I tend to remember when I’ve been asked to take all of my clothes off and pose for a photographer. It hasn’t happened that often. So I vividly recall the day Amanda Leduc and Allegra Young contacted me many months ago. They asked if I’d consider posing naked for a calendar in support of PEN Canada. My first thought was that if they were hoping to raise money, there were probably better ways than publicly releasing a naked photo of me. Still, they persisted. Then I asked who else was going to be in the calendar sharing in this, um, exposure. I was heartened to hear the names of all the stellar writers who had already agreed. Vincent Lam, Dave Bidini, Yann Martel, Angie Abdou, Miranda Hill, Trevor Cole, just to name a few. This might be fun. Then I confirmed that there would be no group shot. I’m not sure I could have handled that. (Hell, I’m not sure I can handle what I’ve already agreed to handle!) So I said yes. How could I refuse? PEN is a great cause, an important cause. Besides, how could I look Angie Abdou or Vincent lam in the eye the next time we met at a festival knowing they agreed to doff their drawers but I hadn’t. My decision was also made easier because the photo shoot wouldn’t be for months. It seemed such a long way off back then. Well, here we are in early March, and the lens cap is about to come off followed quickly by my clothes. Man, the months whizzed by.
Since January, I’ve been on a diet. Despite earning nicknames like ‘Ribs’ and ‘Bones’ in my adolescence, for the last several years, I’ve been carrying around an extra 15 or so pounds. Okay, maybe 20. I’ve wanted to do something about it for years, but just never have. I can now report that the prospect of posing naked for a calendar was just the incentive I needed to start counting calories for the first time in my life. I’m not sure hearing a doctor say “You will have a heart attack in the next six months if you don’t lose 15 pounds” would have put me back on skim milk, but the Bare It For Books calendar certainly has. After seven weeks, I’m down nearly 12 pounds, and my triple chin is now a double. I’m hoping I’ll be a single, chin that is, by the time the photographer arrives. My friend Trevor Cole, Mr. February, lost 40 pounds(!) and posed with a strategically placed shovel, and I don’t mean resting over his shoulder. I’m not sure what I’ll use as my ‘prop of discretion.’ Perhaps a nearly-full-sized model of the space shuttle.
Of all the weird, wacky, and wonderful experiences this writing odyssey has granted in the last five years, and there have been many, none will be quite as weird, wacky, and I hope, wonderful as the great naked calendar caper. I really hope that down in the Annapolis Valley, my beloved mother-in-law does not plan to hang the calendar on her refrigerator.
Well, at least I’m Mr August. Most of Canada will be away on vacation that month and won’t be anywhere near a calendar. Probably wise.