My resumé is short, but storied, and very little of it involves those strange little coverings we call ‘clothing’.
I took most of my clothes off and hit men.
I took all my clothes off and stuck my legs in the air.
I took all my clothes off and danced in a glass box.
I kept most of my clothes off and talked (while I made clothes to wear).
I take all my clothes off and stand very, very still.
I have to wonder, is it even possible for me to get paid for anything that involves keeping my clothes on, and even getting in trouble for taking off more than my coat?
I enjoyed my little stint as a baby dom, I really liked being a whore for a while, I loved being a stripper, I hated being a phone sex operator, and I used to really love figure modeling. Lately, though, my job history has been getting to me. I’ve always sort of suspected that there wasn’t much to me beyond my looks, and in response to that fear I’ve managed to convince myself that I’m really not that great looking; maybe doing so makes me more confident of my other charms, maybe it’s just my tendency to refuse to buy anything anyone ever tells me about anything, the tendency that my father calls ‘counter-suggestibility’. Intellectually, of course, I recognize that my resumé proves that I am anything but ordinary-looking, but I still prefer to convince myself that I’m just a normal girl with a normal face, pretty eyes, a sunken chest, stick arms, and too-large lips, because I’m afraid of being anything else.
I’m afraid that if I admit to myself that I am attractive, I will magically cease to want to maintain my appearance, that i will suddenly lose all other substance, or worse, realize that there was no other substance to begin with; of course this is ridiculous, just as I know in my rational mind that I am beautiful, I know with my rational mind that this is ridiculous, but these fears still hold. I’m afraid that if I learn to see the self that other people see when they look at me I will no longer be able to differentiate between my real self and the self who has spent the past four years being variations on the Live Nude Girl, the brainless vessel upon whom people project whatever they feel is appropriate.
Maybe when I can see myself without the clouds of perfectionism and counter-suggestibility, other people will be able to see that I’m a lot more interesting with my clothes on.
I am mildly deranged, dreadfully misplaced, and uncommonly ladylike. I don't like most people, I probably don't like you, but that's more of a defense mechanism than anything else.Inquire Submit
My resumé is short, but storied, and very little of it involves those strange little coverings we call ‘clothing’.
I may have mentioned before that, among other things, I am a figure model by profession. I earn my money by taking off my clothes and sitting or standing very, very still in front of large groups of people. My job is harder that it looks, by the end of each class I am sore, my back aches, and I usually have cramps in places I didn’t know it was possible to have cramps, but that’s not what I’m interested in talking about. I am interested in talking about the disconnect between what I see in the mirror and what goes on paper.
When I look in the mirror I see a girl with a pretty face, and a decent body that is too fat in some places and too thin in others. I see that the big picture is passable, perhaps even attractive, but that when you look at the details I am ugly. I see every detail. I see the curve of my spine that will only get worse with time, I see the sunken dent in my chest that prevent my breasts from being all they can be, I see that my arms are like sticks, that I have a tiny bit of cellulite on my thighs, that my feet are huge and already gnarled from wearing too-high heels too often and walking too far in shoes made for standing, or better yet sitting. Every time I work, I look at myself in the full-length dressing room mirror and I wonder why it is that I feel so comfortable taking off my clothes in front of strangers who I know full well will be studying every detail and every flaw, and putting it down on paper to the best of their abilities.
I go out, and I climb onto the model stand, and the instructor tells me how long the pose will be, and I drop my robe and decide on something that will be interesting to draw from all angles, that won’t be too painful, and that might even be comfortable for however long I’ll be holding it. I rarely manage to achieve all those criteria.
Between poses I walk around and look at all the drawings of me. The girl in the drawings is not the girl I see in the mirror, and it’s always strange to me how different a drawing can look from what I see. The main difference, though, is the difference between the way the men draw me and the way the women draw me.
Women come closest to what I see in the mirror. They draw a pretty girl with flaws. They draw my stick arms, and usually my sunken chest, they draw the curve of my spine. They draw me as a pretty girl with flaws that, on paper at least, seem to make her prettier.
