Road Trip Lessons

“You know you can just fly, right?” my friend told me. I could practically hear their incredulity through the text message.

I’ve gone on two solo road trips in the past few months, one to Utah and one to Texas. And yes, I knew it would have been far more convenient to fly to my destinations, but I didn’t want to. 

Oh, I had my excuses. Flights out of my little town’s one-terminal airport were on the wrong days. It would be more convenient to have a car for the modeling tour when I arrived. I could save money in the long run by camping. 

But if we’re being honest, what really got me was—to be poetic—the call of the open road. It had been years since I’d been on a proper road trip, and I’d always gone with a friend. This would be a new experience, and I wanted that.

Like with many new experiences, I ended up learning a thing or two along the way. Here are a few of the lessons that I picked up.

Self-Reliance

One of the things I love about nude modeling is that, in the end, the only thing you have at your disposal is you. Sure, there’s the occasional prop or bit of wardrobe, but your art tools primarily consist of your mind, your body, and your ability to contort both into something interesting. It’s just you in front of the lens, solving artistic problems. 

Like nude modeling, when you’re on the road, all you have is you…well, and whatever you managed to cram in your trunk.  

I can fit a fair bit in this trunk; I did not travel light. Besides my full set of camping gear to save money on hotels, for my Texas tour I had all my modeling accouterments—heels, wardrobe, hair straightener, the works. For the Utah writer’s conference, I even brought my own printer from home (okay, on second thought that might have been overkill).  

But there’s just something about being camped alone that really makes you realize that you’ve got to do this yourself. The first time I set up my tent on my own, I did everything wrong that was humanly possible. I put the ground cloth upside down—and the tent poles, and the rainfly. I couldn’t get the tent stakes to stay in the ground.  

But just like modeling, the more I did it, the better I got. By my last night, I messed up the ground cloth—but not the poles, or the rainfly, or the stakes. It wasn’t the same thing as making art in front of a lens, but it had the same sense of accomplishment.  

Expanding Comfort Zone

If you don’t push your boundaries, they shrink.

A very wise friend one told me that if you don’t push your boundaries, they shrink.

I know this is particularly true for me. Having OCD means a constantly shrinking comfort zone, defined by my compulsions and checks. I have to actively patrol the edges of my boundaries, or find myself in a tiny bubble of “safety.”  

A good example of this, for me, are gas stations. In OCD parlance, I’m a checker. I worry about things that could start a fire (like gas), liquid that could spill (like gas), and things that could be left open (like gas tanks). My compulsion is to check these things, usually in sets of three, five, or eight. Of course, that’s not really something you can do in public without looking odd.  

Before this trip, I used to dread filling up my tank. But guess what I had to do, practically every day, sometimes twice or more? By the end of it, gas stations were a lot less scary.  

There are other ways to expand boundaries on a trip too; this is just one example. I have already toured alone for my modeling, for example. But for any person that hasn’t ever traveled alone, I can’t recommend that safety-bubble pushing experience enough.

Adventures

On the way back from Utah, I took a stop in Zion and hiked to the rim of Kolob Canyon. From the top, I could see the red rocks of Zion to the left, and the green of Southern Utah to the right—and I was standing on the spine that split them down the middle. The view was breathtaking, spectacular, and several other clichés that try and fail to express the grandeur of a profoundly personal experience.  

I felt awe, but I felt another emotion as well: guilt. If you look at me, from my images to my blog posts, I have a bad habit of valuing making art over creating experiences. I often feel guilty when I indulge in the latter, or in having an adventure, if it comes at the expense of time I could put into having made something.

Yet on these two trips, I saw sights from Zion to cotton fields that have infected my art. I’ve experienced deep human connections with people I otherwise wouldn’t have even met. And it’s all because I decided to take the road less traveled—or rather, to take the road at all.  

Now I’m convinced that adventures and new experiences are necessary for better art, and should therefore be prioritized, guilt-free. I’m still working on convincing myself that they’re valuable in their own right. But hey, baby steps.  

*          *          *

I’ll probably be flying for my next long-distance trip. It takes so much time to drive, and I miss being away from my partners for so long. My friend was correct—it would be much more convenient to just take a plane.  

