Monday, January 21, 2008

Why I Do Not Have a Tattoo

Lots of in-house fun today. Painting the basement, going to yoga class covered in paint (we got up very early, but not early enough to eat, paint AND wash), and then picking out flooring for the nearly-done rumpus room down there.

Afterwards, we treated ourselves (we were out grownups only) to a nice cup of coffee. And at Peets there were displays of tableware. Since having children, my priorities have changed, somewhat, and one of the things I put behind me mostly is a terrible craving for dinnerware. Plates, tea services, matching linens. . . I usually have it under control. I do this by reflecting on the fact that a) my children still break many things, and b) dinner time doesn't often resemble the fantasy portrayed in a Pottery Barn catalog and c) there is Time Enough for Such Things.

But some things can trigger a flare-up. Peets had a nice set of tea/coffee things, with sort of a Polish folk design on them. Luscious colors -- deep blues and reds -- enough to trigger a horrible desire to just run out and buy a nice tea set -- a red pot! Matching cups! Maybe. . . saucers.

When I came to, I was clutching a sticky bun and remembering that my children are, at this very moment, in exile upstairs until-it-is-clean-and-I'm-not-kidding. The other realization that hit me, thinking about carpet and paint and deep, enticing colors of tea pots, was that I'm not that permanently attached to many things.

The broad outlines are the same -- I still tend towards comfortable, sporty, outdoor clothing -- but the particulars change. When I spied a sweet young thing wearing a pair of Monkey Boots, black leggings, a wee black skirt, a wool coat, and Serious Librarian glasses, I saw me in graduate school. I don't think it's a look I can still pull off.

I bet I wouldn't even like the same tea pots any more, assuming that I had the kind of life which allowed me to indulge every lustful whim towards ceramic and cloth. I don't know if I still like my wedding china, because I'm afraid to take it out. So while I'm still recognizably the same person, the most external expressions of me change.

Bringing me to why I don't have a tattoo. There isn't anything I can commit to long enough to want it inked under my skin. I know some people have their children's names tattooed on them, and I think it's fine, for them. Me? I'm way too aware of what skin does as it ages. Plus, I also don't carry pictures of my children. There's no question at all that they are central to my life -- in essence, their names are burned into me, inside. I don't need them anywhere else to hold them in my heart.

I'm also aware of what time does most cruelly to memories in some cases. When my grandmother died, she was alone in the world, even though she was surrounded by her children. Her mind had left them behind in another iteration of herself. She was well-cared for, but she was profoundly alone. If this happens to me someday, having names on my ankle or bicep isn't going to remind me of where I misplaced those relationships.

And when you have four children, three of whom have extremely long names, and one of whom has many names, where do you find the body real estate? (Pause for my spouse to mention my rear end.)

I plan to stay pretty much the same me. I plan to keep loving but not indulging in table thingies. I plan to keep knitting, even though the thought of One More Sleeve right now is killing me. I'll get there, even if I'm not willing to permanently ink a pair of circular needles on me.


Kate said...

Logic understood and accepted... but if I may, I'd like to share the story that inspired my mom and I to get our first tattoos together. (Yes, you read that right. My grandmother has one, too, but she got hers later... we did sit with her, though!)

My mom did an internship in the ER during her MSW coursework, and one of the women who came in was in her high 80s. She was alone - family was geographically far away, husband had died - so my mom just sat and chatted with her for a while.

She was complaining of abdominal pain, so at one point a nurse came in to poke and prod a bit. When she did, my mom saw the woman's abdomen, which had a large, colorful tattoo spread across it - a sort of nature/Asian/flowers/birds sort of thing. My mom asked about it, and the woman smiled and said, "It's actually sort of new. I got it in my 60s, not too long after my husband died. I realized that someday, I was going to be alone, in a hospital or a nursing home, and I might be unconscious or unable to speak for myself. And I decided to get this tattoo, to remind anyone who saw it that I did have a life, that I wasn't just an old woman in a hospital bed all alone somewhere."

I just thought that was so cool, and not long after my 19th birthday, my mom and I got matching sunshines wearing sunglasses. It's not my style now, but it's on my abdomen over my left pelvic bone area, so no one sees it if I don't want them too (that smile gets verrrrry wide during pregnancy!). And regardless of style, it's a mark of an epiphany and a particular time in my life. I got another, of a lizard, on my right inner ankle, to remind me of a time when I lived alone and worked my way through a very dark depression and nasty PTSD and came out OK on the other side.

I'll get another, someday. Something Celtic, incorporating my children's names or initials, likely on my lower back. I prefer them to be hide-able if I want to hide them, but display-able if I so choose.

So, anyway... I get your point and support it. But I've got ink. :)

suzee said...

What a lovely bit of writing.

Makes me feel just terrible about coveting a bigger TV the way I do...

Charity said...

Well said and understood. My husband and I were just talking the other day about how much we've changed over the last 10 years - our inner core has stayed the same, but so many little things, preferences, loves, interests have grown and changed and morphed. Plus, there's the added aspect of how much we have grown into a compromised unit - I'm more like him, and he's more like me, in little ways. Imagine in another 10!

Robin said...

Interesting post, as always! I don't have a tattoo for many of the same reasons. I'm all about flexibility, and somehow a tattoo would limit that for me (with respect to clothing choices as well as changes of mind.)

bfmomma said...

First of all, I LOVE Kate's comment. I may send it to my mom, actually...

But I haven't gotten a tattoo for the same reason as you, sort of. I, too, change my mind often and my tastes. And I just don't have anything that I have felt truly "meaningful" enough to have tattooed on me. Sure, my dh or kids' names, but I don't LIKE name tattoos--I like PRETTY tattoos! :)

I can't wait to see pics of the finished rec room! fun!

NeedleDancer said...

Except for the having a basement to fix and paint part, you sound like ME!
I too have a weakness for tableware -- I own a lovely china tea set that I bought in London many years ago. I think I've used it once. If only I actually hosted tea parties!
But I come all over weak when allowed in the doors of a Crate & Barrel. I crave lovely yet effective cloth napkins, and better plates than we have. And glassware. Oh my. I am so weak when it comes to glass!!
there are the children....
whose names I won't tattoo on my body, even though they are so very important to me.
And I sort of want a tattoo, but can't (even after about 25 years trying) figure out WHAT to put on my body forever or WHERE to put it. That permanence thing. Never getting to change your mind! Or move it... or ...

Anonymous said...

You are lucky to be so reflective. If my 22 year old self had consulted my 38 year old self, I would not have my child's name tattooed on me!


Morenna said...

Well, you could always get a Thing 1-4 tattoo in a nice decorative script and perhaps with Roman numerals, though it would take lots of explanation every time someone saw it. :-)

Personally, I've never been able to find a tat design I just couldn't live without. My tastes change too often and nothing I've seen yet has had sufficient magic for me to have it inked upon my bod.

For what it's worth, I think second sleeve-itis is much much worse than second sock-itis.

allisonmariecat said...

I can't think of anything that I would want to be that permanent, and your lovely essay makes me feel like that's okay :)

I love the stripey sweater! Looks classic, yet fun.

Susan said...

I'm loving the sweater. I swear that since I've done a small piece of colorwork on my Tomato project, I'm hooked now!

I think I'm the only one that's posted that has tattoos that I don't regret. In my mid thirties, I'm happy with my two choices - especially their private location. It was a personal choice that I can share or not. Of course when my Mom found out and saw them, I had to hug her and make her a cup of tea. lol.

amanda j said...

Great post! I have a tattoo that is almost fifteen years old. I don't regret getting it, even though it doesn't 'mean' anything, except that I was a free and independent young woman who chose to get a tattoo!

My weakness is cushions.