Men do not draw me the way women draw me. In their pictures I am perfect, the younger the man, the closer I am to what I want to look like. On their sketch pads and canvasses I gain a cup size or two. My rib cage gets corrective surgery, my already long legs get longer, my waist gets smaller, and my spine straightens. When I comment on this, they look at me as if I’m crazy. I’ve come to realize that these people genuinely don’t see all the things that are wrong with me.
I don’t really understand why this is, especially since a figure drawing class or open studio with a live model is probably the most desexualized context for nudity, there is no point in making whoever occupies the model stand sexier. It barely matters what the model looks like, but if it matters at all conventional attractiveness actually counts against figure models. While a perfect body might make a prettier picture, an ugly model with a bloated belly, cottage cheese thighs, sagging arms, and pancake breasts is more interesting to draw because she will present more of a challenge. Is it possible that people draw me so beautifully because my flaws are not noticeable to anyone but myself?
I sometimes wish that just once, for maybe an hour, that I could step outside of myself and see myself and my life the way that another person, totally removed from the situation, would see it. I hope that I would see beauty, but I often doubt it.
I often think about time these days, of wasting time and whether it’s possible ever to truly waste something so ultimately undefinable and yet unavoidable. If you enjoyed an experience or relationship that occupied a span of time that you could otherwise have used for something else, can the time you spent on it really be considered wasted? If you learned something, anything, from an experience how can that be a waste, even if what you glean from it is nothing more than an oath of ‘never again’.
Endings come. Death comes. In the end we all end up shitting ourselves and passing on to nothingness but that does not make our lives a waste of time. A miserable marriage in which nothing is learned or enjoyed and that never held any love for either party, that is a waste of time. A life that ends with a negative balance, that has been full of more destruction, more self-effacement, more apathy than it has been of creation, self-refinement, and passion, that is a wasted life. An activity by which nothing is gained, no joy, no money, no knowledge, that is a waste of time. But an activity that produces nothing but joy? That is cannot be considered a waste. A marriage that was good and loving once, and ended on good terms before misery set in cannot be a waste. A life full of the search for wisdom and the illumination along the way, a life full of love and the loss that often necessarily accompanies it, a life spent pursuing joy but never lapsing into complacency, that absolutely cannot be a wasted life.
I have realized recently that I subconsciously strive to make myself as undesirable as possible. Most people don’t even notice, I take such care of my appearance that they assume that I must be obsessed with people liking me, looking at me, wanting me, and they’re right in a sense but rarely in the way one would think.
Yes, I make myself as lovely to look at as possible, but only on my own terms. Although I am incredibly vain I won’t bend my aesthetic sense to the preferences of others. I am often spiteful, I can even be cruel. I am petulant, snobbish, and impatient and I make no attempts to correct these characteristics, I can’t even quite bring myself to see them as flaws that need correcting. Although I am not sure if I chose my line of work or if it chose me, the fact is that I keep returning to a career that simultaneously affirms my desirability and places me in a category that most people consider either tragic or morally bankrupt and either way unfit for polite company or happy relationships. I dress up like a toxic person to see if people will open their arms to me anyway, and then I sneer when their arms and hearts stay closed.
This is all my way of testing people, of course, of seeing if they’re willing to push past the bullshit and see me, if not quite as I am, then as I’d like to be. Most of the time it doesn’t work, people don’t bother to look past their immediate impressions, and so I keep to myself. I’ve come to enjoy it, honestly. It’s easier to have few friends you love than it is to have many friends you don’t know if you can really trust. It’s calmer to be able to show your guts to a select few people, rather than always having to keep up a good show for a crowd. I suppose I wish that people weren’t quite so judgmental, but who am I to talk about superficial judgement?
Two and a half weeks ago I practically had to pour myself into this dress. It was skintight, it hobbled my steps. It made me look simultaneously very, very curvy and dangerously thin.
Today it was cool enough to wear it again, I was sure it would be even tighter, sure I had somehow gained weight, sure my waist was thicker, my hips more padded.
All day I see myself half-dressed, reflected in mirrors. Most of the time I don’t notice the protruding ribs, the hipbones descending into a V shape, the pointed shoulder blades, the little dips behind my collarbones. I see only the almost negligible pad of fat over the muscles in my stomach, the slight jiggling of my thighs when I dance onstage, the fact that my ass isn’t as smooth or perky or small as I’d like it to be.
