slow time (on nudes)


3/3 last of the airport series: I am in Abu Dhabi again. It is significantly less nice to be here, due to having had to sleep in the airport overnight. I landed last night at 11pm, local time, and my final leg of trip home (homehomehome) is at 10:15am. Currently, it is 6:52am and I slept approximately four 1-hour cycles that were interrupted variously by plane announcements, loud kids, the night staff's laughter, the call to prayer. Having accepted my lack of sleep, I'm doing the crossword to pass time, but it is going very slowly so I am getting out some thoughts here first. Time is so slow. I absolutely hated Singapore (though I loved my cousins) and it just emphasized how much I just wanted to go home, but had to wait 2 days in a country I found despicably boring, 7 hours in a plane, 11 hours in a freezing airport, and 14 hours in another plane – first. Right before my first 1-hour cycle of sleep on the Abu Dhabi airport floor, N texted me the horniest, nastiest messages from Kazhakstan of what he wanted to do to me and ended it with 'How can this happen as soon as possible?' which of course made time even slower because then I was just horny and alone on the airport floor. I texted back by telling him about getting off the other day to him but he didn't respond. He definitely fell asleep but I was illogically mad about it. This made me glad that I hadn't acquiesced to his semi-joking-but-also-serious pic requests yesterday; I would probably feel very bad and self conscious about myself if I sent a nude and then didn't receive a response for 10 hours. I did try to take the nude, though. I knew I wouldn't send it, but I have actually never sent a nude in my life and wanted to see how one would manage it. I tried to take one in my cousin's bathroom mirror. I observed my body. There were weird tan lines from when B forced me to go to the beach in Korea, line imprints from the unsexy period underwear I'd been wearing in an effort to reserve laundry, and a strip of squiggly impressions all around my waist from the elastic pants I'd been wearing under the Singaporean sun all day with my endearing yet hugely crotchety uncle. From a young age, my midriff has always had an odd discoloring, like dirt I hadn't scrubbed off or a mild form of cancer or something. My mom has always made me feel even more self conscious about it by pointing it out every time I lift my shirt or such. I rediscovered that my back has the same weird skin thing as well. I had never felt fatter or uglier in my life looking at my butt in that mirror, too, with my body oddly twisted around to see what was going on back there. This was especially disconcerting because I've always felt my butt was the one feature that made up for the rest of my body. Then, to top it all off, I felt even more self conscious because I remembered I was literally in my cousin's house in Singapore and what the hell was I doing anyway. Ingres is one of my favorite painters, kind of in the same vein with which I appreciate the earlier Italian Mannerists. Looking at myself in the mirror made me wonder if it wasn't because I subconsciously recognized myself in the bodies Ingres painted. This sounds rather egotistic, but I don't mean this in a good way, exactly. Ingres' bodies, particularly the women's, are oddly distended and curved, like all of them got hit with that boneless spell Lockhart cast on Harry in the second of the HP books, and then were awkwardly reshaped like they were mashed potatoes. Grande Odalisque is the greatest victim in this regard. Her back and waist are tiny but a giant, completely un-saggy breast (an unusually perfect globe, singular) hovers in front. That tiny waist then curves into a disproportionally large behind, above which rests an oddly short and elbow-less fleshy arm. This arm hangs limply over a large leg, like a sad fish in the tank by the end of the market day: not fresh. These kind of fleshly oddities exist in other of Ingres' paintings, too, but it's slightly less obvious since they aren't full nudes like G.O. But for all that these various bodily quirks gesture towards the absurdity of male fantasies of female fleshly perfection, I am not entirely sure these paintings are necessarily as 'sensual' as often described. Madonna of the Long Neck (Parmigianino's, not Ingres) feels more uncomfortable than anything, with her need to strain her neck upwards and maintain a dignified look upon her lifted chin, while still barely holding onto a weirdly elongated baby Jesus, who is practically falling off her lap. Or how Odalisque looks back at us when her body wants her to look forward; the awkward gap of fat on her neck as her she swivels around like an owl, but without that natural rotational ability. The artists' fantasies were necessarily at odds with pure physics, and the tension been their desire for pictorial realism and idealized bodies shows. I feel sympathetic to these women, for all their apparent beauty, rather than jealous. They seem like they are quite literally being pulled in many directions in order to respond to the different modes of presentation demanded of them. I, too, feel lumpy and distended. That is how I felt when I looked at myself, naked, in the mirror: I know what N wants to see; I know how I would like to look, and I know how I ought to present for a straight male gaze; I know how the physics of sticking my arm out for a selfie and twisting my body like a corkscrew all the way from head to toe works (or does not work). I know what I could do to make it all work together. "I expect pictures of your ass," he had joked (not joked) on his way out of the house a few weeks ago. "And how the hell am I supposed to accomplish that?" I jokingly (not jokingly) argued back. "You're a photographer, I have faith you'll figure it out," he said. The only good ass photographs I have ever seen in my life are Man Ray's "Le Violin d'Ingres" (appropriate) and Edward Weston's beach nudes. These only work because there is someone else taking them, playing the role of straight male gaze for the construction of each image. Being a photographer just means you figure it out by breaking it all up and cracking it open. Then you can't unsee it. I decided that it was enough for me to know how the puzzle worked. I put on my clothes and went to go play board games with my cousin's kids.