

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Apparently, I am told by everyone I have ever told this story to that if one stands with locked knees for too long with locked knees, one faints. Apparently, everyone knows this. I wish I could say collapsing onto a wooden platform, while naked, was the hardest thing that happened as an art model.

It wasn’t.

Walking into the classroom for the first time, naked under my robe, was harder than pretty much anything else I’ve done. Wedding day – easy. Childbirth – pudding. Climbing mountains – yawn city.

The classroom door had a small glass window that I could peer through. I saw them all in there, waiting. I had applied for the job. I had agreed to work. I did want the best paying college job on campus, but I could not open the door. Staying behind the door meant I could still run away. I told myself it would be good for me. I tried to think of other things that would be good for me, but scary, tweezing nose hairs, eating eggs without toast. I still couldn’t open the door.

I told myself the artists didn’t know me. After all, I was one of many models. I would act aloof. I would pretend experience. I would feign boredom, ‘Oh, naked in front of strangers again.’

I opened the door. I walked in. I stepped up on the stage.

“Here’s the model,” the instructor said, “Let’s make her feel welcome, it’s her first time.”

I had been naked before. I was naked before. In fact, I had been naked in front of other people, a few. Sure, it was more like slinking naked in front of one person, or dodging naked in front of another. I had never stood face on in front of 20. And certainly not face on in the bright light that streamed through the windows and surrounded by hot floodlights.

“Model, model – we’re ready,” the instructor said. My sweaty hand pulled the robe tie. My shoulder shrugged the robe off and tossed it off to the side. And then I stood there and didn’t breath. And I’m sure I didn’t breath for at least a couple of minutes.

I did note that that not breathing could cause fainting, so despite the thundering heartbeat in my ears, the cold sweat on my neck and an intense need to urinate, I eventually took a breath.

And then I modeled.

Although the first time was quite traumatic, when I’m asked what the hardest part of the job was, it wasn’t being barenaked, it was not moving. Unless one is getting paid to sit, or stand, or lie down motionless, I don’t think one would ever try this. One pose could last for 45 minutes. Let’s say it’s a reclining pose, one arm down on my back, the other arm bent and resting across my forehead. The pose feels fine, for a minute.

Three minutes into it, my arm, resting on my forehead, becomes heavy. Five minutes into it, my arm becomes The Arm. Eight minutes, I begin to worry about nerve damage to the arm. Then I worry about nerve damage to the forehead.  At 12 minutes, I’m certain the brain is at risk.  17 minutes, breathing, trying to stay calm. 21 minutes trying to pretend I am somewhere else, somewhere without a log pressing on my forehead.

26 minutes and  I’m walking on a white sandy beach.  Breath in, Breath out. 35 minutes and I’m sure I will quit, no job is worth brain damage. 42 minutes and I think about tweezing my nose hair. 45 minutes and the instructor says, “That will be all, model.”

And then using the arm that is still my arm to pry the arm that is a log off the forehead and then placing the log next to the body and then trying to get up, trying to pretend that it is easy to get up.

Stepping off the stage numb, aloof and barenaked.

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Annie Feidt is the Editor and Producer of Alaska News Nightly, and is also a frequent contributor to the show. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49thstate just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie