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Authors: Amanda Filipacchi

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BOOK: Nude Men
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There are many different Humpty Dumpties sitting on her shelves. Many of them are real eggs with painted faces and string arms and legs pasted to them.

“I made them,” says Sara.

“They’re very well painted,” I tell her.

She points to one of the eggs. I look at it and I am shocked. She says, “This one is my latest. I finished it this morning. It took me nine hours to make, during three days.”

The face painted on the egg is my face.

“Do you like it?” she asks.

“Is it me?”

“Yes.”

“It’s very realistic. You’re so talented.”

“Thank you. Whenever I meet someone I like, I make an egg out of them.”

“I’m very flattered.”

“That’s not all. There’s a show that goes with it.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. Are you ready?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” She stands tall and straight, facing me, next to the Humpty Dumpty of me, and starts reciting: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall...”

At this point she slides her finger behind the little egg with my face on it, and pushes it off the shelf. It falls and breaks on the wood floor. Thick red shiny goo pours out of it.

Sara continues her recitation: “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put him back together again.”

I stand there stunned, feeling insulted.

“Wasn’t it nice?” she asks.

“It’s too bad you broke my face.”

“But wasn’t it nice, the show with the blood? Wasn’t it

surprising?”

“Very surprising. How did you make the blood?”

“Mercurochrome and olive oil.”

“It’s too bad you broke my face, though. Especially if it took you nine hours to make. It was so well done.”

“Don’t worry,” she says, picking up a closed half-carton of eggs. She opens the carton, and I am confronted with six more Humpty Dumpties of me, each one expressing a different emotion, which I can more or less decipher as Fear, Surprise, Anger, Sadness, Boredom, and, the last one, Guilt, with bright-red cheeks of shame.

I look at the little broken face on the floor, the seventh egg, and I realize that it was Happiness.

“They’re beautiful,” I tell her.

“Don’t think it took me sixty-three hours to make all these eggs of you. It took me nine. You can have one, but I must warn you that the one you pick will reveal more about your personality than would nine hours of conversation.”

I try to decide if I should pick the one I like most or the one that will incriminate me least. The one I like most is Guilt. It is the funniest and most expressive, with its bright-red shamed cheeks, but it also happens to be the most embarrassing one to choose, so I decide to pick the least incriminating, most innocent one.

“I think I’ll take Boredom,” I say, pointing.

“It’s not Boredom; it’s Sleepiness. It’s extremely revealing that you interpreted it as Boredom. But you’re lying. It is not your favorite one, because it is obviously the least well painted. This is very revealing, Jeremy, and doesn’t put you in a very good light. It shows that you are a bit of a coward and dishonest. Admit it. The bored one is not your favorite.”

I find her unpleasantly clever for a child her age.

“You’re right,” I say, hiding my annoyance. “I chose the bored one because I didn’t want you to think I was afraid, surprised, angry, sad, or guilty.”

“You’re revealing more of yourself every minute. Why in the world would you not want me to think you were surprised? That’s not a negative or embarrassing emotion, but obviously it is for you, for some deep, strange, and mysterious reason.”

She caught me. She’s right. I did not want her to think I was surprised by her behavior toward me, by her excessive familiarity, which troubles and confuses me. I must lie. “No, you’re right; surprise is not a negative or embarrassing emotion. I just happened to think of boredom first. I was negligent.”

She looks at me suspiciously through half-closed eyes. “So tell me, which
is
your favorite egg?”

“The happy one that’s on the floor.”

“That’s too easy. Anyway, I can’t give you that one; it’s broken. Which one in this carton do you like the most?”

“That one,” I say, pointing to the guilty one. “I like his red cheeks.”

“You don’t need to justify your choice by saying you like the red cheeks. There’s no reason for you to feel guilty about choosing guilt.”

“I’m not justifying my choice. I really like the red cheeks.”

 

I
visit Lady Henrietta twice a week, every Saturday and Wednesday night, because she says I can stop by whenever I feel like it. She must enjoy my presence. I think our relationship is growing deeper, slowly but surely. I hope her affection for me will become romantic soon, if it isn’t already.

Laura is starting to show up once in a while. She tries to talk to me a bit, saying nice normal things, like: “Jeremy, I loved that movie you chose,
We Are the Taurus
and “Jeremy, I like your jacket,” and “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” To Henrietta and Sara, she says, “Your painting is coming along nicely, Henrietta,” and “Are you learning interesting things in school, Sara?”

I grab the first chance I get to play with Sara, which I like a lot more than talking to Laura. I don’t know why I’m so repelled by her. Well, one reason is that I hate the feeling of getting matched up. I’ve hated it all my life, ever since my mom used to make me play with the yucky little neighbor girl. My mom and her mom would sit together, look at us, and say, “Oh, it’s so cuuuute!”

Often when I visit her, Henrietta is painting one of her models. So far I’ve seen only the beautiful models, no ordinary men like me. While Henrietta paints, her daughter, Sara, also does artwork. She sits at the coffee table and draws men’s clothes, sometimes from imagination or sometimes getting the model’s clothes from the dressing room and laying them out in front of her. She makes quick but very good sketches of the trousers, ties, shirts, and shoes, while nibbling on some of her mother’s marzipan animals.

“I didn’t know you were also an artist,” I tell her.

“I’m not really. I only draw men’s clothes.”

“Why?”

“I think they go well with my mom’s paintings.”

I interpret this as some deep disturbance she has about her mother painting nude men. I express this opinion, in private, to Lady Henrietta, who says, “I doubt it’s a ‘deep disturbance.’ It might be a slight puzzlement. Sara feels her drawings nicely complement my paintings. I think it’s charming.”

