Forever young

At 19 years old, or thereabouts…

I have never been keen on getting old, but once I was desperate to age. When I was 11 years old I cared not a jot about my appearance but when I was 16 and still looked 13 I started to worry a lot about how I was different to my rugby playing contemporaries. At 19 I still had not shaved. My anxieties about this  were then greater than my better documented and (now I know) unnecessary anxieties about my penis size – but my penis was not on display and its appearance to others in the world could be controlled.

Although there was nothing camp about me, and carrying around a silent but amazingly strong crush on several of the girls around me at school and university, that I’m sure they will have noticed, there were boys who decided that I must be gay. I guess around 1970 the gay stereotype was very far removed from the macho gay image we often see today. Then it was straightforward: macho = manly = heterosexual. Different = homosexual.

When I was about 15 years old I remember a conversation with a group of my male classmates when one of them chuckled and as part of a big joke described me as asexual. Maybe I actually would have preferred to have been called a ‘poofta’, because at least that would have conferred me with some sort of sexuality.  The comment wasn’t presented vindictively and would not have been so cutting if it had not come from an individual who, other than having sideburns of sorts, certainly qualified as being pudgy and camp. I am sure now that he himself might have felt some pressures himself because of his own differences.

As was the fashion at the time he was one of the many boys of my age who were growing sideburns. Beards and moustaches were not permitted at school so this was a way of teenagers demonstrating their masculinity. Occasionally my face in front of my ears used to be stroked by other boys, looking for a sign of change that was not emerging.

Even if friends realised that I was attracted to girls, many of them had a clear idea that the attractiveness could not possibly be reciprocated. Sadly this rubbed off on me and my perspective of myself. A boy who was a close friend gave me a card with a condom in it for my 18th birthday. “Have a luxury wank” he said, deciding that it was never going to be used it for its intended purpose.

He was absolutely correct, but I should be thankful to him for, following his instructions and much to my surprise, it actually fitted snuggly. This was the first real evidence I received that my erect penis was actually of a perfectly average size. It was however evidence that I did not accept, imaging that there must be another 6 inches of latex somehow wound up in that remaining tight band at the base of my penis, but it was a crumb of comfort.

Elsewhere I shall probably write about how if only I had better information I might not have carried on into life with a complex about the size of my penis. Anyway, at that time it was more about my lack of ‘masculinity’; this was never then considered by me to be bullying and despite its impact I continued to be naturally sociable, sporty and generally happy with my lot. But I now recognise it was bullying because although I was resilient at the time there has been a long term low level hurt.

 

The naked self – thirty years of aging

Two male nude self portraits taken 30 years apart
Nude on bed – Toronto 1986 / Brighton 2016

Two self portraits of the naked me taken thirty years apart, the second photo taken yesterday, 8 November 2016. Just as in 1986, the new image was taken just for me; why the first was taken was probably for different reasons to the second but still I cannot easily explain why either might be here.

It might be easier to address how this juxtaposition makes me feel. Unfortunately it tends to validate my feelings 30 years ago that my body was quite different then, because the image on the right seems somehow more normal.  However, I know now what I didn’t then, that I should have embraced the difference in my body, that there are people out there who are attracted to boyish skinny men, that not all of them are gay, and that being in possession of such a body did not make me gay, but it certainly made me confused!

At 144 pounds or thereabouts, both bodies are the same weight, a weight I have been, plus or minus 3 lbs, all my adult life. On the left the weight is muscle weight, not a lot of muscle but very little fat. On the right is a body with rather more fat, still skinny by most standards but probably less actual muscle than that on the left. The broader body behind the arms and all around the waist is where most of that fat lies.

The one on the left might well have been the first nude self portrait photo I took, I can’t be sure. It’s awkward and I don’t like it as an image on its own but perhaps doing this gives it new meaning as an artistic statement. It’s interesting how it clarifies that it’s the shoulders up that bears the brunt of the aging experience, in my case anyway. I even suspect that many, if they knew nothing about these two images and cut off the faces, might express a preference for the body on the right.

The bed sheet is the same; the watch is the same, but no longer works; I’m glad I got rid of that mustache but would certainly like to have more hair on my head.

 

 

Starting (again) – the first nude self portraits

It’s been a while since I blogged anything, but here I am, starting out on WordPress with a relatively clean slate as to how I take things forward. In what is a profoundly logical move, I am going to start by going back to the start; Toronto in 1986.

One day I decided to put the camera on a tripod, undress, crank the self timer and arrange myself within ten seconds such that the first of my many male nude self portraits was captured.

In fact, it might even have been 1985 that this story started. I was not fastidious about recording dates and I have been looking for other clues but so far have found none. Irritatingly, because of my lack of care many years ago in recording detail, I cannot pin down now which of two sets were first. This means that my first ever nude self portrait could be this one:

n7y16-1

Or it could be this one:

Neither image was ever going to garner much favour from yours truly and both in different ways are really a bit rubbish! However, despite its general blurriness the former does get included in my Timelapse gallery, in this case recording a 30 year examination of how my body compares then and now.

The latter image, which I have a certain fondness for despite its somewhat awkward and forced pose, gets shown here purely for authenticity. Of all the images taken then it does best capture the skinny physique which I think today might get categorised as that of a ‘twink’ were it not for the rather pathetic mustache that I had cultivated purely because I thought it made me look older and less effeminate. In fact despite my preference for ‘cool’ fashionable clothing, it merely made be instantly uncool whatever I was wearing.

If the latter photo was my first effort then on that same day I thankfully proceeded away from the bed and took 12 more images at the window. I reproduce half of them here. Back in 1986, I really had no reference points as to how an artistic male nude should look in a photo, and no preview screen to show me what I was creating. I am pleased that I appeared to be trying to make something vaguely artistic.

Although I take almost all my images in colour, much of the time I tend to convert them to black and white. But this was colour film and having thought it through, I used to take the film cassettes to Sooters, a down-market but busy photo processor operating out of several shops in downtown Toronto. I figured that the cheaper and busier the shop was, the less likely they were to go inspecting the images. When I nervously collected the images, there were no silly smiles or snide comments and when I furtively inspected the prints they will have looked something like what you see here.

Nobody else would see these images for at least a year. I am pretty sure that some of these here will in fact not ever have been seen by anyone other than me. They were taken just for me. They were not taken to be seen by you and in no conceivable way could I have imagined that they would be out there one day as part of a written piece about the taking of male nude self portrait photos, a piece able to be seen by everyone on this planet.

The fourth image of the six appears in the nude self on film gallery in my portfolio. There is artistic license in starting the otherwise chronological timeline there with a mirror shot, a mirror nude selfie ahead of millions that probably exist now, but I do know beyond doubt that that photo was NOT the first;  it came from late Autumn 1986.