May I Help You, Sir?

Victoria: Your problem, Mr. Marchand, is that you’re preoccupied with stereotypes. I think it’s as simple as you’re one kind of man, I’m another.

King Marchand: And what kind are you?

Victoria: One that doesn’t have to prove it. To myself, or anyone.


I was “Sir’d” again this week. The oh, so polite drive through attendant at Arby’s ended each of his inquiries and statements with “Sir”.

“What type of drink, Sir?”, “You just want the sandwich, Sir?”, “Your total is $8, Sir.”, “Please drive around to the first window, Sir.”

I’ve given up trying to correct people.

As a kid, I was forever mistaken for a boy. My manner and dress bucked the norm of 1960‘s middle class suburbia. I was Scout on paved streets.

The teen years didn’t bring anything different. Although I had changed from a solid, square block to blocky hour glass the question still rose, “Are you a boy or a girl?”

One would think that true adulthood would bring some clearer distinctions, but no on that one too.

Once for Halloween, Bashert and I traded costuming. I wore one of her folksy skirts and tops, put on make-up and jewelry, while she dressed in slacks, a button down shirt, vest, tie and sported a hat. Her gear was beyond my usual attire. I was the one mistaken for a cross-dresser.

What confuses people about a short-haired, middle-aged, heavy-set, well-endowed woman, that they would make the jump to give me a not just a masculine identity, but a male identity? I tried to find some information on line, but to no avail yet. What is the data? What markers or culturally induced suppositions are at work? Is there something innate about these assumptions/presumptions?

You tell me. I have yet to figure it out. All I know is I received a “Thank you, MA’AM” and a 10% discount when I got to the window.

Secret Self

Matt Singer Secret Id Kit

Last night, while avoiding homework by watching t.v. with the family, I stumbled into an episode of William Shatner’s interview show, Raw Nerve. It came on right after a 16 year old tribute to the Star Trek franchise. Odd juxtaposition.

The show had been taped in 2009 and his guest on the show was his long time co-actor and friend Leonard Nimoy.  Mr. Nimoy was discussing one of his first ‘ordinary people’ shoots, “Secret Selves”.

The project began in 2008 when Mr. Nimoy invited some of the denizens of Northampton, Massachusetts, where he shows his work in the R Michelson Galleries, to be photographed as “who you think you are”.  He wanted to create portraits of people’s inner alternate identities.

All the participants of the shoot were video taped being interviewed and photographed by Mr. Nimoy.  You can watch some of them at this site: <>.

The premise got me thinking and imagining who or what I might want revealed as my secret self.

I drew a blank.

Presently my days are spent as partner, mom, student, friend, corporate supervisor, sometime fine artist, survivor.  In previous incarnations I was a stay-at-home mom, bookkeeper, library technician, graphic artist, cake decorator, crazy person, victim.

Still drawing a blank.

I have an ex-sister-in-law, who was once married to the AH’s brother, Bucket.  She’s a bit of a changeling, a chameleon.

When I knew her back in the dark ages, she was the “perfect”, church going, small town, country wife and mother.   She had a great sense of humor and an understated intellect that was much deeper than any of the AH’s family could ever appreciate.

We lost track of each other after my expulsion from the Hatfield’s wagon circle.  The ubiquitous FaceBook allowed us to reconnect.  Turns out, she, too left the oh, so warm environs of the opprobrious Hatfield’s.

The sense of humor is the same but, the Chameleon has changed.  Aside from an ever evolving hairstyle, Chameleon has reinvented herself or rather become, who she was supposed to be – a writer, a photographer, actor, explorer of life and genuinely happy person.

Beautiful changing colours

What has this to do with my inner alter ego?  I found myself a tad bit jealous that Chameleon had the courage to find, and work toward, being her secret self, while I can’t even pull up an idea of whom I would choose to be for a photo session.

I guess I can placate myself by thinking that she has another inner self to yet reveal – exotic dancer perhaps? 🙂

Still drawing a blank.

Splat is a friend I’ve know for over 30 years.  He’s a special effects make-up artist. Really, he is – for the movies and television (The Patriot, Zombieland, & soon to be released The Three Stooges, among many others).  I remember him back in high school, experimenting with self-made, latex masks and pulling his eyebrows out by accident (always lubricate them first before applying casting materials).


He’s improved since then.

Splat has been living his dream.  I admire him greatly for sticking to it.  He’s told me that sometimes its hard, but oh, so worth it all.  He gets to live out alter egos quite a bit, maybe not quite his true secret self, but characters that he creates. That makes me smile.

Maybe a glimmer here.

I have yet another friend LC, who once had a lucrative career as a director of a lab.  She felt unappreciated and undervalued in that position and chose to leave it for what seemed a more self fulfilling adventure.

It was not to be.

But through a series of sometime severe growing pains, LC found herself as a teacher.  She nows enlightens college students to higher learning and understanding of the human psyche.  She’s found a different self to be and seems to be happier for it.

I do think she would rather be a globe-trotting, secret agent though, but that’s just my humble opinion.

It’s becoming clearer to me now.

As I think about my friends and Mr. Nimoy’s subjects, I have begun to realize I’m thinking too hard.

