The first time my wife asked me to get a tattoo, I nearly crashed our Toyota Highlander Hybrid into the lane median.
There’s been no second time, mostly because I’ve avoided conversing with her altogether.
Allow me to add some brief context. I am a 47 year-old father of two, with a size-able home mortgage and a growing gut that is having some trouble staying above the underwear line. Beyond listening to the occasional AC/DC track, my tastes tend to run toward the mundane and ordinary. I am, by all reasonable definition, no bad-ass. I wear slippers with little tassels on them when the house gets chilly, and I sometimes add jicama in my salad to give it a little jolt. Trust me, I’m about the last person you’d expect to sport a tattoo.
And yet there it was, a call to arms. The woman I married 20+ years ago, who has as clear an understanding of who I am as anyone on this or any planet, wants me to put permanent paint into my skin for show.
The email came forwarded with a short note from my wife, direct in its simplicity:
“You’re doing this.”
The email was a plea from Westport’s Academy of Dance, my daughter’s ballet school. Their upcoming performance of “The Nutcracker”, the annual holiday blockbuster that had entertained and tortured parents for the last century or so, had had an unfortunate setback: the gentleman who had volunteered for years to play the role of Clara’s father had a conflict and would be unable to perform. Would anyone be willing to take his place?
I stared at the email for a few minutes, thinking about the implications, and a classic quandary emerged: does the chance to engage with my daughter’s passion outweigh the outright possibility (or probability) of making a fool of myself?
On the one hand, I am not shy about public performance. The stage doesn’t bother me, and I have absolutely no pride once the lights are shining down on me. Anyone who’s been unlucky enough to have seen me scream David Lee Roth songs on karaoke night can attest to this unfortunate side of my personality. I have a philosophy about performing, most likely born of necessity: enthusiasm helps cover for an utter lack of measurable talent. Scream into the microphone and act like you’re a rock star, and you are one (provided said rock star is surrounded only by inebriated friends as witnesses before the alcohol-fueled memory loss sets in).
But this was something altogether different. I’d seen the Nutcracker dozens of times since my daughter’s first appearance 8 years before. And I’d seen what the part of the father entails. He’s only on-stage for a short time, and the demands are mostly cosmetic, but about halfway through his scene, as the music shifts to a slow waltz, it happens: the dad dances.