Feel the fear and strip off in public

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Last night, as the rest of the world prepared for an evening in front of the telly, I set out in the rain and the dark and the wind to get my kit off for strangers. And I wasn’t even getting paid for the privilege.

A million questions flew around my head:  Should I have waxed?  Is it going to be really cold? What if I don’t know how to stand in the right way? What if I find it all so awful that I start crying? Or just want to run away?

Patrick Palmer, the teacher of the life-drawing class I would be sitting for, tried to reassure me. He told me that nobody would be thinking of me as a naked woman, they’d be too busy worrying about their art. Very easy for him to say, wrapped up in his jeans and jumper.

When my friend suggested naked modelling as one of the challenges, I didn’t relish the idea of it but I wasn’t horrified either. My bum is bigger and wobblier than I’d like, as are my thighs, but on the whole I don’t mind my body.

The older I get, the less I care – and anyway, it’s not like it’s  beauty contest. I may as well be a piece of fruit or a vase of flowers as far as the artists are concerned.

But as I stood on the cold tiles of the art centre’s loo, putting on my fluffy white dressing gown, I felt differently. All I could think was: ‘What the hell am I doing?  How has my life become so strange? Why aren’t I at home, getting ready to watch Sherlock, like a normal person?’

But this whole project means that I am no longer a normal person. I am a fear fighter extraordinaire. And so I walked back into the room where about 15 people were fiddling with easels and paints and charcoal and prepared to take my clothes off.

I was directed to a grey office chair, positioned in front of them all, under a strong spotlight.

‘Whenever you’re ready,’  said Patrick.

And just like that I took off my robe and sat down. Naked. Properly naked. Not a stitch on.  It was weird. Not good weird or bad weird, just weird.

But just as I put my naked bum on the rough seat, a latecomer walked into the class. He was good-looking. Then it was bad weird.

I crossed my legs and put my arms in my lap, just to cover something. I picked a spot on the floor and kept gazing down. I don’t remember ever looking so intently at a floor.

After twenty minutes, another model came to join me and we did some  balletic standing poses.  In one our arms were up and I realised I hadn’t shaved my armpits in a few days.  I wondered if any of them would notice.

Then Patrick told the class to rearrange themselves so they had an angle they liked. Mr Good-looking brought his chair up so that he was sitting directly in front of me. I’d normally have to be very drunk to show this much to a perfect stranger. I felt a moment of panic, then I told myself to grow-up. I set my gaze back at the floor and thought about what I’d have for dinner when I got home.

Afterwards I put my robe back on and looked at what he’d done. He told me he’d messed up my face, he worried that my nose was wrong. We didn’t mention anything about the boobs – which, for the record were captured perfectly. I asked him what his day job was. He worked in I.T.

As the evening went on, it was strange how un-strange it all felt. Walking around looking at people’s drawings and paintings, I could see that we were just bodies and curves and lines. Nothing personal at all. I wanted to thank one woman for making my bum look smaller than it actually is but then I realised that that was probably not appropriate.

But if I’m honest, vanity did kick in. I really liked how I looked in all the pictures. It was cool to see yourself as a work of art.  I also loved how LaDawn (the rather fabulous name of my co-model) looked. She’s larger than me and shorter – and the contrast between our bodies was brilliant. I loved her fleshiness and her shape. I could have looked at her body for hours – it was so different to mine. Fascinating.

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LaDawn and I went into our final pose, sitting face to face, with our hands held up and touching. We started chatting about all sorts – her kid’s schools, work stress etc. She told me that she’d started life modelling a few years ago, as a way of helping her get through depression.

‘I’m a large woman,’ she said. ‘On the street I’m not beautiful but here I am. The artists love my body, the folds, the size… it’s empowering. I come away feeling like a million bucks.’

And by the end of the class I was sad to go. I could have hung out with La Dawn all night. We said our goodbyes and she said ‘Shall we be friends, then?’ and I said ‘Yes!’ I loved the way she asked the question. Why don’t we all say that to people we meet and like? I guess life modelling must make you shed a lot of inhibitions.