I can’t see myself as others see me most of the time. I’m what? A size four? Two, depending on the brand maybe? My few contemporary skirts are a size six, and I’ve had to take them in several times over the past two years, I don’t even know what my true size is anymore. Why can’t I relate that to my shrinking form? A better question, perhaps, is why I am so obsessed with numbers, the numbers on clothing tags, on the scale, on the tape measure? I dislike mathematics, while their objectivity appeals to me (A is always A), I find them ultimately pointless, they only measure, they do not create.
I, also do not create, though. I seek to destroy myself, to dwindle to nothing. Am I so full of self-loathing, so shy, so self-effacing at my core that I literally want to disappear, or is it something else?
I was raised to have a healthy relationship with food, I was taught that food makes us strong, that in moderation, even sweets are a good thing. I was taught, for as long as I can remember, that eating is nothing to feel guilty about. My sister and I were not allowed to have Barbie dolls, lest we sink into a pattern of self-loathing and critique because we did not resemble the little plastic women we had played with as children.
I wonder, always, ‘How did I get here?’ How did I get to this dark, ugly place where I am never good enough, where goodness is measured by beauty, and beauty is measured by frailty?
Intellectually I know that this is unhealthy, that it wreaks havoc on my heart, my skin, my stomach, everything, but when it comes down to it I don’t want to stop or ‘get better’. I am afraid that if I do, if I eat what I want, when I want it, and stop only when I am full that cushions of fat will creep in, covering my ribs, smoothing my hip bones to a point where they cannot be differentiated from my stomach, filling out the hollows of my clavicles, hiding my sharp shoulder blades from view. I am afraid that I would not only be perceived as less, but that I would BE less if I became more.
I get paid to write things now. I’m still not used to it, and when I see my author page I can feel my internal organs re-arranging themselves. I should be working on a column right now. I’ve been trying to write it all day, but my success has been limited. Until now I only wrote for myself and I only wrote about things that bothered me or were of direct pertinence to my life. Now that I have assigned topics and deadlines I’m realizing that for me at least, writing is almost a comparable to a bodily function: one thing has to pour out of my fingers before there is room for something else to exit them. I have no idea when that happened; when I was a child writing was a chore rather than a necessity and it was surely never a joy. The sensation of having to write something, to not have the luxury of waiting until time has passed and it is more appropriate and will not pour salt onto new wounds is novel and somewhat unwelcome.
Two of the most important relationships in my life have recently undergone drastic transformations. One has simply changed, I think for the better, the other seems to have ended, at least for the time being. Both of these metamorphoses have come from the respective inability or unwillingness of my loved ones to meet certain needs of mine. I’ve written enough about the end of the first relationship, but the end of the second is still so new that I’m not sure if it’s really all over yet.
I am a difficult woman. I am often contrary, demanding, selfish, willful, and sometimes cruel. There are too many times when I ask nothing of people, I simply assuming they will be able to anticipate my needs and immediately provide for them. When they don’t, I become resentful, taking their neglect as a sign of their apathy towards me rather than the inevitable consequences of my lack of action. Sometimes, though, I ask for things I need and usually those requests are simple: don’t leave me, need me, console me, want me, care for me, listen to me, leave me be. These things may not always be easy but they are always, always simple.
I once had a very dear friend. I was certain we would always have each other, that we were heart-sibs, and that soulmates never died. I refuse to give up the hope that we might one day reconcile, but as things stand it seems that our bond is broken. There is an ache that gnaws at me. I think if I could only find the reason for our parting, the ache would go away.
Was this schism caused solely by my necessity for solitary reflection? I think not. Were that the case it would mean that all the years before this were a dead forest of misconceptions and illusions waiting for the spark of misaligned requirements. That prospect is too painful to consider and I reject it out of hand. Was our dissension caused merely by her systematic destruction of every stable element in her life? I doubt it. Perhaps if my disposition was not so caustic and if I had had the strength to keep my mouth shut it would not even have been a factor. I think before I speak, and I refuse to unthink or remain silent. Was it caused by something else? Some incompatibility of ideology or conviction? Who knows. We thought we were so alike.
