apodyopsis: The act of mentally undressing someone. I can't be entirely embarrassed by acts of apodyopsis; the delightful things I imagine beneath a person's clothing sometimes provide sufficient inspiration to catalyze conversation.

source: The Grandiloquent Dictionary: http://www.islandnet.com/~egbird/dict/a.htm

and don't even pretend that you're above doing it.

I.
There are an infinite number of characteristics that can make anxiety disorders very frustrating. These are my personal favorites:

  • a. The intensity of an anxious response often has very little to do with a given situation's potential to inflict harm. For me, being in a room full of friendly, attractive, and well-meaning people is approximately equivalent to coming within inches of being hit by a bus. I know that it is completely irrational for me to have this sort of response to such benign circumstances, and that is precisely the problem. It is irrational, and thus cannot be dispelled by logic.
  • b. The same panic response is generally drastically out of proportion to the stimuli that caused it. Not knowing what I want when the waitstaff arrive to take my order really doesn't warrant activation of the sympathetic nervous system, with all of the associated increases in heart rate, changes in breathing patterns, and shifts in the relative concentrations of neurotransmitters.
  • c. Worst of all, if you manage to figure out what triggers your anxiety, anxiety attacks become utterly predictable. This allows for anxiety bootstrapping--if you know that some action you take often puts you in a situation that triggers anxiety, you will sometimes become nervous while taking that action, though it formerly had no anxiogenic value. One fairly common example of this is people with intense social anxiety disorder eventually developing agoraphobia.

It may have been misguided of me to I agree to be a teaching assistant, since that involved promising to spend an hour every Friday convincing thirty people that they really were interested in informal logic. Still, I was (and am) convinced that I love teaching, so I tried to ignore the bit of cortex that was shouting about how what I was doing was tantamount to coating myself with blood before climbing into the tank filled with hungry piranhas. It probably would have been okay had it not been for that obnoxious nit-picking jerk of a fifth year philosophy undergraduate who was thoroughly convinced that his intelligence was well beyond the two standard deviations above the mean that would set him apart as a genius. For a while, every time he got that little gleam in his eye just prior to opening his mouth (no turn-waiting nor hand-raising for this one), I'd break out in a cold sweat. He would toy with me, drop a few big philosophy names, and be on his way. It was bad.

But then I figured out his weakness. Despite the personal relationship with Nietzsche and Sartre, despite the well-ironed slacks and the oatmeal-colored sweaters, he was flesh and blood, just like the rest of us. He and I had something in common! He was just as insecure and nervous as I was! Truth be told, it was a beautiful moment. So I did what anyone in my situation would have done. I imagined myself alone in a classroom, brought in a representation of student-in-question, and mentally stripped that sadistic fucker as naked as the day he was born, insulted his intellect and his physique, made a few noteworthy suggestions regarding the relocation of his philosophy texts, and sent him on his way. Poor bastard never even knew what hit 'im.

II.
I can think of few situations more surreal than being the only naked person in a room in which you are not alone (as opposed to nudity in the presence of other naked people. That's not weird unless the circumstances are deemed socially inappropriate for nudity, and even in that case, the nudity of your cohorts serves as a prophylactic; You aren't really naked, the group that you represent is). Being paid for it only increases the weirdness. Thank goodness that my nude modeling job was paying my tuition and rent; had I been taking my clothes off for spending money, I likely wouldn't have been able to sit still, what with the giggling I'd end up doing.

There was also the vulnerability issue--here I was, letting strangers see my fatty bits and pimples, the areas that were disproportionate with the rest of me, providing a gauge of my stamina as measured by the amount of time that elapsed between breaks, without any opportunity to defend myself (and what would I have said, anyway? "Yes, I know I have wide shoulders for a woman, but they allow me to do a lot of push-ups!"). They even place models on pedestals, so it was immediately obvious that the naked person is intended to be the center of attention. The monodirectional nature of the vulnerability becomes immediately obvious when, during breaks, the students are very precious with the art-in-progress, covering paintings and drawings lest someone evaluate their quality before they are deemed complete. Internally, I shout and gesticulate at the lot of them from my pedestal-turned-soapbox , "SURE, SURE, YOU ROLL YOUR EYES AT ME WHEN I OPT TO POSE WITH MY LEGS TOGETHER, BUT LOOKING AT YOUR ARTWORK WOULD BE AN INVASION OF PRIVACY?"

To be fair, my nudity was by choice, and you could argue that the students only expected their work to be evaluated by the professor. But, still, it was surreal, I was vulnerable, and I had nothing but intellectual means of protecting myself.

One day, after a particularly trying session, punctuated by physically demanding poses and long looks that bordered on lascivious, I went back to my dorm room, retrieved my sketchbook, and doodled a roomful of naked art students with charcoal stained fingers and hunched shoulders, bottoms creased and flattened by the awkward, wooden, university-provided chairs, staring up at the comfortably dressed model resting resplendent on the model's stand. It's a cheap laugh, but it made me happy.

III.
Despite how rare it is for me to get a full night of quality sleep, there is still a qualitative change in my thought processes that, ostensibly, marks the time when I likely ought to be resting. The best way to articulate the change is like this: After 10PM, everything is funny (This is particularly true if it is a week night, and even more punctuated if I've been driving all day). In the right company, funny becomes synonymous with flirtatious. I have been lucky enough to spend late nights at cheap restaurants in the company of an attractive person.

The best moments happen on the slow nights, when both midnight and any chance that I'll manage a reasonable amount of rest before work the following morning are long gone, and whatever food was ordered has been so thoroughly demolished that even fidgeting with it would be pointless. I can't keep my feet from straying over to the other side of the table, nudging my companion in ecstatic fits of footsie. Meaningful glances are exchanged, and if it wasn't so late I might worry about disturbing the other diners with our giggling. I keep chewing on my fingertips to get the feel of something fleshy in my mouth (hopefully the waitstaff mistake this for hangnail grooming behavior), and I let my eyes trace the path that I wish my mouth were taking, resting for a moment to gaze at earlobes, lips, elbows, and wrist bones. In my mind I am savoring the slow reveal, unfastening your buttons to reveal sensitive and responsive flesh just waiting to be pressed against my own.

But the real magic comes from maintaining a meaningful conversation:

"Apodyopsis, eh? And what did you say that meant, again?" you ask, glancing pointedly from my eyes to my hand fiddling with the collar of my shirt alongside the place on my neck that I wish you were kissing.
"Judging from the look in your eyes, I suspect you already know the answer." I make a concerted effort to raise one eyebrow independent of the other, and, as always, fail miserably.
"All right, all right, you caught me."
"But you know what distinguishes this from the other circumstances in which imaginary garment removal might occur?"
You emit a sensual, "hmmm?" while caressing my foot with your own.
"Reciprocation."

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