The sideshow of an old-time circus often included tents wherein one could take a gander at a bearded lady or a tattooed man. It is undoubtedly a boon of progress that those days are over, so that one may nowadays enjoy both of these spectacles on any sidewalk in America, free of charge. Like an orange in one’s Christmas stocking, or song from a man who could sing, the treats of our ancestors are the everyday blessings of today.
My grocery shopping was, for instance, this morning enriched by the spectacle of two tattooed ladies, one stocking the shelves and the other in command of the cash register. In neither case was the ensemble completed by the suggestion of a beard, but I’m the last one to look a gift horse in the mouth. And neither lady was, I hasten to add, a mere lady with a tattoo, such being nowadays more common than a lady with a purse. They were both tattooed ladies of the sort that once caused P. T. Barnum to rub his hands and pull out a contract and a pen.
I have yet to read a satisfying explanation of the tattoo mania, but personally suspect that it may be a case of Freak Creep. This is the process whereby freaks are pressed into ever-greater freakiness by slumming normies. That this might be the case struck me forcibly in the parking lot of that same supermarket, when, only moments after parting from the tattooed lady at the cash register, I saw a young mother unloading her infant from a minivan and wearing a tee shirt that said Counterculture.
There, I thought, is the bugbear of every freak. There is the engine that drives Freak Creep.