I cannot determine exactly where things went wrong. I am certain we each could find a way to pin the blame for our parting on the other if we tried, but I have no interest in accusations and so the pins pass through the creeping beetles of my condemnations. They crawl away and I still ache.
I do not like people very much. Individuals can be wonderful, yes, but as a species my fellow humans confuse, anger, or sadden me, sometimes all three at once. I think sometimes that I could live a very happy life all alone. My favorite time of day is the wee hours of the weekdays, between three and four in the morning, when the world is nearly deserted and I am alone with my thoughts and away from all the ugliness that is practiced during most people’s waking hours. I would be a hypocrite to claim that I believe self-interest is wrong, but there is a marked difference between serving only one’s self and trampling over one’s fellow beings for no clear reason.
Tonight my dearest, most beloved friend walked past a party in honor of Our Beloved Leader and His Noble Healthcare Bill. Only a few yards away, within view of the warehouse collective where the party was held, someone had been murdered outside a gas station. Isn’t that our culture in a nutshell? Drunken revelers celebrate another handout without considering the consequences and ignore a murder in favor of cheap beer and inexpertly-played music while they talk of the virtues of compassion and altruism.
It’s unfashionable to suggest that it’s immoral for anyone to coerce another into acts of charity or a show of compassion. It is even less fashionable to admit selfishness is a necessary and even natural part of the human experience, but this fact is never more apparent than when one observes the actions of those supposedly selfless people who ignore the life seeping out onto the cracked and dirty pavement while they make merry in honor of another forced extraction of alms for their beggars’ bowls.
My spine is a disaster area.
The stresses of poverty mingle with the malaise brought on by oppressive summer heat and the growing understanding that the things I want from life are increasingly unattainable, these scraps of discontent lodge themselves between my nerves and bones until my vertebrae are surrounded by the ache of uneasiness and disquiet. The tension allies with the scoliosis I inherited from my mother and conspires to deepen the curve in the column that should be supporting me. I am usually in pain, but I’ve learned to ignore it. It isn’t difficult, the pain is more a low groan than a scream. It is dull, the color of regurgitated avocados, rather than red or white.
People compliment me on my posture and my stomach is smooth and flat with muscles from holding myself up when my back fails me (there is very little that is less attractive than a tall woman who slouches) but I am working against so much. I want to crawl out of myself and take a knife to my back. I want to make a long, neat slice down my spine, to pull back the skin, and pry apart my little bones and nerves and tissue. I would extract the suffering and put it all back together properly, building it up like an anatomical model, regaining the inch I lost somewhere between my seventeenth and eighteenth birthday. But that’s impossible, and so instead I wait to be old and bent to one side.
One day she will admit the futility of her actions. She will stop her pretense that such variant hopes as theirs could ever allow them to build a life together. She will cease to mourn the ending of the hope that they can be like Frank and Ava.
She will not make the same mistakes again. She will choose men based on shared hopes and aesthetic compatibility before all else. She will maintain a safe distance, keeping her opinions to herself, and she will allow herself to become brittle and silently pensive. She will refuse to fall in love and will instead fill red notebooks with wishes and maybes and might-have-beens.
She will probably have one or two more husbands and like the first one, those marriages will fail because she is strange and incorrigible. Like her mother before her, she will bear striking children to a man she does not love, and her children will first admire and then pity her. She will wake up one morning and she will realize that the things she promised herself would never happen have come true, and she will wonder where she went wrong. She should have been named Dolores or perhaps Madeleine.
She will forget what it’s like to be a real person and she will die with a stack of red notebooks full of wishes and maybes and might-have-beens and no-one will know who they are mourning.
Tonight I’m writing about carrying on a relationship while working in the sex industry. Tonight I am going through agonies, reliving the reasons why I fell in love in the first place. It’s hard to remember beginnings and middles as you suffer the pain of an end twisted by things you do not want to name.
I’ve tried to write about this end many times and as it smothers me, as denial becomes less and less possible, my success has become increasingly limited. Perhaps writing about the beginning will loosen up the words I can’t find and help them to pour out as they should.