If I were to get a tattoo I know exactly where it would be and what it would be of. Actually there would be two of them. I’ve known what and where they would be for a good long time, much longer than most people do when contemplating a tattoo. The placement is very clear and obvious to me. It is in part motivated by where I’ve seen tattoos on other people and liked them.
The first would be a tattoo of an otter on the upper inside my right arm. It would look somewhat like this t-shirt that has not been sold by urban outfitters for many moons. Sadly I do not own the tshirt but as a good friend once pointed out to me you can only reasonably own one otter tshirt before you become that crazy girl.
The second would be a quote. I’ve been unable to decide of what exactly for a while but I think I have it down. And bear with me and refrain from calling me a dorky hipster. Or do so in the comments. Whatever. It would probably be Make Good Art, as Neil Gaiman recommends we do. I like it. It’s simple and it’s a motto to live by. A constant reminder of what I should be doing. When things are good it tells me to celebrate but keep learning. When things are bad it reminds me not to give up. When I feel like doing nothing but gorging on popcorn and watching Netflix it reminds me that one must do work regardless of whether the mood happens to strike. If I could go back in time and change my awful high school year book quote, which was a shameful reference to a viral video I had been watching the morning we picked them out combined with a decision for a group of us to go with lemon themed quotes, I would change it to that. He hadn’t given the speech then but I would risk it. Change history. I would also buy some stocks and tell myself to take a year or two off before going to uni. Me at 17 needed much better guidance than the adult world was prepared to dispense to her. Me now could tell her a thing or two. I’ve learned so many things I wish we could just tell young creative people when they are in high school.
The other reason for wanting a quote is that I think words and writing are beautiful. I got into fonts during my student newspaper days and think that a typeface is a thing of beauty.
It would be on my left forearm. I like this spot. It looks great. Arm tattoos are attractive on guys. A good arm tattoo is like an accent. (One time I was wandering around and noticed myself oggling a guy because I liked his coat. I then realized it was the Men’s version of a coat that I had recently purchased from MEC. I was basically admiring how stylish my coat was.)
Despite this certainty I don’t think I’ll ever get a tattoo. There are so many reasons for this. In no particular order they would all stop me from diving in and doing it.
1. My parents would never approve of it (hi guys). They are from a generation that is still iffy on the whole tattoo thing and I think they’re glad neither of their kids have one (that they know of. My sister could be secretly hiding one for all we know). It’s not like for me where between half and a third of my friends have one. I don’t think my mother would ever accept it or get over it and I don’t want one badly enough to fight that battle.
To be fair this isn’t the biggest thing stopping me. I do lots of things that confuse my parents or that they don’t approve of. I don’t eat fish. My mother still hasn’t accepted this despite the fact that it’s been going on for over half my life. I support the federal NDP. I say Haters Gonna Hate on a frequent basis. I incorrectly pronounce French words in everyday conversation even though it confuses people and not everyone speaks French (growing up in French immersion I often assume that people just speak French and it’s weird when they don’t).
David Suzuki was on CBC a week or two ago talking about his book and what advice he would give to young environmental activists if their parents don’t support them. His grandson was arrested on Burnaby Mountain and he fully backed him. Not every child or grandchild is that lucky. He said they have to convince their parents because if you can’t convince your parents then you will never get the cause anywhere. I thought this was a terrible answer. My advice would have been to do what you want to do and let your parents deal with it. If you really want to do something then do it. Don’t let your parents stop you.
Also, you’re never going to see eye to eye with your parents on things even if you respect them and value their opinion. Sometimes they will say crazy nimby things and it will take all your willpower not to order an Acme product to drop on their head. You just have to agree to disagree.
2. I am afraid of needles. I have a history of fainting after blood tests, vaccines and having IVs put in. They’re not something I’m a fan of and I don’t know how well I could deal with it. I never had my ears pierced, which is largely my mother’s doing. As a kid I was never taken to the mall to have a gun poke a hole through my skin and I never felt a compelling desire to go on my own. I think piercings are a lot ickier from an irrational fear standpoint than tattoos. And no that doesn’t have to make sense.
3. I worry I might be allergic to the ink. For many this is irrational but I have an ever growing list of things that give me rashes, which includes henna and body paint. I don’t know how well my skin would deal with tattoo ink.
4. Tattoo ink is totally unregulated and some of the inks contain gnarly toxins. I learned this while writing something for work. It’s horrifying that they are unregulated. That seems like the type of thing we would want to have really strict rules on. You’re only injecting it into someone’s skin where it is meant to sit until they decompose. Not all inks are bad but the stuff that’s in them is really all over the place. If I got a tattoo I would make sure to research what was in each ink I was using to make sure it wasn’t cyanide (used in some yellows and reds as an iron cyanide compound) or anything else that you don’t want to pay to have embedded in your skin.
5. I would worry that they would get in the way if I was hospitalized or injured. Having tattoos anywhere on your arm or other parts of your body may one day prove to be inconvenient. Say they want to put an iv in there and you have Make Good Art right where an iv should go. Is that really a good choice? My recent iv experience taught me that all that real estate especially if you have sleeves is pretty useful for putting various tubes in. If you get a surgery or stitches in that area it could destroy your tattoo.
I’ve never understood why cyclists get leg tattoos. I pedal myself (cut or bruise my leg but bumping into my pedal awkwardly) at least every other time I ride. If I were to full on wipe out and be road rashtastic or worse then what would happen to that skin as it heals and what happens to that tattoo? I don’t want something that’s just gonna get all messed up.
6. In my mind I have this image of who I might be when I imagine these tattoos on somebody’s arm. It’s similar to who I actually am but a little different. She’s bolder, braver. Less scared of everything. She’s a lot like Ana Pascal in Stranger Than Fiction. She has that swag to her and pulls off the tattoos marvellously.
I’m not her. I’d like to be but I’m not. Instead I’m quiet and scared with slightly less swag. It’s just not me. If I thought it was really me I’d have put an otter on my arm years ago.