Wednesday, 12 January 2011
An "extreme" grilling by students
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?