Thursday, February 10, 2011

Does My Butt Look Big In This? The Answer is Yes OR The F-Word You Need to Stop Dreading

found here

I've been thinking for awhile about working as a nude art model. My college usually has openings for people who are paid to stand really still while naked because I don't think it's a terribly popular job. My boyfriend is a really, really talented artist (in all seriousness but he probably wouldn't want me showing you his art here) and one months back we had a conversation about art models. It probably went something like this, but with a lot more sarcasm and insults because part of the success of our relationship is the dedication we have to constantly antagonizing one another.

"We always have to draw the same two girls because there aren't many models for the art classes," he said.

"You should model," I replied.

"You wouldn't want me to."

"No, I wouldn't. I don't think I'd be comfortable with other people seeing you naked."

"Well I wouldn't want to, either."

"I should do it."

"Go ahead."


"Go ahead."

"You wouldn't care if other people saw me naked?"

"Not really. I used to get jealous and stuff but I wouldn't care now. It's not like it's sexual or anything. You'd know if you'd actually ever been to one of these classes."

"You wouldn't care?" I paused. "Well then I'm going to do it."


Driven by rage at my boyfriend's reasonable, supportive attitude and my deep-seated desire to take an opportunity to be nude in front of strangers I started to check it out. I really wanted to do this. Well, as much as anyone can want to without having tried it. Yesterday I sent an e-mail asking about openings. I haven't heard back yet, and I'm a bit nervous about what happens if I get a "yes." I'd want to do it and it's paid, but what if the moment comes where I'm standing in the middle of a circle of easels and the professor says "okay, take off the robe and get on the platform" and I just freeze and can't do it? Because you never know.

Anyway, my nervousness aside, part of what appeals to me-- other than proving to my boyfriend that I'm totally going to do it and he should stop being so reasonable and supportive about me showing my body to people in a nonsexual manner in a professional environment-- is the idea of making a statement with my nudity. According to my boyfriend, other than an old woman and an old man, the models for these classes are mostly thin young women. I'm not a thin young woman. I'm fat.

Say it with me: Vanessa is fat.

It's okay, you can say it. It's a description word, not a swear, not a slur, as much as some people want to hurt others with it. That's what I am. My thighs and butt are big. My bra could house small watermelons. My tummy is round and bulges and has a few stretch marks. My physique in general isn't exactly smooth. I'm round and short. I'm fat. That's me. It's no big deal.

What this is to me is an opportunity to shamelessly show a different body type to people who might not see it every day. A lot of people haven't-- and maybe don't want to-- see someone fat in the nude. But plenty of people have "imperfect" bodies and those bodies are just as worthy of being immortalized on canvas as any other kind. In fact I think for artists it's important to learn to depict many different kinds of figures. With thin figures there are certain challenges and with fat figures there are others.

I also see a possible opportunity to do this as another step in my constant effort to love my body as it is, even if I sometimes there are things I wish were different about it. I want to have this experience as a way to tell myself I'm okay how I am, and to reinforce that I really do think that. I don't need to hide my body. My body is no less worthy than anyone else's because of its size. The job would also be a test, though, because I would be seeing full-body depictions of myself through objective lenses. Some artists in the class as far as I hear are extremely talented and others are new and not-so-skilled. I'll have to see my body as depicted by each kind of artist as s/he sees it.

This was my boyfriend's concern, especially after a debacle we had recently about a portrait he did of my face that I wasn't too fond of (he's still getting used to drawing faces from live models).

"You know," he said, "they're going to show you how you actually look. They're not necessarily going to try to flatter you."

"I know," I said, eating a sandwich at his desk.

"Well, I mean, like, if you do a pose where you have..." He looks at me awkwardly, stumbles.

"If I have what? Rolls?"

"Uh, yeah. They'll show that. You have to be ready to see yourself how you look."

"How's that?" I watch him expectantly. He doesn't want to say the word. I know what word he's wanted to say this whole time. I use the word often enough. He reads my blog for God's sake. But it's stuck on the tip of his tongue.

"You can say it," I tell him. Nothing. "I'm fat."

"I never know if I'm allowed to say it," he says, embarrassed.

"Well I'm thinking since I've been at least relatively fat this whole three years you've been dating me and you see me naked on a regular basis you're okay with me being fat. It's not an insult, it's a descriptor."

It's a little amusing to watch him struggle to not insult me. He's been taught that "fat" is a word a girl never wants to hear-- that when a woman asks if her butt looks big you always say "no" even if the butt in question is unquestionably large. Some people's butts are big. If we all had the same size everything we wouldn't be having this conversation. My boyfriend has been taught that as a man he should never tell me I'm fat because I don't want to hear it-- and surely a lot of women don't. But it's time we got over it and took control.

