Tattoos: A study in completion
I come from a family of tattooed people. My father and my brothers all have ink, each tattoo deeply personal and individualized to their personalities and interests. From my dad’s Air Force eagle, back from his days in the service, to my youngest brother’s trinkets of Cold War-era paranoia and A-Bomb Americana. Even my middle brother, whose love of video games and nerd culture has manifested on his arms. Everybody I’ve worked with over the years has flowers on their feet and lyrics on their backs, sea creatures of every size and stripe winding down their shoulders to their wrists. I remain one of only a few people in my immediate circle that has yet to get a tattoo. Others find that very strange.
“Let me see your tattoo,” people will say to me on the street, conversationally, like it’s nothing at all. When everyone else is rolling back pant legs and sleeves, untucking shirts and pulling up hair. Swapping stories and comparing scars, the hows and whys and whens.
“I don’t have one,” I tell them with a shrug.
The look I get is always a little weird. “Oh. Really?” they ask. “You just seem like the person to have them.”
Yeah. I get that a lot.
There was a period in my life when I was gun-ho to get a tattoo, like most young people eager to punch holes in their faces or mark up their bodies. Anything to make me stand out like the precious little snowflake I knew I truly was inside. That’s a bad attitude to have, and as I grew older, I began to appreciate what a tattoo was. It’s a piece of art. A memory, a moment in time, good or bad. It’s something to be enjoyed and remembered and displayed, whether for others or just yourself. For me, I’ve found few things worth marking myself with, far too fickle and fashion-conscious to commit to something as permanent as that. Instead I funneled this youthful exuberance into fashion. There I could craft something a little more lasting for myself.
Piercings are just accessories to me, like this week’s dye job, my novelty nail polish or the spikes on my boots. It’s an impression that I can control. I can swap the jewelery out for every occasion, studs for hoops, tapers for spirals, my nose ring for a bone or a screw. Of course I punched holes in my face, because I love having them. I feel like a complete person with them. And I always want more, because the more I have, the more put-together I am. They make me more cohesive than I am on my own. With a tattoo I don’t know if I’ll get tired of it, and I certainly can’t swap it out when I get bored. Piercings I can change the appearance of. Tattoos are forever.
That’s a lot of responsibility for little old me. Sorry.
I don’t dislike tattoos by any means. I admire them, and the people who get them. I just haven’t felt the desire to get one for myself. It wouldn’t complete me, and I don’t have much time or patience for unnecessary trinkets. Maybe one day that will change…