on honesty and metaphors.

By January 15, 2012Blog

When I was nineteen, I wanted to be a stripper.
The social dynamics of stripping fascinated me. My first visit to a strip club was a hole-in-the-wall dive somewhere in North Florida, about an hour and a half from the nearest real city. Women got in free because women never came here: the clientele was made up of truckers driving cross-country, or cowboys out in the sticks looking for a thrill.
I was transfixed. I was visiting for fun, out of curiosity, but I couldn’t stop trying to work out the mechanics of the social interaction. Men slack-jawed and transported, watching the women on stage slowly gyrate to jukebox music. Women curled in the laps of customers, purring, working for tips. What were they all thinking? How did this interaction work? I couldn’t stop asking questions.
A single bathroom existed for both the dancers and the rare female customer. Notices plastered the walls: regulations and penalty fees regarding how to shave, how to dance, how to act. An article on a raid that had happened some months past. An article on a girl caught selling sex in the parking lot after her shift. Mostly the women here were college students, driven, quiet, there to make tuition. A few of the others were in it for life, and doing it to support their children.
I talked to everyone. Well, to everyone who would talk to me: half the women assumed I was a reporter, and wouldn’t give me the time of day. (There had been an article in the bathroom, too, on what happened to dancers who talked to reporters.) The rest of the dancers assumed I was looking for a job, and complimented on my body, trying to bolster my confidence, said I could be a stripper, easy. One girl insisted I didn’t leave without an application.
Months and months afterward, I considered it. The money was the best around, and the social experiment in and of itself was enough to tempt me.
And I had no problem being naked.
* * * * * * * * * *
At sixteen, I fell in love with a girl. The first time she saw me I was dressed as a princess, and being carried across a stage in a litter, during a play.
The first time I saw her was after curtain call, wide-eyed, at the front door of the theater.
We were spellbound.
She was beautiful, in a panoply of ways that fanned around me. We couldn’t stop talking.
It was complicated. I was already in a relationship.
We navigated.
Weeks passed.
One night she and I were curled on a couch of the theater we met in, cuddling, watching an audition.
Several of the adults commented how brave we were. To be so openly and unabashedly in love, at such a young age, in such a small town.
I’m not sure we were brave.
We just had no problems having our feelings laid bare.
* * * * * * * * * *
A few weeks ago I read a story by a nurse, on the regrets of the dying. The biggest regret, was this: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
I slept every night this week in a hospital, surrounded by people fighting for life. The things that are important fall into stark contrast: who we invite into our lives, what we choose to do with our time, and why.
The ways we choose to be, and not be, honest.
Growing up, I was more unashamed, more apt to spread out my life story on the table for a stranger. To say: we are all in this together. I’ll show you my mess, you show me yours, and together we’ll learn from all of this.
Because what do we have to lose?
As I get older, I’ve found myself making safer choices in spite of myself. Shared less. Hidden away more.
Been less myself, and less honest.
But the most honest thing I know is that one day, this will all be taken away from us. Maybe in a day, maybe in fifty years, but one day, these memories and hopes and fears and all that we love and are scared of, will end.
One day, we will be stripped more bare than we have ever been.
One day, we will die.
In light of that, there is literally nothing left to lose.
Or as Steve Jobs famously said, “You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
* * * * * * * * * *
I decided against being a stripper. Ultimately, the town I lived in was too small for it to not get back to my parents. (Though I still kind of regret it. It would have been fascinating.)
I opted instead to do nude modeling for artists at the local university.
Somewhere there are very awkwardly-posed photographs of myself doing naked guerilla-stunts in a Florida park, while photographers held blankets at the ready in case anyone walked by.
If you find them, let me know.
* * * * * * * * * *
I’m more naked in my music than anywhere.
Last month my friend Marc Scheff asked me to send him some photographs so he could paint them during a live video stream online.
I said sure.
And immediately spent the night turning my train caboose apartment into a photo studio.
I shot several self-portraits of myself, holding my gramophone.
In them, I am basically nude.
In some strange way, it feels like peeling away my anonymity. Like saying: here is all of me, everything I honestly am, and I am not afraid.
It felt like a relief.
Marc took the photographs and recorded the live video of his work in progress.

Watch live streaming video from marcscheff at livestream.com

He’s still working on the painting, but sent me some of what he has so far.

I think, when he’s done, I’m going to release it as a limited edition print.
Because his work is beautiful.
Because we all need reminders.
Because we should all be as honest as we possibly can.
Because it all comes down to being naked.

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