At the end, Patrick asked me how I’d felt it had gone and I really didn’t know how to answer. I still don’t.

It was all a bit surreal and strangely underwhelming. I didn’t come away feeling empowered or exhilarated, just happy to make a new friend. And hungry. I went home and ate two bowls of curry. As all the best models do.

If you fancy a life drawing class, the one I went to takes place Sunday at 5pm, at the Fire station arts centre in Windsor, and the teacher was Patrick Palmer.  It had a lovely atmosphere and welcomes all levels. And they play nice music at the same time and allow you to bring down pints from the bar upstairs. Am I selling it?! For more details visit: www.patrickpalmer.co.uk


[easyazon_link asin=”0091907071″ locale=”UK” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”hemebl08-21″]Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway: How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action[/easyazon_link]

16 thoughts on “Feel the fear and strip off in public

  1. Elizabeth Inniss

    Oh my days! This is so interesting. Bravo girl! Life must be opening up in so many different ways to you right now – soon there’ll be nothing you can’t do, even answering phones (I have that same trepidation by the way) 🙂

    1. Marianne Power

      It’s nuts isn’t it?! But strangely little things like picking up/answering the phone freak me out as much as getting naked in front of strangers. Yesterday I had to really make myself pick up the phone to call a contact that I needed to check something with. It wasn’t a bad, controversial chat I needed to have – I just always get nervous picking up the phone. Relying on email doesn’t help, don’t have to face the fear so much. THANK YOU FOR READING AND FOR SHARING THE LINKS .XX

  2. Claire

    Well done you! I did it once…on rollerskates. That Rankin pose! It is funny how you just get used to it. I refused to look al the good looking guys in the face – you clearly did much better that me on that count!

    1. Marianne Power

      I remember that Claire! And weren’t the first shots you with feathers on you?! Looking back it was such a cool thing to do. Did you ever do it again? Thanks for reading! How are you? xx

  3. Liv

    What a cool and interesting life you are leading! I’m really enjoying getting the latest updates from the battlefield of confidence (p.s I think you are definitely winning)

  4. Mary

    The pictures are gorgeous – really cool! And I think I’ve fallen in love with LaDawn… Can she be my friend too? She sounds awesome!

    1. Marianne Power

      Ha! She was lovely. Do you like my page on FB – she’s on there and messaging all the time so get on board. She was a breath of fresh air. And yes, the pics were great. Alas, the blog is now deemed pornographic by the mobile providers here so people can’t get on. Not sure what to do about that?

  5. Rebecca

    I’ve just moved to Windsor and found your blog via a facebook group. I’m definitely going to start following your blog, love the writing style and I want to hear more of your adventures! Good luck :). Bex

    1. Marianne Power

      Ah, thanks so much! Welcome to the area. I’m living in Ascot at the moment. It’s a nice part of the world. Just about to put up another post about a very embarrassing spin class. Thanks very much for reading. x

      1. Rebecca

        Read it already and boy do I feel your pain – I was ‘trained’ last weekend by my sister-in-law. Well I think she thoroughly enjoyed putting me through my paces and I still ache. But you know what – it didn’t kill us did it? ;). What’s the next challenge?

        1. Marianne Power

          Today is bank statements and tax time. Not my strong point. Anything to do with money brings me out in a panic. Am thinking of doing a money book next month for that very reason. Do you have any self-help recommendations? Shout if you do. Is your sister in law a trainer? Or just being ‘helpful’?! xx

  6. Rebecca

    Ugh that makes me shudder, I hate dealing with all that stuff too. Hmmm self help recommendations, I’ll have to have a think about that one. S-I-L is a personal trainer and I’m sure she was just trying to bond but there was a glint in her eyes…..

  7. Liz

    Awww “fear fighter extraordinaire” and ” I don’t remember ever looking so intently at a floor”.

    You have a lovely way of expressing things. I’m just in love with this blog and the adventures ! 🙂


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