Please Explain

It has come to my attention that I am afraid of the female form. In my figure drawing class, it was the first time I’d ever drawn somebody naked. It was this uncharacteristically nonsexual sexual situation. It released from me a sense of childlike joy and as quickly as it arrived, it left me stunted and confused.

The first model was male, an older guy maybe in his mid forties. Suffice to say, it was a mesmerizing experience. I could feel my left and right brain flowing together and working to create all the angles and different bumps along each contour of the form. It was like dancing. I had my left arm raised in the air while my right arm glided across the page. From afar, I probably looked like I was going to tip over and I was using my left arm to balance.

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I came home and I traced my own body with love and care. In the mirror, I saw how the curvatures contrasted so well with the male form. I appreciated my wonderful figurative temple and I felt blessed to be so young and pretty. I knew a day would come where I would have drooping areas and skin that wasn’t quite as elastic but I didn’t care. In that moment, I felt gorgeous.

Fast forward, back in drawing class. This time, beautiful female model. Her breasts were perfectly full and round. Her nipples stood erect the entire time. Her shape was flawless (at least in my mind). I hadn’t realized what effect a landing strip of pubic hair actually did for a female. I’ve always been with guys who left a little bit of hair themselves but expressed how little they liked hair on me. I’d become accustomed to shaving entirely. I have never thought I would appreciate that particular triangle of dark hair. I noticed her soft curves and how soft every contour was and how flat her belly laid across her smooth abdominal wall. It was like watching a movie in real life.

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When it came to my drawings, my left and right brain were in constant conflict. They did not want to flow together to create a song, they warred it out in my head. My breathing changed and my anxiety rose. I pretty much hyperventilated from the pressure of having to recreate this beautiful shape across my paper. I had to take a break, step outside, and reevaluate what I was doing and I couldn’t figure it out. Then came a part where we focused on the torso and my drawing of her torso was exquisite. I mean, as good as it can get for a first time at anything at least.

But for some reason, her nakedness intimidated me.

Next class, another female model. This time she was svelter and lean. She wasn’t frail, but she was far from muscular. She had some sort of french/european accent and she wore a pink, silk robe. I had an easier time but it still didn’t work. I couldn’t look at her objectively like I could with that first session. I had trouble foreshortening, I had trouble measuring. There came a point where I was watching her there, frozen on the platform, and everything in my mind was evident. I could see the different spheres and shadows I could see it all and I knew in my mind I could draw her. As soon as I set my pencil down on the page, it was all wrong. It was like the life went out of my fingers. I stuck with it and left feeling disappointed. My proportions were wrong and everything was just wrong. It was heartbreaking.

Today we had a male model again and I danced across the page. There came a point where he started falling asleep as he stood and I had to start over several times. In those short periods of time I had left, it was like my brain could see all of the lines before I even began with my charcoal. In ten minutes, I had recreated the man in front of me. It was bewitching.

I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how I can go from complete abandon to complete focus and stifling control. My brain won’t listen to itself and I end up with this stiff, small cartoonish outline or it flows together in perfection and I have this awesome sketch in half the time it took my peers to get their’s together.

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Dear Universe,

Explain to me what I could possibly be afraid of.

Sincerely,
Your student

 

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These women would make ice if you let them

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            Feelings for me get pretty tricky. I used to feel them so much and so often, I had to turn them off for a long time. Eventually that would erupt into some kind of giant crying scene complete with me writing poems for hours and smudging around the ink with my tears, feeling very sorry for myself wondering how the world could have wronged me so. But then again that was fourteen for most I believe. Then all those angry years took all the tears and turned themselves into screams and broken glass from all the bottles I smashed in my alley when I couldn’t figure out what to do with all those feelings.

            It’s taken some time but I don’t really do any of those things anymore. I know part of the mess was hormones but it was also that my mom and I were learning how to grow up together. She went through a lot of passive aggressive attitudes and dirty maneuvers before she became someone I wanted to talk to. She told me I was a druggy (because I’d smoked weed and drank alcohol at a friend’s house in high school). She told me I was neglecting her because I didn’t come to visit more than twice a year – even though it’s a four and half hour drive (one way) and I was only fifteen. She called me repeatedly throughout the day to talk to me even if my friends were around and I couldn’t hang up because of the guilt I felt if I didn’t stay on the phone – not to mention the manipulation I’d be unwittingly forced to endure for days (even weeks) on end.

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            And then I she wrote me her last horrible, seven page “intervention” letter for my 18th birthday and I didn’t talk to her for a year. She stopped. We’ve both grown up since then.

