Appearances can be deceptive…

I don’t know exactly where I’ll be going with this one, but I thought I’d do something different blog-wise today, so just bear with my wittering, if you please. I thank you!! =)

Some time ago, a friend of mine, who is studying for a Masters degree in education, conducted an experiment with a group of sixteen year old secondary schoolchildren. First of all, she showed them the  photograph of me with all my tattoos and asked them what sort of impressions they had of me. So out trotted the usual epithets: uneducated, illiterate, drug addict, alcoholic, unemployed, criminal – I had probably done time in prison for something or other. Then she told them that I ran a record label, was an artist and writer and was educated to degree level.

As a contrast, she then showed them another photo, of a nurse holding a baby. Again she asked them about their impressions: caring, nurturing, responsible and a useful member of society. Then she told them who the nurse was: Beverley Allitt, the nurse convicted of killing a number of babies. They were genuinely shocked.

The upshot of the exercise of course was to show that appearances can be deceptive. I recently had cause to reflect on this when I started conversing with someone on the internet. Initially, she treated me with a modicum of humorous disain, which prompted me to ask why she was bothering to even talk to me. She said that she thought I looked funny with all my tattoos, the implication being that she wanted to take the piss out of me. I asked her why she thought it was okay to do that, just because I have tattoos on my head; I then proceeded to tell that I was university educated, was a writer and artist and ran my own business. Her answer was simple: ‘Oh, I thought you looked like a bit of an idiot but you’ve completely wrong-footed me’.

It’s completely human, of course. to initially judge by appearances, as that is all we have to go on when we first talk to/meet people. I still find it extraordinary though that, even today, people still associate tattoos with people of a less intelligent or a criminal cast of mind. Admittedly, I only come across that attitude but rarely, however there have been a couple who have expressed surprise that I’m a writer and book and music reviewer. There’s this assumption that I am barely able to string words together or that I have difficulty writing my own name. An ever rarer few appear to be offended that I have intelligence and still choose to get tattooed.

Okay, so I am a more extreme example of the tattooed male – there aren’t that many with tattooed heads around. People do stare at me whenever I go into town. But I have never quite understood why just having marks on your skin makes you less of a human than those who don’t. Perhaps it’s because we, as a society, have moved on from our so-called ‘primitive’ beginnings, that we are now more civilised. A lot of people deliberately avoid me, again because of preconceived notions, but others wander over and actively engage in conversation about them. Liz, my wife, has venture the opinion that they are, in effect, a form of filter – in other words, that the people who judge me or won’t talk to me are those I wouldn’t want to know anyway. In a sense, I think she’s right.

When asked, my simple answer is that I absolutely love tattoos, and have done since I was a young teenager – may aim is one day to have a complete bodysuit. The point is, it’s simply about taste and not intelligence – most people instinctively understand that but there will always be those who demand that you justify yourself. And I understand that they’re not everyone’s cup of char, and that’s fine by me. Of course, when I started getting tattooed twenty-six years ago, they were still considered nasty little things, but social attitudes have moved on considerably since then and now all manner of people get tattooed. Even dyed-in-the-wool bank managers and corporate types get them, a form of safe rebellion from the strictures and mores of their particular social strata.

Looked at on a superficial level, however, is that they are my USP – a simple way of helping people to remember who I am and effectively facilitating introductions and communications. They’re also fabulous as conversation initiators. So, if you’re at a convention somewhere and you see me, be sure to wander over and say Hi!


One Response to “Appearances can be deceptive…”

  1. Very true – one lesson at school (I am going back a few years!) sticks in my mind where we were shown 6 pictures of different people – white, asian, afro-asian, caribbean etc etc – we were given 6 names to place with them e.g. Smith, Patel, Chang – of course we all put the smith next to the white male, the Chang next to the Chinese person etc. and we were completely wrong.
    On another point though, sometimes I stare at someone who has a load of tattoos and the assumption could be that I am ‘staring at them’ but in fact, I’m just trying to see the detail in the multitude of tattoos they have and appreciate the artwork that goes into them 🙂

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