Hey, you know that guy who brings a guitar to every party?
And how everyone hates that guy?
You know what’s even worse than being the Wonderwall guy?
Being a guy who can (and wants to) do magic tricks.
I dunno, maybe it’s my natural selfconsciousness. Maybe it’s the fact that I have never in my life been a Party People, and the one time in my life I’ve dealt with people who are party people I realised that that’s something that requires a lot of social practice and familiarity with a language and an entire substance that I’m not part of. It’s funny, because magic is one of those things I’ve always had in my back pocket (as it were) as a sort of … thing in common social spaces.
Time to time I reflect on why the only people, now, I can say I’ve performed magic tricks in front of is my niblings and my partner. Nothing prepares you for how unimpressed people can be with magic quite like showing it to an under-ten year old.
It’s strange, though, that like, the default assumption seems to be that a guy who does magic sucks.
I don’t know why I let it get to me. I mean, okay, I kind of do – I grew up in a panopticon and that makes me extremely selfconscious about how I am perceived, and the way the kind of person I am can be perceived, which results in a maintaining habits and behaviours that keep entire elements of my life hidden from public view, even from those people who ostensibly claim to be interested. It’s like dancing – I just can’t bring myself to try it in public, because part of my brain shorts out and talks about it like it’s a sin. Still, I think about when I see magic ever brought up, and…
Magic is a skill of dorks.
Now, there are a lot of really quite good magicians making quite good careers making and selling tricks, and a lot of them are dorks and some of them are just really good, fun kind of people with a natural charisma. But they don’t get to represent themselves in media, whenever I see them – magicians are represented typically, in other media, as embarrassing dorks, and the work done to be good at magic is depicted as being the work of embarrassing dorks.
It’s a known fact in street performers that there’s a bottom hierarchy, in terms of money made and even rates they can command for events. Typically, you get stilt walkers, then clowns, then jugglers, then magicians, and then usually, at the bottom, mimes. I’m told — though I don’t have any evidence to confirm one way or another — that comedians hate magicians.
I don’t tend to feel cool when I pull off a trick. I feel anxious because it’s entirely possible that the person I’m showing is going to blink up at me and say ‘I forgot’ when I ask them if I’m showing them their card. Or worse go ‘oh, I see, it’s a trick,’ like, yes, it is, I worked hard on it, dangit.
It sure dampens my enthusiasm for practicing, which means I’m not as good, which means I can’t impress people, which means I’m not going to be enthusiastic for practicing. That there is a negative feedback loop and I don’t know if there’s any good way to fix it.
It’s not all I’ve got, of course. I have another field of interest that goes down super well in social situations as ‘here is a skill I developed that is only useful for public performance that literally nobody ever wants to see.’
See, I’m interested in picking locks.