Boomerang Days: All of Me

A Longhorn does college all over again.

Boomerang Days: All of Me

Being a Longhorn is all about stepping outside your comfort zone: meeting friends, exploring subjects, posing nude in front of a room full of strangers.

As a student 20-plus years ago, I remember hearing that one could earn a few extra bucks as a nude model for art students. I was happy enough then selling plasma and wisdom teeth for my spending money. But today I’m donating my body to art.

The professor, frazzled but smiling, greets me at the entrance of the airy studio on the fourth floor of the Art Building. In the center of the room is a small stage surrounded by two dozen easels, each occupied by an  undergrad art major. There is no introduction, no chit-chat. In a moment they’re going to see me stripped down to my longhorn and I think they’d like to keep a professional distance.

Standing to the side I meet another man in a robe. It turns out the class is concentrating on multiple subjects. Thrilling.

He’s a little older than me and a tad pudgy. In comparison, I’m going to look pretty good on that stage.

But he’s just our backup.

The real co-model arrives with an air of seasoned confidence. He struts to the stage and drops his robe without hesitation.

He is, quite simply, beautiful. This man—let’s call him Adonis—is like a well-groomed lifeguard, while I’m the guy a lifeguard yells at for eating corn dogs in the shallow end. Adonis has smooth, unblemished, and perfectly tanned skin. I am a war-zone of freckles, looking as if God’s spray paint was sputtering out when he got to me. Adonis’ tan extends to every inch of his body as if he bathes in a pool of sunlight. My belly would make a fish blush.

Adonis immediately strikes a number of brilliant warm-up poses, like the glorious Greek statue that he is. Students begin sketching away, clearly inspired. I take a deep breath, climb on to the stage, and drop my robe. And there I am, exposing myself to a group of eager undergrads, something that under most circumstances I would be arrested for. But today, for some reason, it’s perfectly legal.

I find the situation funny.  In fact, I find nearly all male nudity funny. But the 20 or so sets of eyes gazing, studying, and sketching do not. This is serious. This is art. This is full-frontal male nudity and there is to be no laughter.

I see a few eyes drop to my nether regions. I know why. They’ve spotted my peppermint. Before I came into the classroom I took a peppermint—the red-and-white circular variety you find in a bowl beside a restaurant cash register—and stuck it to my pelvis, just a few inches southwest of my belly button. I thought this would make me a more interesting subject. The artists would inevitably ask themselves, How did the peppermint get there? Does he know it’s there? Are there other peppermints I haven’t seen yet?

If questioned about the peppermint, my plan is to nod and say, “I have Type 1 diabetes.” Which is true, but in no way explains why I’d have a peppermint stuck just to the right of my groin.

We’re instructed to hold a pose. Something simple.

Adonis stretches an arm upward, angling his chin just so, a pose I call “Adam in Eden Before the Fall.”

I’m still frantically trying to think of a pose when the professor announces that class may begin and I’m forced to freeze in a position which can only be described as “Naked Guy Unable to Decide.”

After a hideously long time we’re instructed to find a new pose. Adonis strikes “Lone Sailor Battling the Gale.” I put my hands to my hips, spread my stance a little, and frown at the ground. A pose I call “Naked Angry Guy Avoiding Eye Contact.”

Next, they ask us for a more active pose.

Adonis becomes “Roman Warrior Hurls Spear.”

I aim for “Olympian Wins Hurdles,” but instead nail “Naked Guy Trips Over Patio Furniture.”

As time progresses, I begin to improve. Each pose is a character with a personality and backstory. By necessity every backstory includes my character being naked. I’m President Lincoln addressing his cabinet, naked. I’m Hamlet mourning Ophelia, naked. I’m Robert Peary reaching the North Pole, naked.

In my final pose, I’m a young Marlon Brando riding a motorcycle down the highway, naked. This, I soon realize, is the worst possible pose for a naked model. Squatting, grimacing, and butt-naked, I look like a Hobbit passing a kidney stone.

Still, I hold the pose: proud, bold, bare. I’m honored to be contributing to these burgeoning artists. Who knows, perhaps someday years from now I’ll stroll into a museum with a my grandchildren, pause before a masterpiece, and say, “I recognize that peppermint.”

Illustration by Mario Zucca

 

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