So I decide to ask Sara herself what she thinks: “How do you feel about your mother painting nude men?”

“I think it’s great,” she replies. “Nudity is the most profound subject in the world.”

“Are you bothered by it?”

“No; on the contrary. I think I’m lucky to have such an intelligent and relaxed mother.”

I’m not convinced. What Sara does and what she says are two different things. I would think that if she approved of her mother’s paintings, she would try to imitate her by drawing naked things, like her dolls, naked.

Sara is always holding Barbie dolls, so finally one day I ask Lady Henrietta, “Isn’t she a little too old to play with Barbie dolls?”

“Yes, of course,” says Lady Henrietta. “That’s why she does it. She likes to be unconventional, which is something truly admirable in a child, because at that age they are so cruel to each other. She likes to do things that will arouse her classmates’ scorn, and she confronts them with it. She’s so strong.”

“That’s why she dresses in these very childish clothes?” (Which she does.)

“Yes, that’s why. On top of it, she sort of likes Barbie dolls. They stimulate her imagination.”

That’s when I decide to buy Sara a Barbie doll, to please her mother.

 

I
go to F.A.O. Schwarz, thinking they will have the biggest selection. I want to buy the best Barbie doll Lady Henrietta has ever seen. I want to impress her with my choice. I bet she has never bothered to go to F.A.O. Schwarz for a Barbie doll. I bet F.A.O. Schwarz carries Barbie dolls that are more beautiful and realistic than any she has ever seen. I can already imagine the effect that my choice will have on Lady Henrietta. I bet Sara will tell her mom that it’s the best Barbie doll and say something like: “Your new friend, the O.I.M. one, has exquisite taste.”

I am now in the Barbie section. They do have a rather large selection. I start looking carefully at all the boxes, trying to find the most impressive one.

I see
Barbie Flight Time gift set. Pretty pilot changes into glamorous date! Wings for you. And a paper doll too.

They have the same model in three versions: the black-skinned doll, the blond doll, and the brunette, who has a prettier expression than the other two because her mouth is closed.

They have
Barbie Wet’n Wild Surf Set. Dolls not included.

Also
Wet’n Wild Water Park. Dolls not included. The ultimate pool and super slide! “Drinking” Fountain! Spraying Jet Stream!

I try to figure out why they put the word “drinking” in quotation marks. None of the other words are in quotation marks. It must be a typo.

There are about a dozen more boxes, with Barbie cars, houses, workout centers, picnic sets, etc. I am a little disappointed. None of the dolls are realistic or beautiful or interesting. I feel I should give up my idea of buying Sara a Barbie doll. Maybe I should get her a Humpty Dumpty instead.

I am about to leave, when I see that off to one side are some dolls that look like Barbie but are called Jane.

The first Jane box I come upon is
Jane does makeup, but can’t get it right, so picks up telephone to call her friend over.
In the box there is a little telephone and a Jane doll with her mascara and lipstick smeared ungracefully around her eyes and mouth.

I go to the next box.
Jane goes on a diet.
The Jane doll is chubby.

The next one is
Jane walked in dog poop on her way home, and she must get it off her new shoes before her date comes to pick her up in five minutes.
There is a brown glob on the pink shoe of the Jane doll.

The next one is
Jane goes to the movies with boyfriend, and he kisses her. Dolls not included.
In the box there are two movie theater chairs and nothing else.

The next one is
Jane chooses a hobby. She starts painting.
Nude men. That would have been good.

A saleswoman comes up to me and says, “Do you need help?”

“I’m trying to find the best doll for a little girl.”

“You should look at the Barbie dolls right over there. They’re much better than the Jane dolls.”

“I already saw the Barbie dolls. I must have missed the better ones. Where are they?”

“They’re all better.” She then lowers her voice. “I know I’m not supposed to say this, but personally, I think the Jane dolls should be banned. They’re unwholesome.”

I buy
Jane does makeup
and
Jane goes to the movies with boyfriend,
still wondering why they put the word “drinking” in quotation marks.

 

I
give Sara the Jane doll, and she jumps around my neck and kisses me and hugs me, which still makes me feel uncomfortable, so I decide not to give her presents anymore. But whenever I go there, she keeps throwing herself at me anyway. She really likes me.

 

L
ady Henrietta does not ask to paint me again, but she seems to like my visits, even to think they are normal and should continue. I have become one of her friends.

Her daughter adores me. She hugs me when I come in, and kisses my cheek. She forces me to watch movies with her, especially one called
Donkey Skin
, or, in French,
Peau d’Âne.
Both Lady Henrietta and her daughter speak French well. Sara goes to a French school. The movie is in French, with English subtitles. It’s a fairy tale. A humorous fairy tale. Catherine Deneuve plays the princess.

The little girl knows the words to all the songs, and sings along, with a very beautiful voice. In fact, she knows the words to the entire movie and talks at the same time as the actors.

The story is about a king who falls in love with his daughter. He wants to marry her. She loves her father but doesn’t want to marry him. To discourage him, she tells him she will agree if he gives her a dress the color of the weather. To her surprise, he succeeds. She tells him she wants a dress the color of the moon, thinking it’ll be too difficult, but he succeeds. She tells him she wants a dress the color of the sun. He succeeds. She tells him she wants the skin of his magic donkey. He is indignant at this request because he loves his donkey, which defecates gold. But he kills the donkey and gives her the skin, thinking that now she will marry him. She wears the skin as a disguise and runs away. Eventually she meets a prince.

BOOK: Nude Men
2.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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