Once I Was. Graphite on Paper.
I was in my early 30s. I had no job. I had no money. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was staying with friends in West Hollywood and had just moved back to LA after some time away and I was kind of floating along, uncertain about the future, but hopeful... I was walking down some Los Angeles boulevard with a wife-beater on in my jeans with the frayed bottoms and flip flops on walking back from the 7-11 with a cherry slurpee in my hand and some beautiful tattooed muscular guy in a pickup truck wolf whistles me. At first I thought it was for someone else, and I looked around, but I was the only one nearby. I looked up and he had slowed down and was checking me out with a hungry grin. I laughed. He blew me a kiss and drove off.
I worked out all the time. I had nothing better to do. And everyone said it was good for my mind. Which it was. In my 20s I was very skinny. In my 30s I started gaining weight and it did not hang well on me because I was very in my head and not getting out doors. My youth was spent outside. I rock climbed. I hiked. I rode my bike everywhere. I was an Oregon teenager after being a rural Wisconsin kid. But I went to school in Claremont, California (basically Los Angeles) and after I graduated, I spent most of the rest of my life either in New York City or Los Angeles. And when I got into fashion design, I became obsessed. Which meant I spent all my time at my desk or just standing around. Focused on whatever new thing I was creating. And drinking tons of coffee and eating a lot of candy and pasta.
I wasn’t exactly fat, but just pretty out of shape. Sort of not in my body.
At a certain point, I stopped working and found myself in a state of depression. I left Los Angeles and spent a year in Wisconsin. In order to combat the depression, I did things like yoga, meditation and lots of walks. They helped a lot, but nothing helped like weightlifting. I lived in Wisconsin for a while and me and my friend Mary Fleming would get together and go to this “gym” in this tiny town I grew up in. I didn’t really know how to work out, but she guided me. I went from kind of flabby to in really good shape in the span of a year and when I was at my peak, I moved back to LA to get back into life. It was in this shape that I was in when I met the guy in the pickup truck.
I didn’t know that that time was it. That over time, I would work out periodically and kind of retain the basic shape I had created, but that I would never be that fit and strong like that again. I am not seriously out of shape now. For a middle aged guy, am in basically good shape. Alfie, my dog, gets me out every day. Sometimes I pick up the dumbbells and do the push-ups… I was “going to the gym” until late last year when I realized I was paying a lot of money to feel guilty all the time. I think that even if I DID go to the gym all the time at 49, I would not be even a version of that guy I was- and I am surprisingly ok with that.
I am in the heart of my mid-life crisis. Every day, I see one more way I am mortal. I wake up and my perception has shifted, my ideas and plans have changed based on these perceptions, time passes so quickly… I am nostalgic for things I used to hate. I marvel over what life was in the 70s and the 80s. I have also become much more forgiving, and now I accept responsibility for so much I could never have in my youth. I don’t care who was awful about what so much anymore, and I don’t care as much what anyone thinks about me. With the sense of loss of control over my body comes a sense of letting go. If I really am going to die, if I am going to get older, there’s only so much I can do. Only so much I can worry about.
This drawing is not me. It’s inspired by an old photo of Sam Elliott. I had such a crush on him growing up. He’s still incredibly sexy at whatever age he is now. He’s the ultimate Leo. He just IS charisma and hunkiness. People who know me well know how much I love him. My friend Forrest got me signed photo of him from his Lifeguard days and I kept it in my knitting bag that I used to carry around with me when I knit all the time like I draw now…. I was never quite like him, but I had my day.
Once I Was. Graphite on Paper.