My goal is for someone to be able to look at me from 6 feet away and know that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about.
When I was a small, impressionable child with the bouncing innocence of a chicken nugget in a carousel, I’d hear the same few mantras uttered every time someone with a lot of tattoos came into view: “oh, she’s never going to get a job,” “what do you think her parents would say,” “why would she do that?”
What I wish I knew as a kid was that all of those questions have very clear answers built in. She’s never getting a job? Then how did she pay for all that cool art. Shit costs money. What do you think her parents would say? Hopefully that they support their child because rejecting a family member because they wanted to change their appearance is functionally the same as exiling your aunt Gretta because she’s been hitting the gym. Why would you do that? Because she wanted to, and there are probably a variety of more specific reasons why within that umbrella of wanting to do something and doing it, but nobody is entitled to that information, so it doesn’t matter.
I love tattoos, but I only have one. This is less from lack of motivation and more from lack of money. I’ve seen some amazing art for sale at tea shops, and I’ve gotten close to buying it, but then I see the price, and I realize that seeing a beautifully vibrant painting of a bee is not quite worth a month of rent. The same goes for adding art to myself. It’s expensive, and I also wouldn’t get a tattoo of a bee because permanently imprinting the likeness of my mortal enemy upon my body seems like an invitation for something unfortunate.
The only tattoo I have was obtained under interesting circumstances. During my first summer back from college, I was involved in a somewhat stressful situation that culminated in my flying to California to stay with a friend, drinking more alcohol than currently exists–including a really awful fruit loop vodka that tasted like the color yellow–and getting a tattoo from one of two absolutely stoned artists that had been invited to the house I was staying at for something amazing called a ‘tattoo party.’
I’ve had just the one tattoo for about five years now, and though it’s not very noticeable, I love what happens when people learn what it is: their opinion of me develops with no necessary influence from me. That’s the ideal, that’s the goal. I want someone to be able to look at me, analyze the available portions of my exposed skin, and then know enough about me that they won’t talk to me further. And I want more of it. I want to wear on my arms the imagery of what matters to me. I want to hide my legs in tangled symbols vines of meaning that are clear only to me but still leave an impression of intent on an audience. And I want to hide art around my body, images that are just for me and anyone unfortunate enough to see my legs above the knee.
Of course, this is a crazy fantasy, not because I don’t want to cover myself in the symbols and iconography of all the books that have influenced me as a person and all the imagery that I’ve come to associate with my identity, and probably something about cats, but because I’m pretty sure once I get enough, people will look less at them individually and more at me as someone who they’re worried will be a bad role model for their children.
Jokes on them though, because I teach impressionable young adults away from home for the first time.