One’s inner or secret self is not about thought.  Its about feeling.  Its about those nebulous, moveable, visceral emotions that keep one going.

Still standing after being beaten up by life?  You’re a fighter, a super hero, a vigilante for the good guys, a dragon, a freedom fighter, a symbol of hope, heck you could be a piece of delicious warm bread – rising after being beaten down and coming back to give comfort and nourishment.

So who or what is my secret self?

A flamenco dancer? Mind scientist? World explorer? Jedi Warrior? Naughty Nanny? A Lion? Dragon or dragon slayer? Vampire? Brick Layer?

Oh, hell I don’t know.

Perhaps that is my secret self – I am a Janus, a Zaphod, Lon Chaney, Sr.  I wear many hats, looking forward and back, juggling the possibilities of what will be, what is, what was and remolding everyday never quite settling on any one thing.

Cop out? Maybe.

Would you be able to accept Mr. Nimoy’s invitation?  Could you settle on one representation caught in time?

Let me know.  Who or what is your secret self?

Splat’s website

Tattoo You

I took a Psychology class a couple of semesters ago.  Cultural Diversity.  Thought it would be amusing to see the official take on my life.

For our final project we had to select a cultural phenomenon with which we were unfamiliar to research, have an experience of then write a paper and give a presentation.

I chose tattooing.

Tats, as I’m told the insiders call them, seem to be everywhere these days. I wanted to see if there had been any real change in the acceptance of tattooing in the mainstream.

Growing up in the 60’ and 70’s nice people just didn’t get tattoos, at least nice people who lived in white bread, middle class suburbia and hadn’t served in the military didn’t.

No, tattoos were for the hard core military, convicts, bikers and ladies of the night.

To this day, despite or maybe in addition to the fact that several of her grandchildren now have tattoos (including my own daughter), my Mom refers to them as trashy – the tattoos, not the grandchildren.

Trashy Babs

When the kids in my neighborhood played, the ones with the lick and stick tattoos were the bad guys, the ones who had guns and smoked.  Told you, middle class America in the 60’s.

As I grew up and gained a little worldly experience and knowledge, I found cultures outside my own that used skin marking as a means of artistic expression and to scare the wits out of their enemies.  (Check out the movie, The Piano there’s some good Maori tattooing going on there.)

But with my upbringing, these really didn’t have any real impact on my life – tattoos still remained other world.

I truly wondered why it was that any modern person in their right mind would submit to a torturous procedure that I viewed as coming from rather seedy depths.  Nuts.

For my research, I read various and sundry dry research articles that mostly found that tattooing was gaining some ground of acceptance in society as a whole, but this was still dependent on what types of tattooing was done – cute or not so cute.

One little tidbit from a large, southeastern university survey done in 2007 found that while many women may find visible tattoos on men attractive (as the ‘bad boy’), almost half of the men said that they seldom found a tattoo attractive on a woman.


Kinda speaks for itself, doesn't it?

I interviewed a couple of tattoo artists for my paper.  They were both very amenable to my clumsy questions.  I did find it interesting that the artist that had been in the business for all his life didn’t have any visible tattoos and the younger one said that he though his tattoos would restrict him in some of his career hopes. (Found out later that artist one actually has beaucoup tats, but just not down his arms.)

I also interviewed some folks I know who have tattoos.  That was interesting, too.  There was a common theme between them as well.

All three people got tattoos for the personal and permanent expression of feelings, relationships or circumstances.  None said they regretted it or would change them, but each said that they’ve either received flack or covered up to prevent commotion.

It was all the same familiar stuff I had read in the research papers.  It was a ‘yes, but’ kind of thing going on.

I wrangled my way into observing a tattoo being done.

My niece said I could come and watch hers being created if I didn’t ask stupid questions, such as “Does it hurt?”  Turns out that’s a stupid question because its obvious that it hurts like hell in certain areas.


The conclusion of my paper research was pretty much summed up by a phrase from one of the papers I read:

“people still view tattoos as a badge of dislocated, ostracized & disenfranchised community – a signifying practice that purposely embraced and promulgated images of other-ness”  – (Atkinson, Michael. “Tattooing and Civilizing Processes: Body Modification as Self-Control” Canadian Review of Sociology & Anthropology  41.2 (2004):125-146.Print.)

In other words, tattooing was still seen as coming from the wrong side of the tracks and done so on purpose.

There was some shift in the mainstream outlook and there is a new subculture of diverse ages, genders, races and socioeconomic levels that finds it completely acceptable as a means of self expression, but the tolerance shown was more or less dependent upon in what company one keeps, where the tattoo is located and what type it is. (Wow, that’s a pompous quote pretty much straight from my paper.)

My own conclusion was a bit p.c.  I said that I had learned that people will tattoo just about anything on themselves (and they do) for a myriad of reasons.  I also said that I had developed a broader ability to look beyond my own cultural upbringing and not judge those who have tattoos.  But in reality, it is still very difficult even with my own kid. I was raised to be a tattoo snob.

My last question to the class was and now you is – what are our nursing homes going to look like in 50 years with all this tattooing going on?  Think about it; it ain’t pretty.

Public Domain, artisit/subject unknown