When you are a muse

Being a muse isn’t easy. It seems like it should be, as you aren’t the one actually doing the creative work, but it takes a certain amount of courage to be willing to relinquish control and accept what other people do with you.

I have a friend. He’s a very dear friend. He has my best interest at heart, always.

Tod paints, or at least he used to and he does now.  He painted, then he played golf, then he painted. All of this is documented on his blog. But when Tod started painting this last time, he collected selfies of the people he loves and he used those as inspiration. He’s painting a lot of people, but he painted me almost first.

I take a lot of selfies. Most of the time I take them to mark changes in my life. Educational degrees. Jobs. Seasons.  There was a time I was taking one every week because the changes just kept coming.  I happened to be working for Tod at the time.  He has since remarked that he never knew what he was going to see when I walked into the office, and there was some truth to that;  I looked like an entirely different woman every day.  I think it threw him for a loop in real life, but in retrospect I think he sees it as an opportunity: the documentation of a woman in transition. He chose one of his favorite selfies that I took (in our shared workplace at the height of my midlife crisis) and he painted that.

Selfies are self portraits.  I’m good at them. I know how to use composition, shadow, light, and most noticeably my HAIR to hide what I don’t like and to emphasize what I want. I intentionally use my hair to hide the intensity around my eyes – I’ve never liked the way it looks. It looks too hard or hungry or masculine to me. I don’t like it but I can’t shake it and the only time I can erase it is when I’m have a beer and take the selfie laying down.

When Tod painted me, he took my hair out of the equation.  He literally took my hair completely off my face. All that intensity is staring back at me and there is nothing I could do about it. I can’t reframe or retake. I can’t vignette or tilt shift.  I can’t tilt my head to let my hair fall forward from behind my ears.  But I can’t deny it either. I can’t tell him Tod got it wrong, because in reality he got it very very right. Fuck it all, there is no way for me to hide. I’ve never felt more publicly naked in my entire life, but I’ve also never felt so accepted or valued either.  It’s a unique sort of tension to it all.

 

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