Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Picture of Torian Gray

“Let’s play a game,” said Don. “Let’s go around the table and everyone tell something we don’t know about you.”

Matt’s club had decided to have their Christmas party at the hibachi place. The waitresses had only just finished gathering dishes and handing out to-go boxes, but the party goers weren’t going anywhere for a little while yet.

I laughed along with everyone else as the other guests told tales of celebrity encounters or drunken antics, and at least one case of both at the same time, until the game circled its way around the table to me.

“How about it?” said another party guest. “Any wild tequila parties at the library?”

“Nothing like that,” I said. “But I was a nude model for an artist once.”

The table erupted.


The story isn’t actually as interesting as it sounds.

When we were poor newlyweds just starting college, there was a sign outside one of the art buildings: “Nude models wanted for figure drawing class.” They paid by the hour for people to stand there naked.

Did I mention we were poor?

But on the day of the interview, the interviewer was built: a perfect specimen of humanity.

And I was not.

So I turned around and walked out without saying a word.

That’s not the story.


The story starts ten years after that. Or about six months ago. I was yelling at my computer.

“How is it right for anyone to have that much talent?” I demanded. Lonnie’s facebook page was full of art. Again.

My friend was working on his art degree, and I routinely drooled over the pictures he posted of his paintings in progress, such as this one of his wife Randi wearing one of her ren fair outfits. I clicked on the picture for a closer look. Pretty, I thought.

Then I saw the rather long status update: “I’m planning to do series of paintings,” Lonnie said. “I will need at least six models. I’ll be taking pictures,” I read, and at the bottom, “Message me if you are interested.”

Ooh! I want to be in a painting! I thought. “Sounds fun. I’d do it,” I posted in reply. Maybe my painting will look as nice as Randi’s does…

I was a little confused when Lonnie sent me a private message later saying, “I assume you meant clothed, but were you willing to do any kind of nude?”

I read the message again.

One more time.

I went back to the original status update. No, there it was: between “need six models” and “message me” was the phrase, “Need a few willing to do nude poses.”

I must have missed that part.

And then I experienced an epiphany: hadn’t I thought about posing nude once before and chickened out?

Am I a chicken who is ashamed of her body?

Or am I an adventurer?

What would Curious F-ing George do?

I replied to Lonnie’s message with, “Draw me like one of your French girls!”


“Just promise not to kill him, alright?” I added, after discussing the details of the upcoming photo-shoot with Matt. I had engineered the conversation to take place during his shower so he couldn’t run away.

“I… I just… Can I…?” Matt stuttered. “Doesn’t it feel weird that you’re going to be naked in front of one of your friends? Who is also a guy?”

“Not really,” I said, striving to keep it casual as I combed my hair. “Sarah and Randi will be nearby.”

“But isn’t that weird?” Matt asked, sincerely.

“Sarah’s seen me naked hundreds of times and with Randi it would have happened eventually.”

From the shower, there was silence except for the running water. Then, “I can honestly say I’ve never seen any of our friends naked, and they’ve never seen me.”

“What a dull little life you lead!” I said, applying my deodorant. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“I left it in my other pants!” Matt declared.

“That’s your problem! You shouldn’t keep your adventure in your pants.”

“Where would you keep it then?”

“Hang on!” I said. “I’ve just remembered! I’m fairly sure Randi saw me naked while we were changing in the bathroom after that pool party!”



“That was so cool of you to agree to be a nude model for Lonnie,” Randi said the weekend before the shoot while we were in town for ren fair.

“It’s basically the best diet ever,” I said, as Randi, Sarah, and I browsed the fair shops in front of the castle. “Every time I pass a donut, I think, ‘nude model, nude model, nude model,’ and I find previously untapped reserves of self control.” That got a laugh.

“Are you nervous?” Sarah asked

“No way!” I said, with fragile bravado. “I’m in the best shape of my life, imperfect though that shape may be. I need a permanent record of this hotness before it all goes downhill. I’ll call it the Picture of Torian Gray.” We exited a corset shop and found ourselves facing a vendor selling chocolate fudge. “Did he say ‘rum butter’?” I mused.

“Nude model,” Sarah said.



It was a bit like a party at first. Sarah and Randi were indeed nearby. Lonnie had planned to artistically photograph me doing yoga, so Randi did a yoga routine with me to warm up while Lonnie and Sarah fiddled with the lighting. Sandy chatted at us in the background. Matt and Alex, Sarah’s husband, discussed the movie they were going to see during the photo shoot.

But then it was time to get naked and all of my other friends evaporated, leaving me alone in the room with Lonnie, who is my friend.

And also a guy.

But mostly my friend, and it wasn’t weird at all. We talked about work, and the ren fair, and books we’ve read, and music we liked, and it all would have been perfectly normal except that I was naked and he was holding a camera.

And every now and then we both laughed uncontrollably at the situation, but otherwise, perfectly normal.


“So I did some yoga poses and he took pictures to paint later.”

The party goers stared in stunned silence, minus a few murmured comments. Finally Don said, “Okay, Tori wins. That calls for applause.”

I didn’t need the applause, of course, but it was nice.

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