Monday, June 16, 2014

I Did This to Myself: I Let Modeling Go to My Head

At the height of my modeling career.

"Hey, can I use you as a hand model this weekend?" my boyfriend asked.

I looked up from the thing I was doing, which was probably just being unbelievably beautiful for hours on end.

"It's for this thing for work," he added.

"I'm so flattered, Michael," I said, trying to play it cool. He could not know that he had just said words that I had been waiting for my entire life.

At last I could tell people I was a model.

"Just my hands?" I asked, drawing my shapely lips into a pout.

"Yes. Your hands at various locations around the city. It's for an ad I'm working on."

I knew I had a lot more to offer than just my hands, but what could I say? A gig was a gig. And a paying gig as well, as Mike promised me that I could eat the piece of pizza he planned to photograph with my hands as part of the "New York experience" photo series.

"I would be happy to hand model for you," I said, fluttering two lush fields of eyelashes in his direction.

"Okay," he said. He'd already gone back to reading comics.

Preparing for my first real modeling gig was a no-brainer. I had to get into the best hand shape of my life, and I only had one day to do it. I began my rigorous workout first thing Friday morning.

"Look! Over there!" I gestured.

"What?" Mike asked, looking out the apartment window where I had pointed.

"Shhhhhhh!" I said, drawing a finger to my lips. "I have five more sets of jazz hands. I need to concentrate."

He was patient, not even batting an eye as I hummed "Single Ladies" to myself and began to flip my hands back and forth during dinner that night.
Tone is very important to hand beauty.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early and did some texting to warm up my thumbs.

"I haven't even asked you what I should wear," I commented to Michael over breakfast.

"Whatever you want," he replied, shrugging.

"Probably whatever will frame my hands the best," I said, nodding. "Something a little caj. Understated. Modern."

"What you have on is fine."

"Is it?" I asked. I feared he was testing me. I'd heard stories of photographers who said that things were "fine," and then you never worked again. I needed to be careful. Fine was such a dangerous word.

In the end, I went with the strappy summer dress. When Mike moved in in an apparent attempt to grope me (typical photog behavior), I knew I'd made the right choice.

"Are you ready to go?" he asked.

We stepped out the door together. Out towards destiny? Maybe.

Our first shooting location was the tram to Roosevelt Island.

"Cup your hands like you're holding the Queensborough Bridge," Mike said. As I did, he snapped several photos.

"Is this right?" I kept asking. I couldn't read from his face whether or not he was pleased with my work.

"Maybe just tip your hands a little more towards the camera," he replied.

I did. When it still wasn't quite right, he moved my hands the way he wanted them. "Like that," he said.

As we walked along Roosevelt Island and snapped photos of me cupping various buildings in the Manhattan skyline with my shapely hands, I began to feel more natural. Confident even.

"I'm going to cup the Long Island City Pepsi sign," I said. "Then, I'm going to cup that abandoned hospital. And this might just be me going out on a limb here, but what do you think of my hands framing that seagull eating an old bagel? Like it's a tribute to squalor or something?"

I could tell by the look on his face that he was nonplussed by my creative input.

"Maybe just come back over here and let me get a few more shots of the UN?" he said, boringly.

We walked back towards the tram. We were going to head to Times Square so I could cup a dirty guy dressed as Elmo with my delicate fingers. But then something happened. Something that would change my hand modeling career, my very life, forever.

"Mommy!" I heard a voice cry.

I cupped one comely hand to my ear.

"Did you hear something?" I asked Mike. He hadn't, of course.

It was a little boy who had lost his mom at the FDR memorial. I knew I could help.

"Are you lost?" I asked him.

"Yes," the little boy replied, frantically.

"Well, don't worry," I said, with reassurance in my voice. "I can help. I'm a model."

I flexed my fingers in preparation.

"Now," I said. "Which way did she go?"

I pointed one direction. "Did she go that way?"

I pointed in the opposite direction. "Or maybe it was that way."

I flapped my hands over my midsection. "Do you remember what she was wearing?" I asked. "A hat? Sunglasses? Maybe a wig like Marie Antoinette?" With each suggestion, I moved my hands to represent the possible article of clothing. Perhaps it would awaken a memory of the last time the boy had seen his mother.

The boy was just crying by then.

Finally, he scampered off the direction I had first pointed, toward a woman wearing a blue and white striped top.

"Stripes. I should have known," I muttered.

As we continued walking toward the tram, I started thinking that I could do so much more than hold New York in my hands. By this time next month, I could be cupping Big Ben or the Kremlin for some fancy photographer named Giovanni. I could give the world the gift of my hands.

"Do you ever feel like you've just done a miraculous thing?" I asked.

Could the world handle my hands? 

"Would you mind if we got just one more photo of the bridge?" Mike asked, ignoring my comment like a jerk.

I knew then that I had outgrown him.

"The bridge?" I asked. "You have the Adriana Lima of hands in front of you, and you want to photograph a bridge?"

"I think you might be getting a little too into this modeling thing, Bethany," Mike said.

"Am I, Miguel?" I replied. "Am I?"

He bought me a bottle of water and made me drink it, sitting on a bench that looked out at the river.

"Feel better?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "Sorry about that."

"It's okay," Mike said. He put his arm around me. Times Square (and the world) would just have to wait.

"Hey, would you do me a favor?" I asked, humbled at last.

"Sure," he replied.

"Don't Photoshop my fingers to make them thinner."

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