When I was little, I once accidentally dropped the almost full McDonald’s shake I was drinking. My mom quickly swooped down to retrieve the cup from the floor; most of its contents had escaped, but not all. There was still an inch or more of delicious, sweet, chemical goo to be had.
“It’s not like it all spills out instantly,” mom said. “It takes a while. If you’re fast enough, you can save at least some of it” She was explaining this to me because I hadn’t made any move to pick up the cup, myself. She’d correctly intuited that as soon as the cup fumbled out of my fingers, I wrote off the shake as “spilled.” Like “spilled” vs. “not spilled” is a totally binary concept.
I guess I still fall into that way of thinking now: today I realized that I haven’t been trying too hard to solicit modelling jobs for the summer months because “Meh, I’m never gonna get enough work to support myself, anyway.” This is probably true: most art schools close down in the summer, so there’s not much out there, and I need to do approximately 30 classes a month in order to cover my expenses. But jeez, that doesn’t mean I should give up entirely! If pinging a few instructors to remind them I’m alive means I get even two more gigs over the course of a month, that’s at least $100 I didn’t have before. Sure beats a kick in the ass.
By the way, there’s an art school walking distance from my apartment where I could probably score some gigs this summer, but I can’t bring myself to call them because it’s the school where this guy teaches. I’m at a point where my finances are getting really precarious and I’m thinking of doing some kind of sex work to pay the bills, and calling that one douchewaffle art instructor would help stave that off a little longer, but I still haven’t called him. That’s saying something. I guess even though the idea of sex work makes me nervous, it’s still better than working with that guy again because in sex work I can move away from someone who’s too close to me. Plus I’d get paid exponentially more.
Speaking of douchewaffle instructors, I had an even worse run-in with someone else recently. This dude did the same thing of pointing at me from really, really close while I was naked and posing, and he touched me. First he accidentally(?) tapped me a few times on the leg and arm when he was pointing at me because he was too goddamned close. Then he asked me to please shift sideways a bit in my chair, and underscored this by nudging my shoulder with his fingertips. Then finally he was pointing at my face – and you’ll forgive me if I didn’t trust his depth perception much by that point, considering the arm-and-leg touches a few moments prior – so I rolled my eyes theatrically toward his pointing finger with a blatantly apprehensive expression, hoping he’d get the hint and back off me a bit. But instead he was like “Ha! Don’t worry. I’m not gonna poke you in the eye,” and petted my back as if to comfort me.
At which point I interrupted his teaching spiel to say “I prefer not to be touched while I’m disrobed.” And I made damn sure I said it loudly enough for all 20 or so attendees to hear me. I wasn’t sure how many of them knew the correct protocol and I didn’t want any of them thinking for one second that the instructor’s behaviour was okay.
The instructor, by the way, apologized quickly and smoothly and continued on with the lesson without missing a beat – but when we were on a break and not right in the public eye like that, he came up to me and apologized again. At length. To an almost embarrassing degree. And undercut the sentiment by repeatedly reaching out to pet my arm or shoulder and then stopping himself. SIGH. For my part, I felt it would be a tactical blunder to respond to his apologies with “that’s okay” (I don’t trust him to understand that this is just a figure of speech) but I was so flustered from both the inappropriate touching and the apology histrionics that I got tongue tied and couldn’t think what to say instead. I think I said “That’s okay” after all; I don’t remember. I have since rehearsed my response if a similar apology situation should come up again: “Thank you; I appreciate that.”
At any rate, I’m proud of myself for asserting my boundaries. And incidentally one of the students from that class bumped into me a few weeks later in a different class; when we got to talking on break she said she’d been appalled by Douchewaffle Instructor’s conduct and was really glad I spoke up. That was good to hear.
Unfortunately, Douchewaffle had booked me for a couple of sessions at once, so I still had to work with him two more times after that. One of those took place the other day. It went okay. He didn’t give me a hug hello or goodbye like he used to do before our little spat, and he didn’t come up and point at me (but that might have been coincidence – perhaps the students didn’t need things explained to them that day). He did however have to put a tape outline around me so I could get back into my long pose after breaks, and accidentally(?) touched my feet and arm in the process, which I hated. He paid me more money that day than previously, and his wording about this was ambiguous; somehow he simultaneously made it sound like it was a pay raise and like he’d collected “tips” from the students for me (which is a thing that some instructors do). So I don’t know if it was tips, a pay raise, or guilt money, but I’m certainly not complaining.
Meanwhile, exciting news: an artist who saw me pose in a life drawing class has hired me for some private sessions – just her and her friend, in the friend’s basement. I’ve posed for them twice so far and they’re super nice and I love it. However, the process has made me realize that there are some things I need to ask when I’m negotiating private work. Such as:
- How long will the poses be, specifically?
- What’s the space like where I’ll be posing? Are there – for instance – freakishly low ceilings?
- What’s your chair situation?
See, these ladies said they only wanted short poses, and asked me to bring props. Now, I’m aware that “short” in this case can mean anything up to 20 minutes, but the vast majority of classes I’ve done started with 30-second or 1-minute poses and gradually worked upward. My first session with these particular people started with ten minute poses and worked up to fifteens and twenties. For props, I had been going to bring my plastic sword; it’s a good thing I didn’t because the sword is mostly wasted in poses longer than a minute or two. Also, they had me in a smallish room with a low ceiling so there wouldn’t have been space to really swing the sword around, anyway.
And the chair they had for seated poses was a rocking chair. I dealt with it, but the rocking-ness of it precluded a lot of the kinds of poses I usually do.
Also: the class where the one lady first met me pays me $60 for two hours of modelling. But those classes have ten or more artists paying $15 apiece to be there, whereas this private gig just had the two women. If I asked them for $60/session,that would come to $30 each – I was afraid they’d balk. So I chickened out and said I’d do two hours for $50. But, y’know…now that I’ve done the gig, I realize that these are two well-off women – women who, after all, can afford to fork out money on a regular basis for art classes just for fun. I’m guessing they’re retired (they’re in their 60s and they hire me for weekdays). The house is in a nice neighbourhood, and gorgeous. So I may have underestimated their capacity for payment. $25/hr is still more than most people pay me, though, so it’s all good.
Also, I feel all smart and business savvy and shit because in my last session with them, one of the women directed my poses a lot and then apologized for being bossy or whatever; I said something like “No, no, this is the advantage of a private booking – I can give you exactly what you want.” So basically, establishing myself as a luxury brand and making her feel good about spending the money on me. Awwwww yeah.
And I do love small, informal sessions like that one. I like taking direction (up to a point) because it encourages me to go outside my usual comfort zone – and when I’m doing a pose that someone else asked for, I feel like I’m allowed to fail. If I choose to take a certain pose and then it becomes unbearable halfway through, I feel like a dumbass bowing out early – like I made a bad judgment call doing that pose. But if someone asks me to hold a pose I wouldn’t normally do, or wouldn’t normally do for the length of time they’re suggesting, I can be like “I’ve never actually had my arm up like this for longer than two minutes, but I’ll try my best for you!” If I have to wuss out midway through it’s because they made a bad call, and I still look like a hero for trying.
Plus, if someone asks for specific things and I do those things, it means that person is getting what they need. I’d rather someone give me lots of input so I can follow it than stay silent but not fully enjoy what I’m giving them.
Anyhoo, at the end of the last session with these two women, I asked if they’d like to book me again and they enthusiastically said yes. The want to extend each session to 3 hours and hopefully book me once a week. Kaching.