The above fact does not stop me from being an unrelenting narcissist.
Since moving to Denver, I've been looking for a job. You see, freelance work can be fickle in the moments when it's not the best job in the world for someone who hates putting on pants. I make a living off of putting together lots of little jobs, and one of the big little jobs took its business elsewhere. So, the rat race for rent money intensifies.
I've found it difficult to look at sites like Indeed.com, because they're so very adult. Their jobs have rigid requirements on experience, and many of the employers expect the people they invite for interviews to have laundered business attire and regular showering habits. That's just not who I am.
Craigslist is a little more my speed. People that are just as weird as me, people that eat just as much morning ice cream, people that also own multiple cats, they post their jobs on Craigslist. My people. Of course, some of these cat people are trying to scam you into wiring them money that you don't have. But that's the fun, dice-rolling part of Craigslist you're never going to get from LinkedIn.
In my endless scrolling and page-refreshing sessions, I've stumbled upon many odd jobs, many of which involving “photographers” seeking women for a “discrete” photo shoot for their “personal collection.” I chose not to follow up on these particular leads. I was looking mostly for writing jobs, and maybe I'd help some guy move his entertainment center for $40, whatever.
But, I did decide to make one horribly self-involved decision.
“Male models needed for blue jeans ad” it said.
“$1000+ for one shoot” they said.
I was suckered. Finally, enough people had told me I was handsome that I was about to sell off a small piece of my soul to find out if they were right. I made the call, set up the interview, and started doing sit-ups.
This decision didn't feel terribly different than the first time I decided to sign up for an open mic. Now, rather than thinking I'm so ridiculously funny that I should be given a stage and a spotlight, I was semi-confident that my jawline and oddly Aryan features would earn me a couple months of rent. The difference is that being a model doesn't take any talent. There. I said it.
And, similarly to my start with comedy, it stemmed from a desperate situation. Upon first trying comedy, it was a response to a drawn out bout with heartbreak. Now, my heart is in fine condition, it's my bank account that's broken this time. I didn't want to be a model. I wanted to be a guy with 1,000 more dollars.
My girlfriend and I made the drive to Colorado Springs after steaming my best linen button-up and a few sarcastic jokes about how good-looking I am. This is a tactic I've learned to at least put on that I'm not taking myself very seriously. It's a cover-up rooted in Minnesota-niceness and caring way too much about what other people think of you.
Like the time I stupidly called something “gay” while hanging with a group of friends. I had to follow up the statement with several over-the-top masculinity-affirming lines in order to show the group that I don't actually use “gay” as an aggressive adjective. This reflex often garners more cocked-heads and nervous laughter. Some day, I might just learn to just think before I speak as a preventative.
They call this “neurosis,” and it can be absolutely exhausting.
I got to the office and waited politely for my turn to be approved or denied aesthetic worth. As I waited, I caught myself staring at all the framed men and women, some of them provocatively biting their bottom lip, some of them looking like they are literally about to jump out of the picture and fuck me. I couldn't help but think “I've never looked like that in my entire life.”
“Hopefully,” was my next thought.
I sat down with a man who had alarmingly sharp features and a thorny tattoo on the underside of his collarbone for the interview. He made some small chit-chat about how I'm liking Colorado so far and why he prefers it here to California. He asked about the tattoo on my forearm, he seemed to half-care about it and the dead uncle it originated from. I was probably his 900th interview that day, and not everyone has to be profoundly emotionally impacted by my uncle's illness. I give him a pass.
He then asks me about how confident I am with my body. I started with the words “I'm not exactly a gym rat” because I didn't want to open with “this morning I was out of milk for cereal so I microwaved some vanilla ice cream instead.”
Eventually, I made a comment about how I'm “not self-conscious,” to which he promptly waved his hand up off the armrest and said “let's see it.”
I stood up and pretended to start shame-crying when I unbuttoned the top button. His face showed immediate concern, then he relaxed when he saw me seeing his face. I couldn't help myself. Little things like this keep me sane. In fairness, I'm sure some 19-year-old girl with an appendectomy scar wasn't kidding when she did that earlier this week.
I get my shirt off after a laugh and I experienced what women have to go through every day. I was looked at like an object, or a “piece of meat” if I were an indignant feminist. It was strange, to say the least.
“Some stretch marks there, okay,” he said.
Oh, you mean those things on my biceps and chest that girlfriends and mom have told me they can barely notice for the last four years? Cool. Insecurity confirmed.
After a few more up-and-downs with his eyes he allowed me to put my shirt back on.
“So, not bad,” he said “Not a six pack, but not bad.”
The only time I had ever heard his tone before was when I got feedback from professors on my papers in college. My body had never been such a direct subject to critique. Which is not that his criticism was harsh or inaccurate. It's just that it existed that I found so odd. I took my shirt off and some stranger gave it a meh/10.
I found out that they required $400 to “build my portfolio.” They got me all the way here just so I could be reminded of the dice-rolling I mentioned earlier.
I told him I'd think about it and he let me be on my way. But, there was just one more off-putting moment this guy had in store for me. As he walked me out he said lots of nice things about how I “have a great look” and that I “just need to tone up the body a little bit” and we could work together. It was his last line that stuck with me.
“You've got... *sigh*... personality.”
He said it like it was disappointing, like it was a deficiency. I, of course, took it as a compliment, but that sigh made it all a bit back-handed. I walked out, taking one more glance at their framed clients on display, avoiding eye contact so as not to be visually accosted. I'd had enough of that for the day.
I got back in the car and was welcomed by my girlfriend reading several online reviews of the place, claiming this agency were crooks who took “portfolio building” money and did nothing with it. I returned home with a few hours of my life wasted, but with the satisfaction of knowing I was able to add “model” to my “Things I'm Not” list.
I'm happy to say that this list has been growing recently, as has the opposite list. I assume moving across the country with nothing resembling a plan has that effect. Forced, but welcome growth.
All my friends and I are still trying to find ourselves, a hopefully endless process. Self-discovery tends to be high in demand, but infrequent in its supply. So, I try to relish in the moments when I feel I actually understand myself. And while being told I have “personality” by someone who seems to have given up on their own is far from a cathartic moment, it may lead to one.
For now, I'm back to Craigslist in hopes of finding my dream job. Or, at the least, in hopes of finding a source of income.
One thing is certain, I need to get back on stage and tell some jokes. It's been about a year since I used that “...*sigh* … personality” for anything worthwhile. I hear Denver comedy is as loving as its population, so I think I'm going to stop using this “hiatus” nonsense as an excuse, and go attempt to make people laugh.
If I remember correctly, it was comedy that made me write my first entry into my “Things I Am” list. I see no reason why it couldn't keep adding to it.