I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo. In some discreet spot, probably a place that nobody would see unless they shared a locker room (or a bedroom) with me. Why have I been thinking this? I have no idea.
There are problems. First off, I have no existing tattoos, and the reason is: even when I was twenty and had a buzz cut and a pierced nose, I couldn’t imagine affixing any permanent image to my body. I mean, in twenty years, would I really want that tattoo of a skull, or Jiminy Cricket, on my shoulder? Probably not.
Second is the cliché aspect – how about a heart? Scattering of stars? Yin-yang? A unicorn? Puh-leaze. I could argue that, at my age, even considering a tattoo is a cliché. I might as well cut to the chase and have the word “cliché” tattooed on my wrist instead, in some small, illegible font.
Then there’s the double standard – my own very mixed messages. I tell my teenaged daughters (the 15-year-old has friends with tats): if you get a tattoo your legs will fall off. The other variation of this message is: DON’T GET A TATTOO. NOBODY WILL EVER HIRE YOU. Or, sometimes I say: YOU GET A TATTOO AND I WILL (MESS) YOU UP, DO YOU HEAR ME?! Subtle stuff like that.
And yet, I’ve caught occasional glimpses of a few young women around here who are, it appears, slowly working on full sleeves – which I think are gorgeous. Now there’s a double standard. What is wrong with me? Part of the problem, of course, is a double standard. I used to work at an ultra-male, financial-services place that was extremely conservative. And I worked with some bodybuilder-guys who were getting seriously large tattoos, and the only reason I knew that was: we went to the same gym. They wore jackets and ties at work. With women it’s not so easy to hide. And hard as it is for my daughters to believe, there are people (men?) of a certain age who will look at a visible tattoo on a woman and think something like, trollop. There’s a reason those lower-back tattoos are called tramp stamps, as much as I dislike the term.
A tattoo should mean something, maybe, but what? A milestone, a celebration, a reminder? Typing the words meaningful tattoo makes me smirk. Maybe that’s my problem right there. A perfume bottle would look boring. I LUV SERGE 4EVAH done with swirls and that big gothik-gangsta lettering seems … like overkill? Yeah, I thought so too.
The problem with hindsight is it’s so backward-looking. We’re (always?) at that age, that dangerous age, where the grass is definitely greener somewhere else, maybe five years ago and to the left. I was apparently already too old for a tattoo when I was in college, and I haven’t gotten any younger. And still. And yet.
All you young whippersnappers out there, you sweet young things in your twenties, I want to say to you: Go Ahead. Do It Now. Go on and shave your head/move to Bali/change your name if that’s what you feel like. But that’s easy for me to say and it’s hardly fair or applicable, is it? Our lives are different. I was so busy trying to grab onto what I thought was adulthood in my early twenties, I wonder if I missed some of that foolishness. Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe there’s still time to be foolish, who can say? Although I’m drawing the line at the unicorn.