I’ll always remember the bend in the M5 where I said yes. It was while I was driving on the long straight stretch of the M5 just after the Koeberg interchange that I answered the call which posed the seemingly casual question of, “what are you doing on the 1st of January?”
“Nothing that I can think of now – don’t have anything planned… why?”
“Well,” continued my friend, “I’m not sure if you’re up for it, but we need a model for a hen-party… we’re doing life drawings and need a man to model for us…”
A brief silence ensued…
“OK…”, said I.
“Do you think you might be…?”
“OK”, said I.
“So you’ll do it?” she responded, sounding half relieved and half surprised.
“Yes. Yes, I will. It’s actually something I’ve wanted to do for some time, but I didn’t expect you to be the one to ask me”.
“And I didn’t know you were such a tart!” I heard exclaimed through my ear piece as I negotiated the other vehicles changing lanes in the home-ward bound traffic that evening.
I was told that she would confirm in a few days time, as they needed to arrange for some easels, but that I’m booked so long anyway.
I hung up the phone in some disbelief at having had that conversation on my way home from work, but feeling quite intrigued and interested.
While easels were found and a rehearsal date set over the next few days, I googled life drawing poses, contemplated taking my kit off in front of a group of women and did a poll amongst my friends to see if they would do it too (only 2 said yes).
I considered asking for a guest list to see if there was anyone I know that would be there, but decided that if someone from school or studies was there, they would be as embarrassed as me, and it wouldn’t change anything anyway.
I got a call a few days later to say “we’re on” and agreed on a time to do a rehearsal of sorts.
I wore “nice” underwear to this “rehearsal” in case they wanted me to strip down as practice for the day, and to see the poses we were to agree on. But I told myself that I wouldn’t get starkers before the day.
In the event though, we didn’t get nekkid, but spent the session scripting a story for the art class that we would hold for the bride. We decided on my poses, and the props that I would use – hats, swords and canes mainly. We had a lot of laughs, and came up with a great plan for the day.
I left the rehearsal, and headed for a wedding, feeling quite excited about the hen party.
I told some more friends, to varying degrees of surprise, and on New Year’s Eve I got home still feeling excited by the whole idea. Before I went to bed, I even went onto gumtree to see if anyone was looking for life drawing models, and found that a local art school had in fact posted just such a request. I stopped myself from replying on the spot, thinking I would first see how the session goes, which would determine if I would do it again.
So I switched off the computer, turned out the light and shut my eyes. I was tired, so sleep would come soon.
Only it didn’t. I kept thinking about tomorrow (strictly speaking, later today), and wondering how it would go. It took a while to fall asleep and when I finally did, the dreams began. I can’t remember any of them in any detail, but they were variations of what I was about to undertake in varying degrees of outrageousness. You know those dreams that just keep going and going, and if you wake up you fall right back into them, because your mind is occupied with only this thought? End result was not the best sleep ever.
In the morning I found myself feeling a little nervous. Not anxious, just midly crapping myself at the realization that this was actually going to happen. Today.
I busied myself with doing the dishes, packing for the weekend away, and tidying up bits of the house. I was thankful for the quiet evening the night before, meaning I didn’t have a hangover. Giving me more presence of mind to consider the impending “show”.
I needed to be at the house at 12h30, so I took a shower at about 11h45, and promptly froze. I realized with a start that I had forgotten the one thing I needed to do, that all my friends had suggested.
We had all agreed that it would be best to “go in empty”. And I had forgotten to unload. I calculated that my nervousness was unlikely to cause unreasonable growth, as long as I kept my mind on sober matters. At about this time it also struck me that opposite could actually be a problem too – I didn’t really want unnecessary shrinkage either….
On my way to the venue then, the universe decided to send me a little tester though, because we all know that she has a sense of humour… Stopped at a traffic light, a cyclist came to a stop next to my car, waiting for the lights to change.
The legs, the butt, the distraction, the test… don’t let that image linger!
I continued, and was startled again when I turned into her road – there wasn’t a single car in the road, let alone outside her house! Was it cancelled? Was this some massive trick? Was it a “private showing”? It’s amazing how quickly the mind can run through a multitude of scenarios.
I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw the cars parked in a side street – I would be happier with more women than fewer. The art teacher was there, and we were quickly smuggled in, despite being spotted by one of the dames…
The bride had said that she didn’t want a stripper, so our idea was that gathered group – with collective hangovers and a glass of bubbly or two each in hand – would be told that there was a surprise, to help familiarize the bride with the male anatomy prior to her marriage.
