I stood confused in the corner. I could smell the layers of stale urine coating the brick and I made a very conscious effort not to touch anything. I turned my head and looked at the dumpster, unsure of the origin of its particular stink but certain that none of its source would come into contact with me.
“I don’t know what to do with my hands,” I said despairingly. This was met with a smile and a nod… and none of the assistance or sympathy for which I had half hoped. I found this both frustrating and hilarious. I had agreed to be photographed to overcome my personal issue (issues?) with the camera. I find them slightly disturbing. I can’t wrap my mind around being observed without seeing or knowing who the viewer is. I find it unsettling and it is the reason why my Instagram and Facebook are low on selfies. It’s also bizarre to have the mental image of yourself contradicted with objective evidence.
“God, does my face always look like that?”
“What am I doing with my mouth?”
“Jesus, I look fat.”
And other oh-so healthy thoughts always ran through my mind whenever I looked at a picture of myself.
“That’s fine. Just do you.” She said, whatever that meant…
What the hell is that supposed to mean? I thought back to every picture for which I had ever been the subject. I realized that they had all been contrived, staged for a particular reason or event.
“We are all here at this birthday party; come, let us document our shared joy for posterity. Say ‘cheese’!”
I have always found this concept beyond strange. However, everyone all put on their this-is-my-picture-taking-smile-and-pose-that-I’ve-learned-to-make-so-take-the-damn-photo-already-please faces, contorted our bodies to present in the most pleasing way, and knew what to expect. To be given no parameters outside of “just do you” completely threw me.
At this point, I’ve also realized that I’ve been having a philosophical crisis while Annie’s been patiently waiting for me to figure out what the hell I’m doing with my hands. For how long did I zone out? I pathetically cross them over my body, decide that’s maybe not “cool” enough, and then hook them into my belt loops… then my jean pockets. What do male models do? Do I want to play with gender? What does that even mean? Why can’t I figure out what to do with my damn hands?!
“What’s the tone of this piece?” I ask, as though that will somehow help to direct my awkwardness. I received the frustratingly simple, “It’s whatever you want.” I slipped one hand into my back pocket. What did I want? Why was this question so difficult to answer?
Well… I guess I can rule out that modeling career…
You can find Tai on Instagram @screamingmongoose