So for the last time, dear readers, dear everyone, I'm fat. I'm okay with that. You can even say it out loud because it doesn't break my heart. I'm not saying you should all stop worrying about this supposedly-terrible word right away and quit the discomfort cold turkey, but start getting over it. Really, I'm serious. If people want to tell you you're fat, then fine. Is that the worst thing to be? No. If you're not fat and they're saying it as an insult (as an insult to you or anyone else, for that matter), tell them it's not cool and that fat isn't a dirty word. Tell them to stop using it to hurt people because it isn't something to be ashamed of. And if you are fat and someone says it? Well, just say "yes" and move on with your life. If you're fat, accept it as part of what you look like just like your eye color. I know this is hard and it's not a transformation that happens overnight, but think of how great it'd be to hear the word "fat" and not get depressed about it. It's awesome. For me, accepting my current weight is a huge part of engaging in a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Fat is not a four-letter-word.


Teresa said...

I LOVE this article.

You should go for it. The worst thing that will happen is you'll see you don't look like a supermodel. Oh, wait, you know that already LOL. One of the reasons people don't want to see a fat person nude is that so few of them have actually ever seen one up close and personal.

I posed tastefully nude for my husband's undergrad photography class B&W study. We wanted to do it because I'm vampire pale and look good against black. The reactions were astounding, and the only person who was rude was someone who was also fat and I guess was having a "crab in a basket" moment.

Good luck and don't forget to post a follow up.

Anonymous said...

The only people I know who have done nude modeling are also big curvy girls! Now that I think about it, it's a little alarming how many of my friends have done that. Hmm.

D. said...

This is a great piece!

Be sure to tell us how the posing went if they pick you.

Miss Peregrin said...

Amazing. Something I have been realising lately is that it really doesn't matter if people call you fat. If they do it and you're not fat then they're just stupid, and if you are fat, then so what? It's just like how people put in so much effort with what they wear to avoid looking fat, like it's a bad thing, but really, why does it matter?

Anonymous said...

I think nude models are very brave. They are probably the bravest of all.
Brenton has been a nude model for about 3 years. It bothered me for a while, but I found the good side.
It's inspiring to see how secure some people are.
You have my love.


Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

I've never heard it put like this before, from this perspective...I think it's great! Really, really, really great. :) How liberating if we could all transform our perception of the word like this.

P.S. Be grateful for such a supportive guy. ;)

Marie A said...

I went with my dad (that sounds slightly more awkward than it was) to some "life sessions" a few years ago. He is an artist, and he was part of a group that hired a model for these sessions, and I think I was doing something where we were traveling the same direction so I did my thing and then came back to meet him, and I would wait for the rest of his class to finish. I started doing some rough charcoal sketching also, and I think it is really interesting to see what everyone gets from sketching or painting or whatever from life. Some people purposefully focus on what I guess I would consider flaws, some people work really hard to be flattering, some try to be as "accurate" as possible. There was a guy who was just painting the face, he didn't need the rest. Although I was uncomfortable at the time (I was like 17) I found myself admiring the models for their acceptance of their bodies. I was mentally really critical of them because of my own criticisms of my body, and it was really inspiring to watch these women who were comfortable in their own bodies.
I say, go for it. You will learn a lot about yourself. Perhaps the biggest thing is that you may see truly how others perceive you, which isn't something we usually get to see. It may be flattering, it may not, but it will be very informative.

Zoya said...

Go you!!! Good on you for embrassing your body!! I couldn't imagine posing naked, its really daunting, but good luck :)

Always Something said...

Oh Vanessa,

I missed you sanity and clarity. This was a beautiful piece and it hurt my heart in the best way ever.

Thank you so much. Fat may not be a 4 letter word, but love it!

Vanessa said...

Teresa: I'll definitely post a follow-up. Even if I don't get an opportunity to do it I'll let everyone know so you're not left hanging! That's awesome that you modeled, though-- I can so imagine you doing that. You're so confident :)

rubybastille: I think it's really interesting that most of the people you know who did this were curvy. I would've imagined it'd be the opposite but that's really awesome.

D.: I'll definitely update on this-- that's the plan!

Miss Peregrin: You seriously hit the nail on the head with him comment.

Tywo: I'm glad you find an upside to Brenton modeling. I totally get how you felt about it but I think it's awesome that you were able to let it go! You have my love, too, darling!

Jenarcissist: I'm very grateful for him. I try to be very sarcastic about it but make no mistake: I realize how awesome it is that my boyfriend is so accepting and trusting of me.

