nude sitting request
October 6, 2007 2:10 PM   Subscribe

A co-worker has an odd request...

I work in a kind of artsy environment. I got into a conversation with a male co-worker the other day (I'm female) about painting. Now that I wish I could recall how it began, I can't remember how we started talking about nudes. Anyway, he said his wife is a painter and she also occasionally paints nudes. He added that he's been trying to get her to paint a nude of him for years, but she hasn't done it yet.

This guy--I'll call him Giles--asked me if I paint nudes. I said I occasionally did, which is true, but then I realized the conversation was getting sort of strange and I immediately wished I hadn't elaborated. He asked me if I'd ever painted a male nude, and I said I hadn't done anything like that since life class in college. Giles then asked me if I would consider painting him nude. I sort of went straight into efficiency mode and said, sure, I could do that but since both of us are very busy, it might make more sense to snap a photo that I could use, rather than spend hours in a sitting. I didn't have any intention of either painting Giles nude or snapping his picture with the same intent--but I wasn't thinking, and I turn into a motormouth when I'm nervous or on the spot. I just hoped the whole thing would be forgotten.

The next day, I saw Giles again and he immediately brought up the damn painting. Our boss was right there, so Giles didn't mention the nude thing, but he did blurt out: Say, Frosty, I'm serious, I want you to paint me. My boss turns to me and says, Oh, you're a painter? And it's just getting weirder by the minute. I said, Look. Giles, shouldn't we clear this with your wife first? I was sort of laughing, trying to express to our boss and any bystanders, and indirectly to Giles, that I was treating the whole thing as a joke. Giles said, sure, everything has to be cleared with her anyway.

I'm sure as shit that my own husband would not be cool with me painting a male co-worker nude, and I'm actually not that good an artist anyway, and the whole thing would be freaky and uncomfortable. I do get a vibe from Giles that he's attracted to me, though he's not at all flirtatious in the slap-and-tickle way--he's very serious, even pompous, and a bit of an egomaniac. I happen to like Giles (although my husband thinks he's a pretentious dick), and I don't want to cause any friction with him because I do work with him, and he's been one of the nicer people at my job, and I need that kind of social support. I don't want to lose a good work relationship, but I'm going to have to wiggle out of the painting thing.

How can I do this gracefully? I'd be less weirded out if he wanted to paint ME nude. Thoughts?
posted by frosty_hut to Human Relations (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could you just blame it on your husband and tell Giles that he didn't like the idea? Seems like it would work...your husband doesn't like the guy anyway, he wouldn't be okay with it, and it direct Giles' anger at someone that dislikes him anyway.
posted by DMan at 2:13 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Why don't you tell him that you mentioned it to your husband and he felt uncomfortable about it but that if he really wanted a nude of himself maybe he could pose for a college art class himself.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 2:14 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you'tre willing to lose face, tell him in a "hey Shucks" fashion that you're really not as good at life drawing and you didn't want to mention it before, but now that he's insisting...blah, blah
Or that you said it to your husband and he just freaked on your ass, it would cause too much tension at home...yada, yada
posted by Wilder at 2:14 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

On preview...Kertching, great minds and all that...
posted by Wilder at 2:15 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just tell your husband he's the fall guy FIRST, in case your coworker approaches him to try to convince him it's okay.
posted by Malor at 2:23 PM on October 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

Surely you know somebody else who does nudes. Fob him off on them. You can be too busy, you know.
posted by dhartung at 2:23 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just be honest. Stop trying to find a lie to hide the fact that Giles is being a creepy motherfucker.

"Sorry, Giles - I don't really want to paint you nude. Go try an art class."

If he persists, he's sexually harassing you, and you can tell him to busy himself while you report him to management.
posted by ellF at 2:52 PM on October 6, 2007 [6 favorites]

He's pissy that his wife won't paint him. He probably had the, "what, I'm not an interesting subject?!" argument with her and is looking to find someone who finds him worthy of paint.

Tell him that commissioned portraits are not what you're working on and not really your area anyway, and direct him to the closest art school.
posted by desuetude at 2:56 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

There is always the "we are co-workers, and this crosses comfortable co-worker boundaries" type of talk. (I wonder why his wife is so reluctant to do this?)
posted by edgeways at 2:56 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: If he persists, he's sexually harassing you, and you can tell him to busy himself while you report him to management.

Yeah, I guess that's been the undercurrent of my uneasiness around this: Is it harassment or not? It definitely isn't yet, simply because it hasn't gone on long enough. But there's a pattern--there's just a vaguely sexual undercurrent to all kinds of things he comes up with around me. At the same time, I think he's a nice guy and I tend to believe, without knowing him well, that he wouldn't want to make me uncomfortable.

