Saturday, August 15, 2009
Whenever I see someone with several tattoos, which honestly is about 10 times a day around here, I always think of those huge bellbottoms which were such a "must have" in the early 70's. I mean we would not have been caught dead with straight leg jeans. You had to have bells and the bigger the better. What if we had had those suckers tattooed on! Or those big parkas that were all the rage one year. Or mullets.
Today's cool is so easily tomorrow's "D-List". And, for better or worse, these things send distinct messages to people with distinct results. Imagine showing up for a first date or job interview or project meeting dressed in huge bellbottoms, with a mullet, mutton chop sideburns, a tight bright polyester shirt, a puka shell necklace, a big "Peace" medallion, a huge "Keep On Truckin" belt buckle, and platform shoes? It's hard to believe possible but in 30 years (or 30 minutes) tattoos could be exactly like that. And, they'd be under your skin and not too easy to get rid of invisibly.
Take the sacrum tattoo for girls. The first time I saw one, I thought, Oh that's kinda cool. Now it's the radical girls who don't get them. And the tattoos are being called "tramp stamps". And if yours is tattooed on, well...there you go...
I've got nothing against tattoos, if you like 'em, go get 'em, but man, I'd just be too scared to get some trendy thing on there and end up with a "tramp stamp" or something else that actively sends a constant message to the world about me that is no longer accurate. I want flexibility in my relationships with the people and the world and I'm very wary of doing anything that would take any of mine away. I believe it's in my nature to be overly cautious in this way, so I'm not fighting it. I'm just kind of guiding it.
That said, the kind of tattoos I really like are the ones that mark some kind of passage, like when vets have one of the branch of the service they were in. I had a friend once who was doing work in Laos in the jungle and the locals were so happy with the work he'd done for them that they "offered" him their ceremonial tattoo. He felt like saying no would have been in very bad form so he sort of bit the bullet and said, OK...
They let a big fire and he's sitting there shirtless and this guy comes out with a sharp bamboo stick and a little bowl of some kind of jungle ink. My friend is thinking, Oh Jesus, and just closes his eyes and lets him go at it. A couple of hours later the tattoo is done and the fire is out. The guy reaches into the fire and pulls out a big handful of ash, slaps the tattooed area and rubs it in hard. My friend thinks, oh God, I'm going to get every jungle infection known to man. But, it turns out, the ash is sterile and somehow helped the tattoo "set" or heal or whatever. He showed it to me and it was really beautiful. It looked like a Celtic knot or mandala. This a tattoo that reminds him of something incredible that he went through, not something he bought to feel cooler. It's more of a scar than a decoration.
I also really like self-designed stuff that seems in tune with the person or the physical lines of his body. The picture above this post is of a porn star who goes by "Bella Donna". I like the swirling one around her shoulder and breast. I think it really blends into her whole physical self.
It's the sort of randomly added odds and ends approach is my least favorite. But hey, whatever anyone wants to do with their skin is their business. I treat tattooed people pretty much that same as I treat everybody else.
Here's the thing: I have to commit myself in life. I can't not commit. If I say, I won't commit, I'm committed to that. And, when I commit to anything, I'm more vulnerable, my options go down. There's no avoiding it. I can't not commit. So what I like to do is commit consciously, in ways that enhance my life and where I keep as many options open as possible. I think ahead before I commit. I want to be as sure as I can that I don't end up committed to something that I really regret.
I search my mind and heart for what feels most deeply right. And then, if it's a tattoo. Fuck it. I'll get one. But it hasn't happened yet...