Marie A: You make an awesome point about how different artists have different styles and goals. There's an open art session at our school that sounds a bit like what you're describing where there's a model and artists come and use whatever medium they want (some draw, some sculpt, I'm sure some take pictures, etc.) I think if I get to do this it really will be learning experience!

Zoya: Thanks a lot! I hope I'll be as confident as I am now about it when in the actual situation (if I'm chosen)

Always Something: It's so good to be seeing you again! I'm so glad you liked this-- thanks so much, dear!

Anonymous said...

I am so speechless over how fucking brave you are - for asking about posing naked in the first place, for owning the word fat, and for having that conversation with your lover. This is just such a powerful post, and I'm quite sure I've never heard a woman talk about the word fat so matter of factly. It's refreshing.

Please keep us up to date on your experience! :-}

Also, I think you should check out the book Shameless by Pamela Madsen. I think you'd love it.


Jenarcissist @ the closet narcissist said...

I could tell how much you appreciate him, don't worry. :) I really liked the way you recounted your convo with him about it; I could just picture the whole thing, and it made me smile! I think when I was reading, it reminded me of how utterly patient and non-jealous my husband is and how I'm neither of those things, and it made me feel so grateful for his constant that's where it came from. :)

I like your sarcastic style. ;) Interested to hear how things turn out. Again, I applaud you for writing this. I've seriously never seen anything like it.

Laells said...

You inspire me in all sorts of wonderful ways. This was such an interesting and different perspective and I'm in awe of your guts for considering posing nude. <3

boopnut said...

I know I couldn't pose, but can't wait to hear if you do! I wouldn't describe myself as fat, but I certainly have flaws and am very Reuben-esque. Hey, it's who I am.

Kimbirdy said...

fat is definitely not a four letter word. it's really only our culture that makes it so. and for an artist, having a nude model with rolls and curves is MUCH more interesting to work with. my husband is an artist and loved the fat models far more than the skinny ones. you will probably be celebrated in that environment. plus, artists are very comfortable with large nude ladies since that was the body shape found most beautiful for so long throughout history. i mean there are hundreds of famous paintings of fat women, all of whom were seen as incredibly beautiful by society. artists get that.

with that said, it does take a tremendous amount of courage to bare all in front of others. even if they are viewing you in the context of lines and colors, and not "naked person" contexts. good luck!

Allison said...

I think you doing this will be a great contribution to many people's artistic education!

Related, I think people's aversion to using the term "fat" is that it is so relative. People really *do* have different conceptions of whether overweight means fat, or whether just obese means fat, or whether anything in the range of curvy to voluptuous (relative words in themselves) is fat... or those irritating skinny girls who pinch their invisible pooch and say "I'm fat! :( "

I think people don't like using the term because, not necessarily that it means a person has more on their body than another person, but that, like mostly all generally insulting terms, it lumps a lot of people into a single group without actually seeking to accurately describe or even get in the ballpark of how they really are-- therein lies the insult.

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Luke said...

TV sitcoms steered me wrong again! Damn you, Drew Carey!

Sarah said...

Wow, I really love this post. It speaks volumes. Awesome, pure awesome.

I look forward to reading more of your blog x

Madalyn said...

That's such a great thing for you to try! I think no matter what the outcome is, it will be a very rewarding experience. It's wonderful that you accept your body for what it is, although it's not always so easy (and I think we all can relate from experience!).

Somebody posted previously about how artists have used fat models for centuries, and how their bodies were praised--that's the first thing I thought of when I read this post! Maybe you could channel those ladies for inner confidence while you're posing... ;)
Good luck, Vanessa!

Anonymous said...

I read this and wanted to hug you. What an amasing post and you sound like an amazing person. Good luck if you do go for it and I can't wait to read how it went

Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to be a nude model but I was way to scared to sign up, so BRAVO for you to even inquire. Oh, and don't even worry about the fat thing. From one curvy girl to another my favorite models to drawn when I was in art school where the ones with curves. They always reminded me of Venus. However my all time favorite model was a 60 year-old mother of four.

audie said...

i just gotta say that this was a great article and you're right, fat isn't a dirty word! i never realized that before but now i see that it is an acceptable descriptor to be. Thank you! I just might subscribe to your blog now :)

Anonymous said...

In my world..the word fat does not exists. You need to better yourself with the word "curvy". What I see is what you have :)


kelise72 said...

I love drawing people, especially women and ESPECIALLY women who have some meat on their bones! :) I far prefer women with curves so to speak, because they are FAR MORE INTERESTING to draw. So did you go for the life modeling in the end? :)


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