But I’m glad that I did these road trips. And I’m sure I’ll be back on the open road again sometime in the future.  After all, there’s still lots more to learn.  

 

Public Pubes

When I first started dating one of my boyfriends, I was nervous about him seeing me naked for the first time.  Okay, let’s be honest: there were a lot of reasons why I was nervous about that.  But one of the big ones was my pubic hair.  

I liked having hair, but I’d had a couple of previous partners that didn’t like it at all, so much so that they requested I shave it off.  I was much younger at the time, and they had such a strong preference that I figured why not?

Today, I would never consider it, for many, many reasons.  One of those reasons is my job.  Models in my genre are expected to keep an “art model bush.”  It’s part of how I market myself.  Without it, I would have to change shooting styles—or consider a different career.  

Before I started modeling, I never considered how much my pubes would become an important part of my life.  But it made me start thinking about why we prefer pubic hair in our art nude photography.  I constantly hear two reasons for it: first, it provides coverage.  And second, it looks more “natural” or “traditional.”  

All that sounds reasonable at first blush.  As a model, I can get away with a wider variety of leg positions without showing off the fine china if I have full coverage.  It allows me a greater range of expression in my posing without tipping the scales into erotic imagery.  It’s essentially a tool that I can use as an artist.  

But there’s a downside: pubic hair is often banned from galleries for being too explicit.  This has happened to me and my images several times.  And I certainly can’t show any pubic hair on Facebook or other social media sites.  So in many ways, having it is actually limiting.  I have to come up with implied poses that are appropriate for display by covering up my bush.  In some ways, posing-wise, it’d be simpler if I didn’t have it.  

As for the people that believe pubic hair is more traditional, I have one name for you: John Ruskin.  In the Victorian era, Ruskin was a prominent art critic.  He’s also famously known for leaving his marriage unconsummated—supposedly because he was unprepared for his wife to have pubic hair.  He was so shocked by her appearance because it was never depicted in the classical art of the female nude that he studied.  It’s possible poor John’s story may be apocryphal, but it is certainly believable: until recently, the female nude was rarely shown with pubic hair.  So it’s not like my bush is hearkening back to any glorious tradition.  

I’d argue that art nude photography’s obsession with pubes isn’t coming from “natural beauty.”

But I’d argue that art nude photography’s obsession with pubes isn’t coming from “natural beauty” either.  Sure, having a full bush is certainly a more natural look than shaving.  But art models are still expected to have shaved their legs.  Keeping armpit hair as a female model is a controversial act, one that relegates you to an “alt” model.  At best, it becomes a distinctive marketing feature; at worse, it loses you work.  Having armpit and leg hair is certainly not the industry norm, like you would expect it to be if the genre were truly about natural beauty.  

All of this is to say, I think the art model bush is just a genre style.  There’s not much reason for it besides differentiation from glamour and porn, both of which are known for a more hairless look at the moment.  

I’m personally glad that it’s the style though, even if the justifications for it seem a bit silly.  When I’m asked why I prefer having pubic hair, I categorically cite laziness.  It’s far easier to trim a bush than to deal with stubble and razor burn and ingrown hairs.  

That’s not the entire truth though, not by a long shot.  If I’m being honest, I’m actually a little bit uncomfortable with my pubic hair.  So much so, that they made it onto my body flaws list.  The curtains don’t match the drapes: my pubic hair is distinctly red when the rest of me is dirty blonde.  There are also two differing textures to it that just make me feel like it looks weird.  

You’d think I’d be happy with shaving it all off.  But I remember the first time I shaved for a boyfriend.  It felt…off.  Young.  Uncomfortable.  

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with shaving.  Pubic hair, like anything about our appearance, can be a form of self-expression.  Leave it, shave it off, dye it purple—whatever makes you happy.  I just think I did it for the wrong reasons.  

Now my pubic hair has become a part of my physical self-identity as an art nude model.  I like it, just like my long hair and my distinct lack of a tan.  There may be something problematic about my self-expression being determined by the whims of market forces, but I chose to go with it and I’m happy with that.  Here’s what I can say: I won’t be shaving anytime soon.  Even if I stopped modeling.  Having pubic hair feels like me now, and I like it.  

And luckily, the boyfriend liked my art model bush too.  I’m glad they’re both here to stay.