Wednesday, 12 January 2011

An "extreme" grilling by students


Yesterday I was invited to be one of three to be interviewed by students at a sixth form college in Bristol.  This was to help with their course work on a study of the social issues around body modification.  Hazel, who is a poet and former school teacher has a published book of poems on tattoos.  Damien, like me is tattooed.

The students' questions prompted me wistfully to look back to the eight days in 1998 when I got myself a mohican and wandered around the country in less conventional clothes than I normally wear getting reactions to my appearance.  I tried to get a documentary commissioned by the BBC entitled "Judging by Appearances" and nearly succeeded but fell a the last hurdle.  In that week I was photographed by Japanese tourists in Trafalgar Square and by Americans in front of Buckingham Palace.  In the City of London I managed to get myself invited to a merger party of two investment banks and after half an hour was thrown out because of my appearance.  I failed in my efforts to check in to the Hilton Hotel in Bath and was rejected by landladies in Hereford.

I thought about this because I was asked whether I suffered prejudice as a tattooed man.  I said I didn't because I don't have very visible tattoos.  I have none on my hands, neck, head and face or even lower arms.  But I remembered that when I had my mohican everyone noticed me all the time and I could never be invisible.  The day I shaved it off I disappeared from sight.  This is an option I have.  Those with visible tattoos or beautiful women or black people in a white community can never avoid attention whether welcome or not.

The image you see of me here was at a time when I had far fewer tattoos and was 13 years younger.  Nevertheless in many ways it is be more true to who I really am  and what I feell like inside were I to look something like this all the time.  How proud should I be of my desire for invisibility when I want it?

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