To the cue of Joe Cocker’s “You can leave your hat on” – that quintessential stripper song – the art teacher would come out, causing the ladies to wonder for a second if he would be a stripper, but quickly be put in place by him as being the one who would be getting the bride to draw.
When she starts drawing he would exclaim, “mon dieu!” and announce that help is needed for this lady and her drawing. At which point boards with paper would appear, and the laundry boy would be fetched from the back of the house as a model to assist them – dressed in apron sans anything else, drying his hands as he comes in.
And so it was that we were in accommodated in the laundry, and I quickly changed into said apron, so that I would get comfortable with the whole idea. Glasses of bubbly were brought to calm the nerves; the first disappearing rapidly, the second being savoured while we heard the ladies chatting away inside – loudly and unaware. Basically having a good time.
At one point though, our male voices were heard through a side window, causing the bride to call out “Hello Big Guy” to the man of the house, that she thought was hiding in the back. He had, though, left the building house ago.
We completely missed our cue – and Pierre, the Art Teacher, had to be fetched, because we couldn’t hear the music from the back there. So out he went, and the show began. I remained, trying to remain calm; the bubbles had gone straight to my head, which certainly helped.
A last minute shrinkage check did not look promising, but nothing to be done now – and within minutes I was called out.
Dishcloth in hand, drying my forearms, wearing only a blue & white striped apron, I entered the room. Gentle giggles from those who spotted me first, and then excited laughter from them all as I entered the semi-circle of women – feeling nervous at the knowledge that I would be starkers in front of them all in a few moments…
It’s a strange feeling in my head to explain, almost like a loud humming halo around my head, helping me block out some of the group.
I heard the art teacher talk to them, while I started to remove the apron, naked butt causing some giggling. I’d hoped this would go quickly, so I could get into position, but obviously the knot got stuck and I struggled with that a bit.
I turned around and casually sat down on the stool with my arms crossed, trying not to feel nervous anymore. The group was being given their boards with paper, and there was much chatter in anticipation of their having to draw.
The Art Teacher asked me to uncross my arms, and the drawing began. I glanced down to establish the degree of shrinkage, but made peace with that, nothing I could change now.
The keep-still-in-position session had begun – and the girls were drawing. I was sitting on a stool with no props for this first session, and their instruction was to draw me as they saw me. I stole a first glance at the group while they were busy to see if there was anyone I knew. I’d had a moment on the way over wondering how I would react if one of my ex-girlfriends were in the group, but I didn’t know anyone.
I stole another glance at some of the papers nearby – and saw that some were focusing on my face, others on my legs and quite a few were not shy to draw it all!
After a few minutes of them getting tips from The Art Teacher about using cylinders and circles to draw the human form, I was asked to change pose.
By this time I was completely relaxed, and no longer fazed by being naked in front of a group, so that when I got up to get the sword for the next pose, it felt quite natural. The only thing bugging me was the fact that despite the anti-perspirant I’d put on wasn’t working, and an occasional drop of sweat landed on my leg… throughout all the sessions.
I got into The Thinker pose with a sword in my right hand, the tip leaning on my left thigh. The women were asked to now focus on the negative spaces around my body, and the triangles created by my arms and legs.
By now the group had calmed down, and were really into the life drawing aspect of this, enjoying this quite unexpected and fun activity.
So I was quite relaxed when I got up again, and swopped the sword for my straw hat and stood in the corner with my back facing the group, right leg raised on a low stool.
The Art Teacher explained that on women it’s called a derriere, but on a male it is called a bum. The group was instructed to draw me from behind, or to focus on a part of my anatomy and draw that.
The last pose was me lunging forward, hand on a cane, wearing a top hat and bowtie. The new instruction was for the ladies to draw for 30 seconds and then pass their drawing onto the next one for them to continue – this happened about 5 times, and lead to some funny drawings!
I was excused, and left the room, straw hat over privates, more for show than out of embarrassment – and to some applause from the crowd.
I came back, dressed, and they all compared drawings – which was fun. There were some really good ones, some very flattering ones (some were generous, others gave me a six-pack ) and some humorous ones – including one where I was drawn with the sword going through my bleeding stomach!
I got a few of them – funny ones and good ones – a great memento of a fun experience – really enjoyed it!
I guess I’ll be calling that art school in the week