“Junk in Our Collective Trunk”
Dear Painters of the Renaissance:
I’m sorry I was born 450 years too late.
I apologize for my absence, for I could have inspired you. In your work, Peter Paul Rubens, I see appreciation of a natural, bountiful female sensuality; in your work, Tiziano Vecelli (aka “Titian”), I see admiration of soft, rounded flesh. The women you both painted were veritable chaise-lounges of comfort and ease.
Indeed, as you gents cast about for just the right Venus, no doubt pinching many a servant’s bottom and feeling up the bosoms of unwary women at the market under the auspices of “searching for a worthy model,” I could have saved you some effort and grief. First off, I’m fairly laid back at having my caboose clutched and my chest copped. Secondly, I have what you sought. My bones are well padded and, even more, I’m very good at sitting still and shutting up or, alternately, at prattling on and excising little cross-sections of life–whatever you required at the moment. I have a good listening ear, if you needed one, and I’m very good at asking questions, if prodding would have edged you towards catharsis and inspiration. All of this finely attuned companionship, of course, would have been supplemented with a frothy chai latte and a hazelnut biscotti.
You haven’t heard of chai?
Hark! There is so much I could have brought to you from my futuristic time capsule of global experience. You probably don’t even know what blow dryer is. And honeys? Your beards could’ve used a good blow out. That’s some ratty action you had going on there.
Moreover, boys, if you found yourselves hamstrung by painter’s block, I could have helped push you through by singing a couple infectious Regina Spektor tunes or humming some Billy Squier 1980’s flashback rock. Although I guess it would have been flashforward rock, seeing as we’d be sitting and singing and painting in the 1500 and 1600s, and the words “stroke me/stroke me” may have, at that point, only applied to your canvases and not your own selves (But what a breakthrough that could have been! Talk about an era of light shedding!).
You take my point, though, I’m sure. For you, in your time and place, I would have been a model model.
Beyond saving you boys some time and easing the torturous process of birthing masterpieces, I too would have gotten something from our artist/muse relationship. Truly, fostered under your ideal of the female form, I could have had some kickass Baroque self-esteem. To have been a living, breathing, walking Renaissance hottie–now that would have been novel.
You see, I have a strong, lush body, one that gets very little acclaim in the 21st Century. Until I met my husband, I had never been anyone’s ideal. For years, I thought this was somehow tied into personal failings–a weakness of my own character. I mean, when random people would make derogatory comments (like the 6-year-old boy who biked past me when I was 11 and weighed 120 pounds with the height of 5′ 3″ and hollered “Gawd, you’re fat!”), I used to think they were right and that their judgements somehow pertained to my inner self and that, were I a different or a better person, I’d be thin.
If only I’d lived in a time where women with breasts and bellies and hips and flesh were heralded as Venus. See, in my time, beauty = visible bones. And I don’t really have those. Wait–try my clavicle. Yup, there are some at the base of my neck. But otherwise? I am gooshy, and no one’s ever been clamoring to heft my goosh up on to a pedastal.
Case in point: in college, after much hemming and hawing, and after days of psyching myself up, I called a young man and asked him out for a drink. On the other end of the phone, he went silent, finally chewing out a “No. I don’t drink.” Funny, I’d seen him at party after party, tripping over himself. I amended my offer to going out for coffee. His answer became even more abbreviated, to a more bitten “no.” There was humiliation in my cheeks as my hand hung up the receiver.
A week later, at a party in a parking lot, when everyone had drunk too much, my roomate spotted the cad and vowed to get to the bottom of his refusal. Being small and lovely, she had no trouble gaining his ear. As she returned to me, sheepishly composing a diplomatic reply, the best she could come up with was “He said you’re heavy set. That was the problem.”
This was the college-era me he had seen and found wanting. Bastard didn’t even give me a chance to open my eyes and take the leaf out of my mouth.
I know, dear paintermen, you are aghast. My torso alone could have kept you busy for weeks.
And although I am unique, my experience in this regard is not.
Get this, lads: a couple of weeks ago, a very fragile, sad, scared woman put herself in front of millions of people and tried to convince them through song and dance that she was an iconic beauty. She was mocked and torn down for her presumptuousness, told that she was “fat” because, like me at age 11, she weighed around 120 pounds while standing 5’3″. People couldn’t believe one so pudgy tried to sell herself as desirable.
So how should that make me and the rest of The Ladies feel, those of us who would kill to be so “fat”? Here’s how: pathological.
Check it: I recently went through a bout of food poisoning, possibly some mild e.coli, that wracked my bowels for almost a month. Eventually, I started to feel lethargic and wasted all day long. But mentally? I was turning somersaults; you see, fellas, even though I do an hour of cardio exercise every single day, and even though I do Pilates and yoga weekly, and even though I am fit as hell, I’ve still got the goosh. But under the stringent guidance of the food poisoning diet? Dearlings, I lost seven pounds. And I was thrilled. In the sickness of my culture and my brain, I would have welcomed months and months of food poisoning, if it meant the pounds would drop off.
Let’s all take a moment to sigh, shake our heads, and long for the relatively-rational thinking of the Borgias.
That’s why I have my dreams of time travel. I’d be glad to pack up my goosh and a pan of brownies and head back to the Renaissance, where I would stand a chance of becoming a publicly-revered Venus, freed from the tense relationship that my body and I currently carry on. You’d do that for me, the whole vaunting my womanly form thing, wouldn’t you, my little artistic pudding heads?
And if the time-travel channels to the Renaissance are jammed, I’d be willing to jump back even further, say 24,000 years, where I daresay I’d discover a quiet peace while sitting in the corner of a cave, watching some prehistoric sculptor carve out his vision of Mother Earth–the earliest of Venuses:
See, I don’t even have to be the model. I just want to witness passionate veneration of breasts held sway by gravity; I want to behold someone treating a rounded belly with awe.
So go ahead and objectify, ya big immortalizers of flesh. I’m not complaining about that one whit. Just give us a jiggling buttock to applaud every now and then.
Stretch your canvas a little, and then fill it up.