More Than ‘Just Say Cheese’

By Beacon Staff

Each year through grade school and high school, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue would arrive in my mailbox – a shameless filler-issue (not to mention ad-sales vehicle) during a month when sporting events are notoriously slow. I had more fun keeping the magazine away from my younger brother than actually reading it myself. One year, though, columnist Rick Reilly wrote about how hard the models had it – posing patiently for hours while artists painted their bodies, enduring awkward positions and sand in uncomfortable places. More tomboy than supermodel, I remember gleefully mocking his sentiment. “Wah, wah, wah,” I thought. “I get paid to stand and look pretty, poor me.”

Well, though it took several years, karma finally found me.

Last week, I agreed to act as a “model” for a friend. A very talented photographer, she wanted to practice some fashion-style shots in a wilderness setting. Like the beginning of most good tragedies, I cavalierly thought, “No problem.”

With half my closet packed into the back of her Camry, we made an evening trek to Glacier National Park to catch the day’s fading light. Our first stop was a total bust. Just 10 feet into the woods, the mosquitoes descended, covering our bags and any exposed flesh. No surprise given the valley’s plague of skeeters this year. We ran squealing back to the car, stammering excuses to an out-of-state couple on a motorcycle. The man, taking in my sleeveless silk blouse and peep-toe heels, shook his head and offered me bug spray. Embarrassed, I just ducked into the car.

Suddenly, the lawn near the Lake McDonald Lodge, a spot I’d declined on the way up because there would be too many spectators, didn’t seem so bad. After changing in an outhouse, I once again tramped into the woods, prairie dogs dropping into their holes to avoid my heels. This time the mosquitoes were bearable and we swatted our way through several photos.

As I switched outfits in the back of my friend’s car, I joked about being arrested for indecent exposure in a national park. Oh, my parents would’ve been so proud. Our next locale was an asphalt walkway along the parking lot. Clad in a short, shift dress and heels, I took a half-kneeling position – part yoga stretch, part football stance – and prayed no one walked up behind me. “Look determined,” my friend said as she brushed back loose hairs and perfected my positioning. I determined I had grossly underestimated the work of a model and painfully recalled my high school comments.

The next day my right foot was swollen and speckled with about 15 red bumps. Mosquito bites, I thought, but then, they spread. Poison ivy. I suppose any real model would say I got what I deserved.