I recently got a tattoo. Reaction from friends & loved ones has been varied: some people really dig it, while some are clearly bewildered. (My fave comment so far: “Keep your existential angst to yourself!” My second-fave: “I thought only young people got tattoos.”) Anyway, rather than get into too much rigmarole on an individual basis, I thought I’d put something up here by way of explanation.
So here goes.
My relationship with my own body has pretty much always been an adversarial one. There are health issues lifelong & recent, bothersome problems, etc. Doctors got files on me that bulge, man. Sometimes in particularly bleak moods I think that if I woke up one morning as a head floating in a jar, about the only thing I’d miss would be the sexytimes.
(Holy shit, how did this get so awkwardly confessional so fast? Jesus. If you’re quietly making your way to the exit at this point, I’ll pretend not to notice & I won’t blame you a bit.)
I don’t really know why most people get tattoos – novelty? lark? body as canvas? message to the world? But anyway I know I got mine mainly as an act of defiance. I wanted to engage this treacherous renegade in some way, to remind it that it has to deal with me. And also to remind myself that this flawed, frayed skin I wear is mine for good. That this is what I have to work with, for better or for worse.
Plus I had an epiphany recently that a tattoo doesn’t have to be an image. I’d wanted one for many years, but was always stymied trying to imagine a pictograph that I’d want to carry around for the rest of my life. But then – words! One after the other, arranged in a particular order! That got me going.
After that it was a no-brainer: a mad Irishman’s line that’s extremely famous & admittedly crazy overused, but that nevertheless, well, resonates a lot for me. I had it put on my inner left forearm, since it’s a message to myself & nobody else. Which is what I mean when I refer to it as “private,” as I have a few times in conversation. But when I say that I don’t mean “secret” or anything. After all, I’m writing about the thing right here, aren’t I? So: