It is peculiar how a person may be viewed and then judged by others based upon first impressions, gleaned from just a fleeting glance, that an outward appearance may convey. Take myself for instance, I guess that most people's first impression of me, based upon my outward appearance, would be one of mild disinterest. After all I dress plainly, more for comfort than for vanity, I'm overweight but told that I carry it well, I'm clean but don't drown myself in man-fume, I'm polite but tend not to initiate conversation and I do tend not to go out of my way to impress or impose. I guess you would say that I have the perfect camouflage to pass unnoticed through the urban jungle.
So people pass me by, sometimes with a nod and even more rarely a smile, but usually without a second thought and I'm forgotten along with the rest of the crowd. Perhaps if people could see inside another person with that passing glance a very different scenario would be the case. Perhaps if that would happen some of the crowd would step away from me more quickly, concerned by the darkness that sometimes clouds my mind. Then again perhaps some within the crowd would feel compelled to approach me, to offer help when seeing the unbearable pain and guilt that my darkness leaves embedded even after it has lifted for a time.
Yes it is funny peculiar how instant impressions can sometimes give an opinion of someone that is then hard to change. When I walked isolated trails regularly with Lucy, my canine companion, at my side the few people I'd come across were always happy to stop and chat awhile, to pass away a few moments of time talking about the trail, flora and fauna and the weather. Even if there wasn't a stop there would usually be a smile, a cheery hello and a nod to a fellow trail follower. Then Lucy passed away before her time and I needed the solitude and solace that nature could bring more than ever. But here's a thing walking those same trails without Lucy bounding away I noticed that people viewed a solitary man differently with perhaps feelings of slight discomfort, certainly with much less openness. So with this and the fact that walking those trails without Lucy was tinged with the sadness of not having her there to share them with I gradually stopped walking and a piece of me slept.
It is strange how a first glance can shape people's thoughts and opinions. almost instantly about another fellow human being without actually knowing that person. On the trail with Lucy I was considered no threat, a nice guy because he has a friendly dog whom he takes the time to look after and walk. Taking Lucy out of the equation and perhaps I was viewed at times with distrust and even with some foreboding. Strange indeed, as I try and tell people I'm still an axe murderer whether or not I have a dog at my side!
The reason why these thoughts have wandered across my usually baran mind? Well although outwardly I am as drab and as unassuming as a hen pheasant, remove my clothes, steady now ladies, and there lies a different side to me......tattoos. And it was whilst being tattooed at Wrexham Ink by Nick Green on Tuesday that part of the conversation, besides global warming, Dolly Parton, The Hobbit, Austin Powers, The Rock, allotments, chickens and Starship Troopers (so bad it's brilliant), turned to how people perceive tattoos and how it seems to viewed differently by different generations.
It's over a decade since my first tattoo and several have followed. For me they are personal, each having meaning and if I wear a T shirt and knee length shorts nobody is aware of them. They are now firmly part of me and I seldom give them a thought through a normal day. So much so I forgot that they are there until, perhaps, I catch a glimpse of my rotund self in an unforgiving mirror.
Now my father is as old fashioned as they come, draconian I would even dare to say though not to his face I hasten to add. He has an opinion upon everything and has never failed to express it, even now in his eighty fourth year. He is the epitome of victorian man;- head of the table, a woman's place is at home, he says what he likes and bloody well likes what he says and his opinion is the only one that's right, doesn't hold with foreign food nor bloody 'Jonny foreigner' for that matter and supports the death sentence for offences such as loitering, being unaccompanied by an adult when under the age of 18. Ok that last one was perhaps a tad exaggerated but I think you are now able to scratch the surface of the being that is my father (you see?, first impressions again). My father served for several years during the fifties in the merchant navy and has no tattoos whatsoever and even though he never expressed an opinion on them I always deemed it wise not to mention the ink in my flesh. Funny thing is that I have an older brother, tall, strong jawed, blue eyed, apple of my fa.......oh you get the first impression. Well beloved son came home one day skipping and looking pleased with himself so I knew that the probability was that he'd done something stupid again as is his nature. Sure enough he couldn't wait to show me his latest faux pas, a tattoo on his arm which a baby elephant, blindfolded, could have done far better. Remember those indian ink howlers that were all the rage back in school? well this was worse, much worse. So he stands there happily awaiting laudits from his younger (only in body) sibling with expectation and pride shining in his eyes. "Well thats shite", unfortunately I do have a tendency of saying what I think at times, well OK all the time, which is why perhaps people don't ask my opinion very often now a days? In his crestfallen defence he questioned my judgement upon such matters to which I calmly removed my T shirt exposing hitherto unknown to my family my tattoos. Oh at this point I'd like to thank Nick for the excellent work for which Peter had no answer to except "cool", cool? mmmm very seventies. So getting back to the point, Peter, never one to be crestfallen for long, skipped off to expose himself ...err I mean his tattoo...to father. I had to follow as such calamities as when the 'golden one' shoots himself in the foot are not to be missed. I was not to be disappointed as father let forth with ridicule, lambasting and yes blaspheming...oh joy. Once again my older brother had that feeling we all get when talking to our parents, the one of been treated like he was five again whilst I just sat there joyfully lapping it up, whilst wearing my T shirt of course. Fair play to Peter though he did not snitch or use the fact that I had several tattoos already, in his faltering defence. This episode only served to remind me not to mention my skin's ink to my parents.
Then, a few years later, my world turned upon its axis and I initially sort refuge at my parents. I could write about the turbulence and happenings when a grown man moves back with 'mum and dad', but I'll leave that for another day. Enough to say that tattoos were the last thing upon my mind as I walked out of the bathroom one day in just boxers only to come face to face with father.....yep it was my time to be five again.
Yes sometimes first impressions are hard to shake and can form an instant opinion of a person without actually knowing them at all. Damn thing is I'm probably more guilty of the majority of folk for making an opinion of someone within seconds. But I'm usually right in that opinion....oh god I'm turning into my dad! If you've managed to read this far I'm surprised and I thank you.