Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tattoo You

I look around the streets and see the body modification that goes on and I shudder sometimes. Ah, the yoof of today with earlobes dangling around their knees, bits of metal sticking out at odd angles and tattoos all over the place, visible for the world to see - like don't they know that they're going to be on a mortuary slab being judged one day? What happens if they get a corporate job in the future? What happens if they decide to turn to Judaism in the future? They won't let you in a Jewish Cemetery with a tramp stamp. And what happens if DARREN/SHARON/TREVOR/TREVETTE Forever goes and breaks your heart? Then what? Tattoos don't cost much too much to have put on - but getting rid of them can be a nightmare.

I'm strangely drawn to tattoos. Not the daggy prison tatts or the tribal designs seen on every bogan from here to Broadmeadows, but the well designed, well thought out etchings which add value to the person. One of my book group has the words 'Dance in the Rain' in a cursive script on her wrist. Her sister passed recently from leukemia - and her favourite saying was "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass - it's about learning to dance in the rain.'. I like small, unexpected tatts like that. My sister has an ornate butterfly at the base of her spine, placed there after she lost a lot of weight. I remember a guy I was seeing had an ornate flower just where his watch sat - his daughter's name was Rose - it reminded him of her. Again, small, unexpected, out of the way design - nothing intrusive. My downstair's neighbour has a tiny flower behind her ear and on the base of her neck.  The list goes on - it's something small and unexpected about you that's there for the world to see if you get a glimpse.

Okay, then again, I remember evenings tracing a finger over Lenny the Fridge's etchings on his chest - fascinated that his skin was so soft where the ink was. Lenny's Mum called him the walking cartoon - it wasn't that bad really - I know he regretted them. Hmm, wonder what happened to him. Another old flatmate was covered in rather daggy butterflies. Again, I wonder what happened to her - last I heard she was a mother of two in Byron driving trucks.

Tatts and piercings appear to have become the norm, no longer the domain of the outcast or the rebel. It's now more a matter of size, style and class.

I took the coward's way out with my tattoo.

It's covered most of the time, in fact I forget it's there. It surprises me in the work shower regularly. Not having a full length mirror in the bathroom at my flat, this is the only place I see myself completely naked - after a  lunchtime run. I've been caught by the small, black etching on my hip - the Chinese symbol for love, there as my legal name supposedly means 'worthy of love or lovable.'

Hard to believe it was nearly fifteen years since I had it done.

The tattoo was always going to happen. I'd been mulling over getting it for a few years when my father passed - and the decision got made in a heartbeat. Three months later, armed with some solid information I went to the local tattoo parlour in West Hampstead, where Steve and his Harley were waiting for me. Five minutes and a savage tickle later I was set.

There is a bit of a risk having anything etched on your skin in a foreign language. A story made the papers when I was in London - a guy walked into a Chinese restaurant and the waiting staff went into hysterics. Turns out that the characters in his left bicep which he thought meant 'courage, strength and valour' actually meant "fat, white wanker'. I've been told David Beckham's Sanskrit design isn't his first son's name. Spelling something wrong on your tatt - now that just reeks of stupidity.

Would I get another? The world wildlife panda on the other butt cheek? Another Chinese character? The first lines to the third to last verse of 'The Lovesong of J.Alfred Prufrock (No, I am not Prince Hamlet...)

All much more fun to think about than the course for spooks I'm supposed to be writing.


Kilometres walked since 29 January: 218 km
Kilometres run since 29 January: 144 km
Currently reading: Ice by Louis Nowra, Marathon Running for Mortals
Weight lost since 29 Jan: 1.7 kg
April Kms: 62/220


Kath Lockett said...

I have a friend who thought he'd got courage and strength tattooed on his lower hip after 'coming out' in his thirties only to shack up with an Asian guy who said that it read 'small and weak.' True story!

I have a small tattoo that I also forget about unless I'm standing in front of the bathroom mirror after a shower. As a blue rose it holds a lot of significance for me but I'd never put a name or date - too tacky and too easy to rue it later if things go pear shaped.

Pandora Behr said...

Oh dear Kath, poor fellow - I know I did a heap of research before getting mine for that reason - what did he do?

Your tatt sounds like mine - small, discrete and meaningful - just the way I like them.

Still pondering the world wildlife panda though...