SHE SAID: tattoos

361491I’m on vacation.  People are showing a lot of skin.  Mostly, people I don’t want to be showing a lot of skin are showing a lot of skin.  I’m pale.  Reflective, actually, and I’m sure most people are turning their heads due to the glare coming off me.  But while compelling people to put their sunglasses on,  I’m noticing a lot of skin, and with that, a lot of tattoos.  And I’m not liking any of them.

The first tattoo I ever saw was in memory of a loved one.  I respect that one.  It was nice, it was something he needed to do.  It worked for me.

The second tattoo I saw turned me off every time I saw it.  And I stopped seeing it pretty quickly.

I love the idea of a tattoo.  The idea of marking your body, choosing something meaningful and specific and figuring out where to put it.  It’s just that when it’s put into practice that things go awfully awry for me. And please keep in mind that I’m someone who gets annoyed with nail polish a few days after application.

Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me that gets annoyed that the lines aren’t as precise as I would like them.  Or the cynic, alive and well, in me that thinks, “Really?  You had to have that on you … for life?” And if it’s color, I’m not going to like it because the colors are always muted and faded and not in a cool, vintage faded kind of way, but faded in a ticky tacky Florida beach house sign kind of way.  I just look and imagine how much cooler it could have been.

My favorite tattoo, I have actually never seen.  A college friend got the character for honor tattooed on his lower back … some might say butt, but from what I heard, it was in the grey area between the lower back and butt.  When he got back to school, he showed it to another friend, just back from studying in Beijing, who pointed out that he had gotten the character for “expensive” tattooed on his ass.  It was (and is still, I hope) brilliant.  Without having laid eyes on it, I love it. *His story, in detail, will be posted as a comment because it is arguably one of the best stories and I was in tears laughing while reading it.

And, for the record, I know exactly what I would have tattooed on me.  I’ve just been deliberating over where to put it for years now.


2 Responses to SHE SAID: tattoos

  1. hesaidandshesaid says:

    Here (for the first time in print) is the complete story so you can at least embarrass me in an accurate manner:

    i decided to get another tattoo over winter break my sophomore year. i really didn’t know what I wanted, i just had an itch to get something done. I went into my tattoo place in Minneapolis and looked at the flash on the walls and, after very short internal deliberations, decided i liked Chinese characters. I wanted a character that looked cool and whose meaning was going to hold relevance for me in later years. I eventually settled on “honor,” rather than “drunk”,” horny”, or some other such options that I thought would probably age poorly. I got the guy to ink it on my lower back/upper ass area, which I thought, at the time, was a pretty sweet place to get a tat.

    ***NOTE: I know, I know, lower back tattoos are for drunk, easy girls and Chinese characters (or any kind of flash) are for meatheads who get tattooed over spring break on a dare from their fraternity brothers. I KNOW THIS…now. The problem is, many fewer people were tattooed in 1997 when I got this done, and NONE of those people went to Williams College. In the environment I was living in at the time, getting a Chinese character on your lower back seemed pretty fucking punk rock, and there was nobody around to tell me differently.***

    Okay, so I come back from winter break to start winter study and I run into my buddy Joe, who is back from spending fall semester of his junior year in Beijing. “Well, Joe,” I say with a shit-eating grin, “you might be interested to know that I have a totally awesome Chinese tattoo above my ass.” He says “show me,” I do, and he says “why does it say ‘expensive’.” “No no no, that says ‘honor’.” “Nope, that says expensive. At least in Beijing it does.” We run upstairs and check his Chinese dictionary. Sure enough, my tat means: 1) expensive, 2) pricey, or 3) VIP or honored guest.

    So, yes, it does say “expensive” above my ass. It could also be interpreted to mean “VIP entrance.” I’ve lived with this for twelve years now and I long ago came to the conclusion that it could’ve been worse. I mean, what if it said “cheap”, or “everybody come on in”….that would be a real disaster.

  2. kate says:

    yeahhh, it usually means “expensive,” but it’s also used to politely ask someone’s name–i.e. “what is your honorable surname?” is 您贵姓. so you were sort of right…still a hilarious story.

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