26 February 2014

“…yeah, write about it. I really want to know what other people think. My kid is only 21 and he’s planning out this elaborate tattoo. A quarter sleeve? From his shoulder to not quite his elbow. I don’t have an issue with the image he wants to get; it’s beautiful art. But he’s only 21; he’s not going to be the same person in 10 years. How can he choose something so permanent with so much of his life ahead?”

I’ve gotten close to the same question about my own ink; I suspect most people who get tattoos hear the same thing: how are you going to feel about that in 20 years?

Me? In 20 years I’ll be 72 and I doubt I’ll give a damn about the sags and wrinkles in my skin and what aging has done to my art. If I’ve taken care of the tattoos they should be fine in terms of fading and the like, but aging is what it is, and what it is going to do is thin out my skin, add wrinkles, add sagging, and who knows what else.

No one can change the fact that they’re going to age; if you choose to get tattoos you have to accept that those will change along with you.

After my last tattoo I uploaded it to Imgur so that I could show it to people on Reddit’s /r/tattoos subreddit; Imgur also allows comments, and when I went back to it a few days later someone had left the comment, you know that shit’s permanent, right?

I don’t know if they were trying to be sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek, but it doesn’t matter. I took it as the latter and responded in kind.

But yeah. This shit is permanent. And I get where my friend is coming from; at 21 her son isn’t done growing up and becoming himself. What he likes at 21 might not be what he likes at 31. Think about it; the band you absolutely loved at 15 is often cringe-worthy at 25. Through your 20s you make a lot of the same leaps in maturity and personal growth that you do in your teens. What seems vitally important at 21 might be laughable at 31.

I get that.

But from where I sit—and she knows this—is that if her son has been seriously considering this piece of art for more than six months, as long as a year, and he still wants it, he should get it.

A decade from now it might not be what he would choose. Or he might wish he’d done this one part a little bit differently. Or wish he’d gone to a better artist.

That doesn’t mean he’ll wish he’d never gotten it. Or even that he would change a thing about it.

Hell, if I could go back, I would have gone to someone else for my first tattoo. I sure as hell wouldn’t have paid for my son to get a tattoo the next day from the same person. The quality of work in those tattoos is, frankly, crap.

I can see that now; I didn’t know nearly enough about how to look at a portfolio and determine good work from marginal and craptastic.

When you look at that first tattoo and compare it to the last one I got, the difference is astounding. In terms of quality, the first is a Yugo, the last is a Cadillac. During years between I learned a lot about tattoo quality and how to choose a decent artist.

In those years, I learned a lot, period.

Still, even though I have a fantastic artist now, I wouldn’t ask him to change it. I wouldn’t ask for anything beyond touching up the color. Everything else, I would leave the same.

When I got the tattoo, I knew what it meant to me, and what it means has never changed, even though I have. It’s a thousand colorful threads in the tapestry of my personal story; it’s a part of me, good or bad. I will always be able to look at it and have a feel for where I was in life when I got it.

Each tattoo, whether it had deep meaning when I got it or not, is a part of that tapestry. It’s my history, part of the evolution of becoming and being me.

My Superman shield will always be a touchstone to a man who was so well loved that the chapel in which his funeral was held was over capacity. The hummingbird beneath is will always be the light and love of his life, who carried on and thrived but still holds him close in every waking moment.

The cats in the tree, for the rest of my life are testament to commitment and family; no matter what my parents honored the promises they made to each other and I can look at it and feel them together, even now. That family tree spring from the storybook of their lives; it’s not just for me, it’s for the sisters I have because of their commitment, for the wonderful memories of all they’ve been and done for me.

Pink ribbon feet…all the miles walked, the reminder that no matter how bad I might have it at times, someone out there needs my feet on the ground doing something, not sitting here feeling sorry for myself.

Max’s face, right there where I can see it every single day; it really is more than a tattoo for a pretty freaking sweet cat. The incredible image created by Karen Nichols for Max’s Mousebreath column is there to remind me that in the vast, echoing halls of the Internet, there are people who are creative and wonderfully generous. People who will bend over backwards for total strangers, who aren’t afraid to take that leap from the shadows into some fairly absurd fun. Max starting a blog brought into my life people who will matter to me until the bitter end.

Calvin and Hobbes, riding in a TARDIS; that will always spark memories of how intensely creative the Boy was a child, his wild imagination at play, couple with something wickedly fun he brought into our lives that turned into somewhat of an obsession. Calvin dressed as the 11th Doctor will always make me think of the 3 year old who charged across the floor holding his fist high, clutching an imaginary sword as he yelled out GERMONIRO!

And the latest one, purely for fun, but it’s totally the Spouse Thingy and me. The Grumpy who is rarely a grump, the laughter and the fun.

No matter where life takes me, how much I change, these images I carry with me are touchstones to who I was in the moment; they trigger cherished memories and feelings. I may not always be in love with the individual tattoos—I think anyone who has ever gotten a tattoo will ride waves of feeling about it over the years—but they will always remind me of that time in my life.

They’re always going to matter.

My friend’s 21 year old is going to change; we all do. But when he’s 40 that tattoo probably won’t be a regret, but a touchstone.

“What do you feel when you look down and see all that ink on your arms?”

In all honestly…I finally feel like me.


Anonymous said...

While I enjoyed your post, I must say that Max will probably not enjoy your description of him as "sweet." Talk about ruining a kitty's image! :)

kenju said...

It's an interesting post and I can agree with your point of view (mostly) but I can also say that I have never wanted a tattoo; never understood anyone wanting one and I too, would ask if you realize they are permanent. But, I would never try to deny anyone the option to have one if they want it - as long as they understand it is for keeps. Yes, I know they can be removed, but it is difficult and costly to do so. Therefore, I'd be DAMN sure I wanted and and would always he happy with it, before I'd do it.

Anonymous said...

I only have one tat at this time, I was thinking when it starts to sag that I will have a broken safety pin thru it and just above it. so let it sag!!!

Anonymous said...

For some reason this post brought tears to my eyes! I have no tatoos nor did I ever want one but I appreciate the feelings of those who do get them and often try to ponder reasons a person may have had for the one(s) they have. I think though that the real reason the post brought tears to my eyes was because it revealed the soul of a deep feeling and very genuine lady who uplifts the world with her writing skills and her stories. A lady who hears her kitties' hearts and is able to express in words what that kitty may really say if they had human language. You go, girl! Keep writing and lighting up the hearts of those who read your words!