Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tattoos, (or) The Death Knell in my Modeling Career (and it was going so well, too)

Last wednesday, between going to the dentist and trying my hand at making gimlets (wooooooo gimlets!  Glass of gin and some syrup, wooo!) a coworker (whom we will now refer to as Princess Bubbblegum) and I stopped by Regeneration Tattoo in Allston, MA. Up until recently I have lived within a 10 mile radius of Regeneration for 4 years, but never went in. I have two tattoos: a small bird on my arm that I got the minute I turned 18, and a bicycle wheel on my lower left leg that I forget about every winter. The bike wheel had been done in Maine, and many moons ago I got the little bird inked onto me in a small room at Chameleon, in Harvard Square.

When you get a tattoo, the first thing everyone wants to know is 1. Did it hurt, and 2. what is its significance? And while answering these questions again and again might get annoying, its easy to see why people want to know. I, too, ask the questions of other tattoo-havers, because choosing to alter your body permanently usually has a good story attached to it. The little bird I got mostly because I was 18 and I wanted to get something I drew myself; it's a silhouette really, its very simple and kind of abstract, a lot of people don't know what it is. Looking back on it, while I don't dislike the tattoo, I might have advised a younger me to get something else. Now, the tattoo just reminds me of being 18, and now, almost 6 years later, the little bird is very much just part of my body. If I dislike it, it's the same level of dislike I might have about a freckle, or my body proportions. It just is there, it's been there for a while now, it's not going away.

The bicycle wheel has a more subtle sentiment to it. Bicycle building used to be a hobby of my Dad's, and I felt it was the first thing we really bonded over. For a while at the end of high school and the first two years of college, I was really into riding bikes, especially since I lived in the city and I didn't have a license. I got the wheel as sort of a tribute to that connection with my Dad. Also, the picture I got the wheel from is a picture of one of the Duchamp "Readymades", and while I'm not a huge Duchamp fan, I felt that getting this picture of the readymades would be a good testament to my art school background, a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to my art school dropout status, which is also permanent, unless I went back to art school (shudder).

A month prior to Wednesday, Princess Bubblegum and I had taken a rough draft of an idea we both wanted tattoos of to Cathy at Regeneration. Cathy worked her magic, took a rough idea and made it into something amazing, and a month later, here I am, wearing  it permanently etched into my skin.

I hadn't been tattooed in a while; it's been at least 2 years since I had the bicycle wheel done. I found the experience to be far more enlightening than I remember. I lay down under Cathy's needle and breathed my way through the initial pain until my adrenaline kicked in and the process was merely uncomfortable. Suddenly, I felt all the trouble of my life begin to fade away. I knew, with distinct certainty, what to do about all the little twitchy matters that have been haunting me these past few months. I came off of that table with a clear mind; it felt like I had been doing yoga for hours, but instead I just got jabbed repeatedly with a needle - and now I have this nifty souvenir.

Tattoo culture has changed from when I was a kid, and drastically from when my parents were kids. Lena Dunham, creator of controversial HBO series "GIRLS" and well-documented haver of tattoos, has written some of her real tattoo experiences into her character on the show. Hannah, Dunham's character, mentions that she got her tattoos in high school after gaining a lot of weight really fast and wanting to feel in control of her own body. I cannot claim what level of truth this quote reflects in regard to Dunham's personal experience, but I think for a lot of women, its sentiment rings true.

For me, tattoos are a way of reclaiming and reconnecting with my body. As an average female adult, my body and the rights it has access to are often up for debate, but having a personal connection to one's husk means more than just fighting the system from a political stance. Women from all over the world live in a media culture that urges us to manipulate our bodies, that places arbitrary values on the shape and size of our physicality. Women are taught to take up less space, to be diminutive, silent, and passive. Tattoos don't have to be a symbol of the rejection of this lessening, but mine are.

And what does this newest tattoo mean? Well it's got some history to it that I won't divulge here, but I feel its core message is appropriate to the whole act of tattooing, and so I will leave you with it: "tempus fugit" is latin, and it is often misinterpreted as "time flies", but its real meaning is slightly more nuanced, it closer translates to "time flees". Time is fast, it slips by unnoticed, and leaves us chasing after it, always looking for more. You have to pay close attention to the small amount of time you see as it flits away from you. Be sure to do and enjoy all the things you can while you can; you have to eat the strawberry while it's ripe. It won't be ripe forever.

you can see my other little bird tattoo in this photo, I didn't notice until now. Hey buddy!

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