Anyway, thanks for your commments, I appreciate it.
posted by frosty_hut at 2:58 PM on October 6, 2007

I vote for the truth. "I spoke to soon the other day. I've had a chance to think about it and I don't feel comfortable with the idea."

If he asks why, don't elaborate; just stay with "not comfortable." Any specific reason will just give him something to disagree with.
posted by wryly at 2:58 PM on October 6, 2007

"hey giles, i'm flattered that you want me to paint you, but the more i consider it, the less comfortable i am with the idea. i hope you understand."
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:00 PM on October 6, 2007 [4 favorites]

I like what ellF, wryly, and thinkingwoman are saying --- just be honest with him that it makes you uncomfortable.

I'm thinking that there's a lot MORE to this than him just wanting a nude portrait of himself. I really think this guy is a kinky bastard who likes the idea of you gazing at his schlong for hours while you painstakingly try to render just the right curvature of his dick shaft and try to get the dappling of his hairy ballsack just right. He's getting off on the idea of you seeing him nude and he loves the idea of you doing a lot of thinking about his nude image. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he tries to parlay this nude painting project into something more. Or maybe you painting him nude will provide new fuel for his sexual fantasies. Whatever the case, there's no question that this guy is a real-life Merv the Perv, and you need to be honest that he's creeping you the hell out.
posted by jayder at 3:11 PM on October 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

When I was in high school, one of the jocks asked me to paint his portrait. He wanted me to make him look like an angel and accentuate his muscles and whatnot. I thought he was kidding until he gave me a picture of himself to use.

So I painted him as Aphrodite with a soccer ball over his man parts. A teacher saw it, laughed her ass off, and then made me unveil it for him in front of the whole class. I felt bad about it, but he never asked me to paint him again.

Not that you should do that. You should tell him you've thought about it and don't feel comfortable with it.
posted by katillathehun at 3:12 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, better to say straight-up that, after thinking it over, it makes you uncomfortable and you don't think it's a good idea between co-workers. Leave husband out of it; you don't want to get into a "maybe we can do it behind your husband's back" scenario.

Also: Ugh.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:20 PM on October 6, 2007

Tell him you don't want to do it and to stop discussing it because it makes you uncomfortable. Dont try to weasel out of it or make excuses about your husband or his wife, a firm no is all he should need. If he presses the issue further it is clear cut sexual harassment and I wouldn't deal with him but go straight to your boss. Giles will get the message pretty quick. I know if I kept asking female co-workers to look at my junk I wouldn't be far from a lawsuit.
posted by outsider at 3:30 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Yeah, I guess that's been the undercurrent of my uneasiness around this: Is it harassment or not? It definitely isn't yet, simply because it hasn't gone on long enough. But there's a pattern--there's just a vaguely sexual undercurrent to all kinds of things he comes up with around me. At the same time, I think he's a nice guy and I tend to believe, without knowing him well, that he wouldn't want to make me uncomfortable."

Frosty, sexual harassment dosent have to go on for any length of time. It dosen't matter at all what he thinks or what his intentions are, if it is making you uncomfortable, you tell him to stop, and he dosen't it is clearly sexual harassment. You don't need to explain yourself to him or try to let him down gently. Tell him to cut it out and if he dosent go to your supervisor / boss. Most employers will react VERY quickly if you bring up any kind of sexual harassment issue and make sure Giles gets the message.
posted by outsider at 3:36 PM on October 6, 2007

thinkingwoman: "hey giles, i'm flattered that you want me to paint you, but the more i consider it, the less comfortable i am with the idea. i hope you understand."


Don't blame it on your husband. People can tell when you're blowing smoke up their asses -- at least I can. The times in my life when people have done lame stuff like that ("I can't hang out, my girlfriend doesn't want me to.") it's made me lose respect for them. Not just because if it's a lie, they are too cowardly to be up front with me; but because if it's the truth, that's a pretty sad way to conduct your life.
posted by loiseau at 4:05 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm with the tell him you're not comfortable crowd, but not getting into any specifics, which are really none of his business and will only prolong the scenario as he tries to reason with you.

Unfortunately, you're in a tough spot trying to balance that with wanting to preserve a good working relationship and you may find out it's not possible to preserve the relationship in the state that it currently is.
posted by 6550 at 4:06 PM on October 6, 2007

Nthing the "blame it on your husband" theme in here.

