M. Jacob Scatters
So there I was: naked in public. When I signed on to pose for Drawing II, I had assumed a few things: 1. Students in the class would be a pale pack of patchouli ghoulies who could ho-hum in the presence of nude humans, barely able to keep their eyes open for the banality of the forced exercise; and 2. The goddam blinds would be closed.
Having stripped to my flaccid skin and donned a crepe-paper thin bathrobe to stand before the class for the first time, I could tell-even without my glasses on-that neither of my buy-your-courage BS assumptions had played out. These kids looked like a Pan-Hellenic collegiate council with parchments and pencils. There wasn’t whiff of patchouli in the air; the art-kid goatees and Buddy Holly horn-rims I expected were in short supply. One guy was even wearing one of those ghastly canary yellow SDSU parkas. They were normal kids. And they weren’t naked at all.
Not so bad, I thought. I’ve never been nearly as bothered being naked in front of people as they were being in the presence of my unremarkable, unclothed self. That’s why I took the job.
I was broke, and 15 bucks a week for 45 minutes in the open air sounded great compared to the only other paying gig at SDSU whose only requirement was a pulse: 10 rectal exams from 10 stiff-fingered nursing students. Even a semi-circle of apple pie-American kids on art stools apprehensive about working with a live model beat the hell out of the other option here.
The real problem was those damn blinds. I put on my glasses again for a second. There were no damn blinds.
Damn. Everyone who walks by those windows and looks to Grove Hall and not Matthews will see me and know that I’m the naked guy. The scenarios painted themselves:
I sit down to read homework in Jack’s Place. A group of freshman girls with pink backpacks and painted eyelashes sit two tables away. They look, whisper and giggle in my direction, like middle school revisited. The three of them approach me and one says,
“Um, are you in some art class?”
I can’t lie. They know.
“I model for one.”
I half expect them to swoon.
“Isn’t it cold in that room?”
“Um, yeah. . .”
Thankfully, the fears were unfounded. No one walked by the Grove Hall window, no judgmental gaggle of imaginary gigglers ever approached, and the only drawbacks were a crappy in-session radio station, kinks in the neck from holding ‘natural’ poses and, yes, the cold (chair, not room).
A year later, a girl I met at a wedding dance during the post-posing summer asked the ‘did you model’ question. She didn’t even giggle (at least not in front of me).
I was apparently hanging in the Ritz Gallery, all scribbles without eyes. I felt proud for a moment, thinking ‘Gee, what a thrill to have been the muse for whoever-the-hell.’ Then I heard footsteps and I was out.
Naked in public is not a problem. Recognition afterwards was not a problem. But standing next to the naked-in-public picture while clothed in public was a risk too great to take.