            It took me a long time to visit her after I started talking to her again. I’ve been back once or twice since my 21st birthday.

            But it doesn’t fail to amaze me each time she makes me feel better when I don’t even know I’m down. Since I’ve never had a conventional mother-daughter relationship, I’ve never had one to compare myself to. I’ve seen things from a window I’ve always looked in on but never experienced. And I still don’t really know what it is that I’m a part of. It’s like a horribly unhealthy relationship that finally blossomed. I feel like our bond is kindred to tales of those old, aging sisters that live off in some secluded house on the top of a hill somewhere who spend their days making jam and painting.

            Whenever there’s a separation from someone who’s supposed to be an instrumental part of your life and they come back, there’s this awkwardness. What do we do now? How do we act? Where do I put my hands? Is it okay to laugh at this? Am I holding on too long? Can we sit in comfortable silence? What now? And even at visiting, there’s still a little bit of that. But over the phone and via letter, it’s completely washed away. Ironically enough, I feel closer to her when I only hear her voice than when I hold her hand. Because in person, she’s still a stranger to me — but her voice, I know it by heart.

            She tells me I’m a good person, that she wants me to dream big, that I’m smart, tough, strong, loved, needed, beautiful. She tells me things I’ve never known I needed to hear. My dad has always said those things (albeit sparingly, he stresses the intelligence thing, that I’m the spitting image of him and therefore beautiful, all in good humor of course) but for whatever reason, hearing it from her makes it feel a little realer. And I feel bad that I didn’t know I was unsatisfied with my dad’s validation but to be honest, a mother’s love is different. Plus, considering she’s somewhat of a hardened OG nowadays it’s even more of a ego boost than it might’ve been before.

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She told me today that she makes 15 cents an hour. That she’s happy she got a new job and took the pay cut even though she was making significantly more before (enough to support herself). She said being able to work at night and see the moon and be surrounded by quiet is worth more than money. She said it was the first time she’d been outside at night in nearly ten years. That made me cherish the moonlight a little bit more.

 

Bare

 

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     Dealing with my sexuality has always been a struggle for me. My dad has never been a helpful source for that kind of thing and I just never really felt comfortable with anyone else to talk to them about it when I was younger. So it took a long time for me to come to terms with myself.

     When I was younger, I found myself afraid to touch people. But I’m learning that physical contact is a very important aspect of any kind of relationship. Yeah, just people in general. I’m not overly touchy and I don’t really warm up to people right away who are very touchy but I like spending time around them because it helps me get over my own weird stuff. Affection is not a bad thing.

When it comes to sexuality and communicating my desires and concerns and all that jazz, I really knew nothing. I watched porn and learned how to masturbate from movies and really I only ever got off from reading online erotica. I played the sims because those relationships made sense; there were only so many interactions available when you first got to know someone. You couldn’t have two characters have sex if they just met.

But real life is not a video game and there really aren’t many rules to stop you from trying things out.

Without sounding in any way narcissistic, I’ve been modeling for a couple people in my classes lately. Nude modeling. Which is really frickin scary at first and considering I don’t really understand my body, totally new. Sex is rarely so confrontational. I don’t really stand in front of my partners and say hey, put my hands somewhere so I look good photographed. It feels kind of like dancing. It’s all about confidence and eye contact and no eye contact, relaxation and purpose. Removing the awkwardness. And I am so very awkward in front of a camera. You can ask anyone, I was not born to model.

But today I took my top off and got into a shower with another girl, who went fully nude, and tried to act natural. For me, there is nothing natural about that scenario. But after a while, it was. Once my body stopped twitching and the photographer got the water to a normal temperature, I was fine. I felt as close to clothed as I ever have.

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     I know I’m not the only one without a mom around, there are tons of people who get on just fine without them. But the really astonishing part for me is seeing a woman naked. I’ve seen plenty of guys but that’s not the same because I never got to compare my body with someone else, to understand that hairy toes and feet aren’t uncommon or that nipples naturally get all soft and don’t stay permanently rock-hard. That sometimes one boob is different from another and body acne isn’t a cause for alarm. In the end, it’s just skin and hair and we really do all have it too.

     It was a profound experience to see another woman and it not be a sexual encounter. Because she was worried about her body in the same ways I’d always resented mine and she thought I was beautiful when I thought she was beautiful and it really just kind of changed my entire point of view on nudity.

From a girl who used to flinch away when a guy friend changed his shirt, or a girl friend walked around in just a bra, that was mind blowing. The water was dirty and gross and tepid by the time we finished and when we left I felt no different from the person I was when we started.

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