Husbands are used to everything being their fault anyway, so he'll believe this immediately. ;)
posted by rokusan at 4:31 PM on October 6, 2007

Nthing don't-blame-it-on-your-husband, just say no. Honestly, unless he's borderline autistic, Giles has to concede that people can be made uncomfortable by this, and that it's a valid response. He may be swingy-cool with it, but he's got to know it's not everybody's scene, yours included.

Your concern is losing this guy's friendship and support... just assuming for the moment that he's not a kinky bastard, honesty is the best policy. That you would find it freaky and uncomfortable is sufficient excuse. That you don't think you're particularly good, and that your husband probably wouldn't be down for it are just additional reasons. I pretty much assume that "I don't want to see you naked, thanks" is the default attitude of married and unmarried co-workers alike. It would be really good to establish that fact with Giles sooner rather than later.
posted by mumkin at 4:52 PM on October 6, 2007

Don't say "I'm not very good". He will just say "oh come now, I'm sure you're being modest; now we definitely have to try this so that we can see how good you really are". Ugh.

b1tr0t, I think it's pretty clear from the post that she is not interested in painting him nude. Not sure where you're getting the "secret desire to see him nude" theme.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:01 PM on October 6, 2007

Oh my goodness, b1tr0t, that's quite a leap. She said right up there that she turns into a motormouth when she's nervous, and this obviously was an awkward situation.

Don't denigrate your own skills, frosty_hut. Just tell him you don't want to do it. If he gets pushy about it, well, it's not a friendship (even of the office kind) worth keeping.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:42 PM on October 6, 2007

stop being passive aggressive, and coy, just say how you feel and move on
posted by Salvatorparadise at 6:48 PM on October 6, 2007

I think blaming it on your husband is weak, for a number of reasons. It makes it sound like he's in charge of all your decisions, it gives your co-worker reason to be jealous and more eager to get into your personal life, and most of all, it's not the truth. You're not not doing it because your husband doesn't want you to, you're not doing it because YOU don't want to. It's not a sex thing, it's a "people who work together in an office shouldn't see each other naked" thing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:00 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I honestly don't think it is that weird of a request, especially if you are in an arts field. Your initial reaction may have made it seem like you are more comfortable with this issue than you really are and resulted in you misrepresenting yourself. I have photographer friends who are totally comfortable with doing artsy nude photos of other friends. I think it's kind of lame to blame your husband, as it gives the impression you are the little woman who is controlled by the jealous man.

Just put Giles off indefinitely with a white lie. Tell him you have an overwhelming amount of creative projects going on right now, that there is no way you'd realistically be able to do a commissioned painting anytime in the next few years. Then recommend another artist you know. If he keeps pushing the issue, tell him he's being creepy and to knock it off.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:08 PM on October 6, 2007

I've reconsidered Giles and I'm not going to be able to do it.
posted by wv kay in ga at 7:16 PM on October 6, 2007

n-thing the idea of recommending someone else to do it. This way if he is really serious, then he won't hesitate to find them.

if he balks, the next step would be to give him a business card of someone, or even better tell him, "hey, why don't I just give your phone number to my painter friend and they will call you up for an appointment" - you know, metaphorically make him the prey instead of the predator.

or, how about putting a cast on your hand. or say you have carpal tunnel syndrome, or something?

Although I can understand those who say that you need to be straightforward and truthful, I feel that you don't want to risk the relationship or possibly the atmosphere (i.e. you don't want any friction between you two to make working there uncomfortable).

Good luck!
posted by bitteroldman at 7:54 PM on October 6, 2007

Agree with b1tr0t: if all you've told him is what you've said above (minus all the inner-honesty we MeFi's get to read), you're giving very mixed signals. And the suggestion that this, at least given the current state of things, is in any way sexual harassment is absolutely ludicrous. You've stated that you're an artist and that you have done nudes. He asked if you would paint him. Now, whatever kinky intentions that may or may not be going on in "Giles'" head, the way the facts have been stated he hasn't committed any offense. That's not to say you couldn't get him in a heap of trouble, what with slanderous accusations being the only proof necessary for overcompensating CYA ninnies in the corporate world these days, but you know perfectly well that he hasn't crossed any lines... yet.

If you don't want to do it, just tell him that. "Nothing personal, I just don't feel comfortable doing it." No subtext, no mixed messages, no hidden meanings.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:24 PM on October 6, 2007

Just be honest. You don't think it would be a good idea.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:36 PM on October 6, 2007

I agree with those who've said just tell him that you're not comfortable doing it, because it's the truth, and because other answers will make him think that you really do want to do it, but just can't because of your husband, because of your schedule, because of whatever... and that's really not what you want to leave him thinking. Any answer like that could lead to other overtures, which is exactly what you don't want.

