Where it started

A list going round on Facebook, February 2016: "which of these items have you experienced" etc. Some yes, some no, some didn't interest me. However, it put some ideas into my head, and I figured it was time I followed some of my friends in committing them to (virtual) paper. And then trying some of them out. The first challenge was undertaken on 1 March 2016, and I have no intention of ever completing the list: the more I tick off, the more I'll add.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

As nature intended

One of my more challenging items on this list was 'to pose for a life drawing class'. Having become at least somewhat more comfortable with my body - in its clothed state, at least - I wanted to see how I managed with the idea of nakedness (in front of a specific and appropriate audience, of course).

My good friend Sian spotted this item on the list when she was surveying this blog looking for inspiration to create her portrait of me last autumn. Being an artist, and having other friends with similar interests, she promised to set up the opportunity for me to have this experience; and was as good as her word. In her living room, I posed for Sian and two fellow artists (plus another friend who came along to make the tea!), otherwise only observed by her cat - who happily refrained from jumping on the model...

I undressed before the other artists arrived and put on a robe until we were ready to start. The house was warm, we had tea and hot apple juice, I knew three out of the four people present personally, and all was very relaxed and cheerful.

When we were ready, I felt quite un-stressed removing my robe and taking up a comfortable position on the sofa. Sian told me to make myself as comfortable as I could, and that they'd start with a couple of five minute poses so I could get used to it. (Dawn, who was on tea-making duty, timed the poses on her phone.) As we went on, we made the poses longer - 10 or 15 minutes - and I would often remain in pose beyond the allotted time to allow the artists to finish.

Seeing the first images was curious. All artists had (logically) focused on the body and left the face blank, which gave an odd sense of freedom in its anonymity - even though I was happy for them to be published later and identified as me. The body is neither perfect nor particularly toned - although it's a lot healthier than it was - and the most difficult area for me (the breasts) is shown in its unsupported, middle-aged glory. Accepting that as part of the way I am was one of the most important lessons of the process.

There was no sense of shame or fear in the event; I was surrounded by friendly and accepting people, who appreciated my curves, my skin and my femininity in all its imperfections. As I managed to keep still (most of the poses were very comfortable) for the duration, I was told that I was a good model. I was proud for that to be so.

The erotic element to this was interesting. There was no feeling of being cheapened or at risk in any way; but that doesn't mean to say that it was without its sensual side. There is an extraordinary feeling of empowerment when feeling comfortable with a safely exposed body, and when feeling appreciated rather than objectified.

We continued with the session for some three hours in the end, including a break for warm drinks (and for me to cover up for comfort!); by the end I was surprised that time had gone so fast. As I said above, to relax and feel appreciated without fear or threat was amazingly empowering and surprisingly positive in its emotions.

The artists put their favourite works out for me to photograph afterwards. They all showed sensitivity and skill, and it was a privilege to be the subject of their creativity.

Sean's simple line drawing was wonderful:

I especially liked Julia's final study in blue and gold, which captured the relaxed quality of the whole evening:

and I simply loved the whole range of  'Cassie's Rainbow', created by Sian by using coloured pastels on appropriate coloured paper:

This is a challenge that I know I will be more than happy to repeat. It's also brought me to a slightly shifted perspective in how I view my body, my imperfections and my good points, and how I feel about its health and happiness rather than that difficult and self-critical barrage of "I must" that is normally so disruptive of true self-acceptance. Thank you to all my friends, and especially to Sian,for helping me to open that door.

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