As we were growing up in the backlots of circuses and traveling shows throughout this great land, the only folks we saw with tattoos were people with stories. Their art – usually crudely executed with India ink and a sewing needle hopefully sanitized with a few seconds a top a Zippo lighter – evidenced a special event or devotion to a cause or person.
Consequently, we associated tattoos with folks that had been in a non-mainstream environment; maybe the military (“when I crossed the equator for the first time”), prison (“when I crossed the warden for the first time”) or all-consuming love (“when our paths crossed for the first time”). We also are old enough to remember seeing the tattoos on survivors of the Holocaust.
Tattoos, for folks of our late age, represented a branding imposed either on or by someone in a life-altering event. We rarely saw tattoos for tattoos sake.
Then the world changed. Tattoos are fashionable and hip and expensive. The technology and sanitization have moved far from India Ink and mom’s sharpest needle to computer-aided design and well-trained crafts persons with shops and Twitter followers and huge revenue streams.
We want to be accepting and embracing of the art embodied in the body of the human canvas and we’re getting better. We can actually eat a meal served by someone with visible tattoos now. True, we usually look away as we chew but we do that anyway because of our tendency to drool and collect scraps of food in our facial hair – we don’t have a mustache, goatee or beard but have very bushy eyebrows.
We have a hard time with magicians – our own people – with visible tattoos. And if we are being honest – and why start now? – we probably would have a hard time with people performing magic if we knew they had a tattoo somewhere on their person. We are not sure how we would feel about conjoined twins with the performing sibling having no tattoos but the silent twin having visible tattooing. So far that is a hypothetical thought exercise we like to ponder when we have had too much caffeine or there is a commercial we have seen before or there are no shiny objects moving in our field of vision. Plus, why is “conjoined twins” not hyphenated?
We know perfectly good people with outstanding magic skills who have had their hands inked as if they had a boxing match with a freshly printed newspaper. Okay, that analogy did not work but we spent about five minutes trying to think of something clever to make that point and the alternatives were: “as if their hands were made of silly putty and they had just finished reading a comic book,” “as if their hands were made of paper mache from the funny pages,” or “as if they had been sautéed in a light oil and Easter-egg dyes.” Analogies are hard. They are harder than something that is usually considered hard by most people.
We have seen magicians perform fantastic feats of magic despite their tattooed state. They feel no need to explain away the obvious – perhaps because it is not an issue for them or their audience. That’s when we start to wonder if we are alone in our apparently irrational reaction to something no one else sees?
We wrote a while ago about getting a manicure in keeping with the old adage we just made up, “Dirty Nails, Trick Fails.” We had good response from fellow magicians online and in person. Even magicians with hand tattoos agreed that a performer’s hands should be clean and neat. So maybe it is just us.
We have tried to get over our clear prejudice by seeking out people with tattoos and staring at them intensely; sometimes we will pull food from our pocket and eat whilst staring to test our progress. We are fortunate to live in West Hollywood where one can find many a tattooed person willing to accept our staring and eating without objection or concern.
We will break down this prejudice somehow. Just like we overcame our disgust at people who unknowingly use “myself” instead of “me” in sentences or begin each sentence with the word “so.” We have come to accept folks who smoke e-cigarettes. In fact the other night we saw a gentleman smoking what looked like an e-cigar. It was much larger than a cigarette. When we got closer, though, we saw he was just sucking on a flashlight. But we were accepting and embraced his healthy alternative to smoking tobacco.