Dear Abbi, A Word from the Wife

“Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”
— Virginia Woolf

Recently, one of Jeff’s students was sharing how he really hates to show his wife any magic.  He said he feels like she’s his worst critic; she’s not enthusiastic about watching his newest effect, and is always telling him what he’s doing wrong.

Hearing him made me start thinking… As a woman in love with a magician, I am in a unique position. I’m the one, primarily, who he has the opportunity to “practice on.” So, I think one of the things a magician would benefit by remembering is to always approach with care. There’s a big difference between, “Hey, c’mere, I want to try this on you,” and “My darling, when you have a moment, I have something I’d really love to do for you.” In one instance, I’m a guinea pig about to undergo an experiment; in the other, I’m about to receive a wonderful gift.  Once I’ve had the chance to see a new routine or effect, I need to remember that this is an expression of my beloved’s creativity, and it will do me good to respond with care as well.  After all, this is the man I love, right?

Of course, I’m going to want to give honest feedback. I mean, to allow him to continue performing an effect while flashing or fumbling would be akin to sending a five year old to school with his pants on backwards. I don’t want the “other kids” to laugh, right? I want to be sure to start with positive feedback first, so my magician doesn’t feel shot down. I’ll tell him what I liked, even if it’s just the idea behind the effect, or a line in the script, or the costume he’s chosen… and then I’ll tell him, clearly and kindly, what isn’t working. Often, I’ll offer my ideas on how the problem could be solved, whether it’s by shifting his finger position, changing his body posture, clarifying his script, or videotaping a move so he can see what I see. It’s all coming from a place of wanting to see him succeed, because I care… because I love him.  I know, from my own creative musical process, that when a piece is new, it’s very tender, vulnerable, and sensitive.  When I share something new, I’m mostly looking for affirmation and appreciation… but if I’ve got a serious dissonance problem where there ought to be harmony, or if my rhythms aren’t lining up properly in a counterpoint, I want someone to clue me in, gently, please.

Part of what makes my feedback valuable is that I’m genuinely interested in magic. It’s one of the creative activities that Jeff and I share. We have other interests we share as well, like music, ballroom dancing, and fire circles. It’s easy for me to want to support my love in his creativity, because he is so willing to support me in mine.  When it comes to magic, I have nearly twenty years of experience both onstage and behind the scenes, as well as at the Magic and Mystery School. So I know what to look for, and I know the lingo of legerdemain.

Maybe your wife or partner doesn’t have the same extensive experience. Maybe she doesn’t know a flash from a pass, when it comes to prestidigitation. But, if she loves you, she still wants you to succeed, and she still wants to help you to grow in your creativity, just as you would want for her, right? So, remember, maybe she’s not your worst critic, but your best friend in disguise. Approach her with care; ask her nicely for her help, and you may find a wonderful ally in your magical world.

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