When I was a kid, the only people I ever saw with tattoos were my dad's biker friends and the exotic characters I'd run across while leafing through National Geographic magazines. Each time I encountered someone with a body modification I was intrigued to be sure... and also usually a tad frightened. I didn't understand how the skin decorations got there. I pictured aliens coming down and abducting these poor humans, then splaying them out onto a palladium operating table, as lasers etched through their quivering dermis. I imagined this sordid branding was to serve as an easy identification- should a supernatural takeover ever come to pass.
As youngsters, my brothers and I would draw designs on each other’s extremities with magic markers, but that's as close as I ever got to having a tattoo of my own. While I was coming of age and saw more & more people using body art either as a means for personal expression, to honor their heritage, or just for shock value in some instances, I could never seem to settle on something that I'd want to decorate myself with forever. Many nights I contemplated it, as my friends passed around the homemade tattoo gun, drunkenly engraving their lover's initials & poorly scrawling crosses onto one other's ankles. I observed with the intent of a surgeon but I never did it. It's one thing to wake up hungover, it's another to wake up and discover some inebriate has bedecked your body with a misspelled quote... or that you've contracted Hepatitis.
Nowadays nearly everyone has a tattoo (or many tattoos) and I've noticed that the people who have them love to share the stories of their significance with anyone who expresses an interest. I remember when I started dating Danny Rampage. He was the first guy I had ever dated who had tattoos and as such, I saw myself as partnering up with a real badass! We spent an entire evening sitting at my dining room table, drinking cheap wine, as he described the history and meaning behind the many art pieces which adorn his body. I found it both interesting & charming.
The closest I've ever come to following through with a tattoo was when my grandma died. We were incredibly close and I wanted to honor her in some way. She was an accomplished painter and making art together was one of our favorite pastimes. We would spend hours in her basement- a glass of wine in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, Bob Ross gently cooing in the background. Rather than signing her work with her initials in the bottom right corner of the canvas, she would paint three birds in the upper left. This was her signature. I thought that to keep her close, I would have three birds tattooed on the back of my neck so that she would always be behind me... guiding me. But I didn't do it. Maybe someday I will, but for now, I'll keep the needles at bay and live vicariously through those of you who have sat in the chair and received the ink that is now part of your personal narrative. I always love hearing your stories of why it's there.