Hey there, lookit what I got yesterday:
I hadn’t been planning to get another tattoo for awhile due to the cost of moving to Seattle, but my St. Louis artist came to town for a local shop’s anniversary and was taking appointments. With plans in mind for my lower arms and my upper back, I came up with this piece on the fly. It’s on the outside of my left calf, so please enjoy imagining the contortions required for this self portrait.
Having a lot of tattoos means that a lot of people ask about my tattoos, which is fine, and I’m aware that I chose for them to be visible, therefore I knew in some part of my brain that they would attract questions. Aside from the obvious (and obviously stupid) questions like “did they hurt?” and “how much did they cost?” sometimes people ask me what they mean. This is a difficult question to answer, not only because one person’s reasons aren’t always understood by someone else and sometimes the reason isn’t really anyone else’s business, but because most of the time, there isn’t a meaning. Most of the time, I just like the way they look.
This is why I roll my eyes in anticipation when someone tries to tell me that while they don’t think tattoos are bad, they would personally never get one. Um, okay, and thanks for the insult disguised as permission? Mainly, though, in my experience, “I have no problem with tattoos, I’d just never get one” is almost always followed by “as long as the tattoos mean something.” As if the only legitimate reason to be tattooed is to remind yourself of something, which, if you know your Leviticus, is a big no-no for the Israelites, who, contrary to popular belief, aren’t prohibited from tattooing, they’re just not allowed to permanently mark themselves in remembrance of the dead.
But anyway…mean what? And why do you care? And what’s wrong with “it looks nice” meaning something to me?
As we were settling into the piece, my artist asked me if there was any significance to the narwhal. Mind you, he was the one who said “a what?” when I said “a narwhal” on the phone the day before. I told him there wasn’t any real significance; I just liked narwhals, and they were an evolutionary marvel, and I suppose if you really wanted to get into it, the inkwell and pen are obviously because I write, and I suppose that I shouldn’t limit myself to writing improbable things because they might turn out to be completely natural, just like a narwhal. But even I think that’s getting a little too deep, and it’s my leg.
I’m mostly glad that despite my initial fears, narwhals are not the next big hipster animal (that’s foxes, in case you were wondering). I’ve got a history of getting certain tattoos just before the hipsters do. First it was swallows. The year after it was a star. Then it was skulls, and by then I got sick of it and got so hyper-specific about my tattoos that anyone who copies them (including one drunk girl at Courtesy who told me that she was getting an Alice in Wonderland half sleeve because she’d seen mine before and liked it so much) is clearly copying me, and at least I know it when I see them.
There’s a certain angry regret involved when something that came out of your brain one year gets appropriated by the hipsters the next, and there’s nothing you can do about it because saying “I got mine before it was cool” is the most hipster thing of all.