Often when I’m discussing the naked photo project with colleagues, they say, “You need to include men in this project. Men have issues with body and self-esteem too.” So as soon as I snapped the photo of Geeky Mom, I looked for a man who would be willing to strip.
You’d think my male friends would be the obvious choice, but you’d be wrong. Oh, I’ve asked, but they’ve been decidedly uncooperative. The excuses I get range from “I don’t have tenure yet” to “No one needs to see me naked.”
Then I met Artist Friend’s roommate. He was young, not much older than my daughter. When I walked in, he was sitting on the floor in front of the window, cross-legged. He spoke in a relaxed, understated way. “Yeah, after I got off the MARTA, I got kind of lost,” he said. “I wandered around and couldn’t find the hotel … so then eventually I paid a homeless guy to show me where it was.”
He’d come to the conference to present a paper on gaming. He was smart and funny, with a laidback personality. He described a lame presentation he'd just seen as Chicken Soup for the Programmer's Soul. After admitting to him that I’ve never even played a computer game, I pulled out my laptop and began showing him naked photos on my blog. “Want to pose for me?”
He shrugged, “Okay.”
“I don’t need to be part of this,” said Artist Friend. He was sprawled out on his bed, and he pulled a pillow over his head. It’s funny; he’s so much more eager to take part in the photo shoots when they involve women. Go figure.
Their room had a lovely corner window, and Gaming Friend was most cooperative in posing. But the photo we choose was the first one I snapped: an unposed moment when he was just looking out the window, contemplating what to do next, and he’d turned to look at something that caught his attention.
As we discussed the photos, I said to him, “I think most people feel more comfortable posing naked the older they get. So you’re much younger than most people who pose for my blog.”
He said that just a few years earlier, he wouldn't have posed. And the context mattered: it was easier to pose because he didn't know any of us. We were all strangers. We talked about how when you live in an apartment in the city, strangers often know more intimate details about your life than your friends or colleagues. The person in the apartment next door, for instance, might hear you having sex – and certainly knows what hours you keep.
I was talking with him about how older women seem more comfortable with their bodies than young woman -- you'd think, given the way our culture values youthful female bodies, it would be the opposite. He said, "Oh, but older women don't have as much pressure on them to look a certain way." Good point.
“Are you done yet?” Artist Friend asked. Gaming Friend put his clothes back on, including a white dress shirt. He had only twenty minutes before his conference presentation. “Should I tuck my shirt in or leave it untucked?” he asked. We discussed his wardrobe while Artist Friend sat up and began leafing through the program. Time to get back to the conference.
(Readers who want to know the history of the naked photo tradition can check it out here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.)