Is It What It Is?
Do you investigate what you are afraid of? Do you purposely move towards it to find out what it is really all about? Read the story below for a great example.
The Naked Waitress and the Cop
Back in the 80s and 90s I taught beginning drawing and figure drawing at various community colleges around San Jose, California. I also was a waiter and manager at a local restaurant there named Eulipia. I asked a fellow waiter if she would want to model for pay for my figure drawing class and she said yes. The class went off without a hitch. A year later I asked her again and she said she wanted to but now had a boyfriend. The boyfriend happened to be a cop. He didn’t know about the modeling from the year before so she wanted to talk to him about it first. She came back a few days later and said she had talked to him and he was fine with it. A week later though she said he had kept asking questions, had said some not so subtle jabs about what he thought she really was doing. She was worried about it which made me worried about it because I needed to make sure I had a model for the class that day. She assured me she would do it regardless of what he said. Great.
The day arrived and we were going to meet where we worked and drive together to the school. When I got there though, she was with her boyfriend and it looked a bit tense. She told me he wanted to talk to me. Great.
He came over and said, ‘I wondered if it is ok if I come along to the drawing class.’
This is not what I was expecting. A jealous, judgmental cop boyfriend watching his new girlfriend disrobe in front of a bunch of people and just stand there naked. I had visions of headlines the next day saying ‘art instructor killed by off duty cop in fit of jealous rage’. Great.
But he then said, ‘I long ago decided that anything I didn’t understand or feared I would face head on and seek to understand it. I want to come to see what really happens in a figure drawing class. She has told me what happens but I still have visions of something bad and dirty. I want to face that and see what it really is.’
How could I argue with that, right? I told him he could come along but he had to stay in the back of the class and not interfere. I told her she had to focus and not be distracted or intimidated by him being there. She understood and he was cool with that so off we went to the class.
The Naked Fear
The class was held at Mission College in Santa Clara. It was a HUGE spaceship style building that screamed intimidation and bulk as you drove up to it. I was sort of feeling that way about this new twist to my simple desire to get a model for my drawing class. Now I had a very bulky and intimidating cop/boyfriend about to sit in on my figure drawing class with his girlfriend as the singular object of close to 30 sets of eyes. Great.
The way it works in a figure drawing class is that the stage is a simple raised platform in the middle of the room. The students sit on benches around the platform and draw from all angles. The model has a place to change and comes out in a robe. He or she get on the platform, takes the robe off and starts to hit various poses. The students have already been instructed as to what they will be doing and they start in on it. We start with very quick poses and move on to longer ones. I call out the time and tell the model to change poses. The first pose might be as short as 20 seconds but most will be 1-5 minutes long for the first session. There will be a break then longer poses, up to 20 minutes towards the end. He or she might be sitting, laying down, standing, stretching, balled up, tense and muscular, draped and sleep-like. I had Katherine go through the poses, never looking over at her boyfriend. She also never got distracted, doing what I asked and being a great model for my students.
The Naked Revelation
When we took our first break Katherine got on her robe and the two of us went over to talk to her boyfriend. Much to my relief he said, ‘I completely get what is going on. It is exactly as she said it would be. I was imagining sexual poses, lascivious ogling but what I saw was a very focused and intense art moment. I am so glad you allowed me to come, I am not at all worried about it now.’ What he saw were the students intense in their work, me busy instructing, reminding & encouraging, and Katherine being deliberate in finding the perfect pose, adjusting if needed and staying as still as possible. What he saw was all of us working very hard.
He was not able to see that in advance. But because he had the guts to face his fear he was able to put the fear aside and see things for what they really were.
What worlds do you fear and don’t understand? What steps are you taking to find out what it’s really all about?
Drawing and story by Marty Coleman
Inspired by a suggestion of Andrea Myers to address the topic of facing your fears. Thanks Andrea!