Thursday, July 31, 2008
Oh the humanity: scenes from the teenage years
The phrase "model looks" is not one with which I am regularly associated. This is for a very good reason. Whether that reason relates to my abundance of soft corners, my five-five stature or the fact that my head is the approximate size and shape of a basketball is hard to say.
But several years ago I was asked to be just that: a model.
Now, in the interests of full disclosure I should clarify that I'm not talking modelling modelling. I'm talking more like "modelling" or perhaps "modelling?". Because, you see, this was a favour for a relative of mine. In the absence of my taller, hotter sister. With profits to charity. For a random store you would never, ever have heard of. In Osborne Park.
Needless to say this was not my idea of a good time but, as I say, it was for charity and the relative was a favourite Aunt of mine so after some half-hearted attempts to get out of it I conceded defeat. And when they told me I needed to rope in a friend as well I thought I had the perfect candidate: the delightful Clowney who was not only up for anything but also had some modelling experience. What could possibly go wrong, right?
Well, yes. Quite.
Only when I turned up at the store with Clowney in tow on the big day did the flaw in the plan hit me. You see, in addition to having modelling experience young Clowney is about nine foot eleven with a body that might make Miranda Kerr stick her finger down her throat. Standing alongside her, faced with the prospect of walking down a makeshift runway with her it occured to me that I might not stack up all that well. The fact that her legs came up to my chin, for instance, could be a little distracting to the eye.
But, I reassured myself, quietly breathing into a paper bag, it was going to be okay. Sure, I might not have the sort of frame that drew envious glances from willows but I was not without assets. I had um... all the right body parts in their proper places. And boobs. And um, let me see, okay - dimples. Who doesn't like dimples? Besides I knew what sort of clothes suited me well enough. Dressed well I was confident I could look perfectly presentable. Hmm hmm.
It was just about then that I reached my changeroom to discover the outfits I'd be wandering about in and the real panic started. It was not so much that the top was white and tight and a leeeetle bit see-through. It was that it was made of lycra and appeared to be teamed with a white skirt. And, again, it was not that the brown dress was not cute, it was merely that it seemed to be suffering from some confusion about where upper thighs ended and 'naughty bits not to be taken out in public' began. Meanwhile the less I say about the plunging skimpy black singlet the better you will all sleep at night.
Disturbing twinge number two came when I discovered that my kind-hearted Aunt had been unwilling to accept my version of events as to what size clothes I wore. We'd talked about it on the phone the week earlier: she asked and I told her.
"No, I think you're a size smaller," she'd said.
"Honestly," I said in my Firm Voice, "that's my size."
Clearly the Firm Voice had not been enough because the clothes were... well I hesitate to use the word 'tight' because it doesn't quite seem enough somehow. But I do have reason to believe people in the front row had a ringside seat of my organs.
And there was more.
"What are these weird net bags for?" I asked Clowney, who was in the next changeroom.
"You put them over your head so you don't get your makeup on the clothes," she replied knowledgeably.
But all that was just the warm-up: the real fun began when the show did.
To be honest I fitted in perfectly well among the other "models" who were clearly family members of organisers, recruited less for their ability to pout and pose than for their willingness to take part. Among these shuffling octogenarians (I'm not kidding: the store had a 'seniors' range) I felt, well, not half bad actually.
Until Clowney came out.
Not only did she look like a million bucks (by comparison I looked like the change from a fiver after an icrecream purchase) but she knew how to walk. I am not kidding when I say she drew gasps from the audience - Actual GASPS. Even my own family members, sitting obediently half way back in the crowd, looked like they were wondering if some sort of daughter/niece/sister exchange program could be arranged. The commentator on the mike could barely keep the awe out of her voice and only remembered to mention my presence when I practically knocked her down in an ill-advised attempt to copy Cloweny's spins. Oh yes, did I not mention she was doing the model spins?
After what felt like hours but may have been more like 40 minutes it came down to the final outfit: the motherfucking white monstrosity. I would have wept if my spirit had not already been broken. Still, as I eased myself into what amounted to a giant white condom in two parts I couldn't quite repress a quiver of fear. Was it still possible to nip out a window somewhere? Could I pretend to have broken my ankle? Could I ACTUALLY break my ankle.
No, I'd missed the moment and it was time. I took a deep breath (then checked to see if this whole "deep breath" thing had split the outfit) and went out.
If there weren't exactly, well, GASPS, when I blundered into view it would be fair to say there were... murmurs. But really, when you're on stage and concentrating on not falling over, who can distinguish between "awe" and "pity" anyway? And, more importantly, who cares to? My eyes on the floor I made my way along the 'runway' while the commentator searched for something to say that didn't use the words "holy" and "fuck".
I stopped to flash a rictus grin - intended to convey both my apologies and my shame - at the horrified spectators, while they stared back, almost mute with something that might have been admiration. At what, it is hard to say. Attempting a hair flick I turned on my heel to retire to the shadows and, as I did, a comment from the old biddy sitting in the front row rose above the prattle from the commentator and the mutinous mutterings of the crowd. Even terrified and humiliated I heard it perfectly.
"will you take a look at those dimples!" she said.