There’s a party in the Hollywood Hills for a client of mine I haven’t worked for in nearly five years. I debate going, wondering who will be there, what small talk will be had, whether it will just be too much to take. My modeling experience in Los Angeles, in hindsight, is one that I cherish. For the clients I worked for, the friends I made, the bookers I had – for each and every one I am enormously grateful. But I’ve been gone for three and a half years, and too much stuff happens in three and a half years to discuss over paper napkins and appetizers at a cocktail party. And the main crux of that change is this: I don’t feel like a model anymore.
An old, good friend of mine is going, so I go. I don’t change into the Alexander Wang dress I had originally planned on wearing; I keep on the shorts and shirt I’ve been in all day, adding my mother’s lumpy wool sweater because it’s getting cold and, aging thing that I am, I’m becoming more practical. Though when I see the almost comical mass of bare-shouldered thin girls in tight dresses and high heels parading up the concrete driveway, I wonder my lack of fancy apparel will be seen as arrogant. Then again, I’ve spent the last decade dressing up for these people; they know what I look like in a $5,000 gown and my hair actually brushed. Why beat a pretty horse.
“Is it weird when you stop feeling like a model?” I ask Darla, currently navigating the steps in front of me down towards the party.
Darla and I are both in the vicinity of thirty years old. She’s just had a baby and I’m doing more writing than runway walking these days. There’s something about coming here tonight that makes me feel fraudulent. I don’t feel like this girl anymore. I don’t feel like the girl who goes to model parties, invited by model bookers.
I can only compare this feeling to visiting my high school after having graduated. A year had passed. I was back from my first year at NYU and I needed transcripts for summer school. The admin building was as cool and cavernous as it had always been, the carpet still blue, the pear-shaped women still pear-shaped. “Jenny Bahn!” The welcome was always warm. They wanted to know what New York was like, how life was. I engaged in a distant way, as though I had been on an island for some time and forgotten how to interact with civilization, was confused by luxuries like air conditioning and toilet paper. I lived here? For four years? Really?
When I look around at the girls I worked with since I was 19 years old, everyone dressed to impress, I feel a cavernous divide between their side and my side. I know the land. I know the distance.
I was once over there, and now I am here.