Several of my friends seem to be into body piercing. Chuck has a simple tongue stud. One of my teenage coworkers relished in showing off a belly button stud a few months ago. Whither has a nose piercing, and a few journal entries ago at her website, she mused about getting her eyebrows done. But the queen of all of this has to be L, who has her lip, tongue and nipples pierced. Whenever one of the teenagers at work starts talking about getting some kind of piercing, I just tell them about L, and that seems to make them think twice. On a few occasions, when I really wanted to get the teenagers off of this topic and back on to their work, I’ve given these friends some extra nose rings, belly button studs and, on one occasion, a little something (ahem) down there. But with all this body jewelry surrounding me, I’ve never been tempted to get something for myself. While it looks good on my friends, I’ve never felt that it’s for me. But a tatoo, however, is something I think I could get.
On one hand, tatoos and piercings have always held a commonality. They are both seen as signs of youthful rebellion; as something that the norm does not want you to do. On the other, a tatoo seems to be a much larger prospect than a simple body piercing. If, someday, you decide that a piercing is not for you, you simply remove the stud or ring and let nature heal your body. If you change your mind on a tatoo, though, you are looking at several hours of costly surgery. A tatoo is a much larger commitment than a piercing. When that artist sticks an ink-filled needle into your skin, you are in it for life. Why do I want to go all the way? I don’t know. I just do.
Of course, we are at the dawn of a new millennium. It is possible for one to try out a tatoo before committing. A trend for the past few years has been henna, a form of tatoo that finds its origins in India, if memory serves. You’ve probably seen them, but let me elaborate, because I need to pad this column. They consist of intricate patterns of lines, each one having its own symbolic meaning. Henna is also very non-permanent, wearing off within a few weeks. If I ever do get serious about this, this would be a great “trial basis.”
So, then, let’s say I tried this, and I like it, and now I want something permanent. Where on my body would I like to put this? Some of the more common places for a tatoo seem to be on the back, even on the butt. I’m not sure why. Maybe because these are people who weren’t sure if they really wanted the tatoo or not. In such an out-of-the-way location, they’re not going to be staring at it every time they step into the shower. Out of sight, out of mind. That just doesn’t do it for me. When it comes to a tatoo, I’ve always been drawn to my arms. That probably stems from too many Popeye cartoons, or my crazy uncle who’s got his initials on his forearm. Not that low, though. Don’t get me wrong, I do see some appeal in putting it in an out-of-sight location. If I ever am a professional, then I can’t have my tatoo clashing with my three piece suit. I’m thinking on the upper arms, maybe even the shoulder. Yeah. My left shoulder. If I were to get one, that’s where it has to be.
I’ve got a location, now I just need something. That’s the key to a tatoo. What do I love so dearly that I want it forever etched onto my skin? What emblem represents what I am so completely that I must have it on my body? This is the one that raises the most questions.
As most people know, I am a trekkie. Do I really hold Star Trek in such high esteem that I want the Starfleet logo on my shoulder? When I head out to the beach on some sunny Sunday, and I rip off my shirt for all the world to see, do I really want all the cute bikini-clad girls pointing and whispering to themselves, “Now that’s a geek.” As much as I love Star Trek, I don’t think the Starfleet logo is for me. But then, maybe I could go with the Klingon Empire logo. That’s one that’s Star Trek enough, but probably won’t be immediately recognizable to most people. But I’m not sure that I embody the warrior spirit that it symbolizes. No, I think the Star Trek universe is one that has to be left out of this discussion.
I’ve read a lot of comic books. I’ve watched a lot of cartoons. Perhaps some superhero holds the key to this question. There’s always Batman. There is a hero that is everything I aspire to be. But getting a superhero emblem tatoo also shows how much of a devoted fan you are. While I do love Batman, I just don’t think I’m enough of a true fan to be constantly reminded of him. If I cast my mind farther back, I come to my childhood, and the Autobots and the Decepticons. Which would I rather have: the emblem which symbolizes all that is good and pure from the planet Cybertron, or that which represents the ultimate evil? Neither, really, as I’m not sure if either one is a true representation of me.
I could always go for the obscure. Now that I’m watching a lot of Shadow Raiders on DVD, I see that Planet Rock had a wonderfully simple, very tribal looking emblem. It resembles something like a stylized pick-ax.
But, there’s one undercurrent to all of this: they all state my geekhood. Maybe I should go with something with a broader base. A maple leaf, in a stunning show of patriotism. A bear, because I’ve always like bears. A heart, like Hefty Smurf. A flower, to show my sensitive side. A Japanese character, because that was trendy five years ago. Maybe, like my uncle, I should just get my initials. But why? I know my initials. Why any of these? They don’t seem to represent all that is me.
There is one idea that has always plagued me. Perhaps the one idea that started this talk in the first place. It would mean violating the on-the-shoulder locale, but it would be a worthy sacrifice. My mind often goes back to the coolest guy ever to wear a tatoo: Snake Eyes, the resident ninja of G.I. Joe. On his right forearm, he had a simple pattern of nine lines. It was the emblem of his ninja clan. The comic said that it was a Japanese character for wisdom, but whether it really is or not, I don’t know. Bottom line was it was cool. That, I think, would be the perfect tatoo for me, even though it’s hero worship. But what a hero!
Maybe that’s why I’ve never gone to get a tatoo. I’m just flooded with so much confusion over the act. As much as I would like to get one, I just can’t think of any sort of design that represents me. Why should I commit, when I can’t even decide what to commit to? Perhaps, maybe, someday, I will find the one thing that will say to me, “I must be on your body!” Until that day, though, it’s best not to rush into anything. Maybe I’ll just get some earrings to tide me over.