As far as any further discussion about it goes, I would stick with truth all the way down the line... tell him you tend to answer without thinking, or you felt a little nervous and just started blah-blah-ing. There's nothing unfriendly about that, and he would be a boor and an oaf if he felt insulted or angry.
posted by taz at 10:52 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I almost forgot, tell him you don't think it would be a good idea and that you are certain he's the type of person who will understand.

He doesn't want to be labelled as the type of person who doesn't understand.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:56 PM on October 6, 2007

Do a sketch of a half chopped zuchinni on a cutting board, in the style of your choosing. Bring it with you to work, and say " Y'know, I've been considering what we talked about the other day, and I don't really think you'd fit with the direction I'm moving in. I've beeen in sort of an agreesive abstract/surrealist feminist phase lately. Like, Kandinsky meets Bellmer, except with dudes." Then show him the sketch.

Or tell him you really don't have the time.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:42 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

sorry, giles, but after the nude i did for our boss, he just hasn't been acting the same around me. i *told* him i wasn't good at male anatomy!
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 4:06 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Put Giles forward as a life model at a local art school / class. That way he can have a dozen pictures of himself nude and you don't have to see his dinkle.
posted by brautigan at 6:09 AM on October 7, 2007

Tell him it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the office, and if he can convince everyone to sit for a nude group portrait together, you'll do it.
posted by Caviar at 6:24 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I knocked off a quick answer to this one, blame the husband, and realise how lame that is thatnks to my Mefite colleagues.
So apologies for being too quick.
I think I was reading too much into how much you want to maintain office harmony.
Having said that if Giles really is pervy he will be tittilated by the fact that you are uncomfortable so this could just extend the problem.
We often use little white lies in social scenarios but the ones I mentioned at the very beginning are a total cop-out and allow this kind of behaviour to continue. Great advice above, only you can tell what feels best and might work out best in this office.
posted by Wilder at 6:50 AM on October 7, 2007

hey giles, i'm flattered that you want me to paint you

But she's *not* flattered he wants her to paint him. It's freaking her out a little. "Flattered" is a lie, and the wrong kind of message to send.

Nthing a strong "I'm not comfortable with this idea or this conversation." If he persists, "I said I'm not comfortable with this conversation. Please drop the subject and let's move on to something else."

Repeat as needed. If it's needed more than once or twice, you're definitely in new territory. As in, awful close to sexual harassment territory.
posted by mediareport at 8:29 AM on October 7, 2007


I think your worry over ruining your work friendship with the guy is probably unfounded.

A reasonable man, being told by a female co-worker with whom he is not intimate, that she doesn't want to see his frank 'n' beans, much less paint them, would immediately back off, no harm done.

You value his friendship --- you've even said he's one of the nicer people at work --- so surely he is reasonable and will back off.

Perhaps my initial assessment of him as a kinky bastard is wrong. Maybe he is a lovable, artsy eccentric who just doesn't have the same boundaries that the rest of us do. But from what you have said, I fully expect him to back off if you tell him the whole concept makes you uncomfortable.
posted by jayder at 7:20 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for these thoughtful responses. And thanks for the amusing ones...I needed a chuckle!

I agree with those urging me to be honest...using hubby as an excuse won't work.

Thanks again.
posted by frosty_hut at 10:21 AM on October 8, 2007

Response by poster: Are you nervous because you want to paint him but know you shouldn't, or because you really don't like the idea at all and he is pushing you?

In other words - if you weren't married, would you be painting him right now, rather than posting about it?

Good question. I would probably paint Giles if I didn't have to worry about what anyone else thought. I like to sketch and paint both male and female models, and I did it for years when I was studying art. The human form is challenging. You can't get too much practice!

But my husband would be uncomfortable with it, one, and if it were to come out at work that I painted Giles nude, my boss and others might think it was strange. At work, I only want to attract attention for a job well done, etc.

I admit, I'm flattered that Giles, who's sort of a hot shot at work and has more status than I have, would ask me to paint him (nude or not). And sure, there's a flirtatious element here as well. Your point that my own interest in painting the guy is what bothers me more than anything may not be far off the mark. It's superficial, though--the idea tickles my vanity, but I'm not at all interested in the guy. I'm blissfully married but even if I were single, he's a little narcisisstic for my taste! That's almost more disturbing to me that any other potentially creepy aspects of this thing.

Thanks for some great input!
posted by frosty_hut at 10:33 AM on October 8, 2007

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