Monday, July 18, 2005

Meaningful Tattoos

If you have ever struggled with your body image and need examples of how to feel good about yourself no matter your size or physical situation, I suggest you immediately visit a Tattoo Expo. This is three days of unabashed, uninhibited, freak fun where all walks of life are unafraid to literally expose themselves and their art. Kind of like a tamer Real Sex episode. And the best part of a Tattoo Expo is that staring is welcomed. Any group that stereotypically is linked to tattoos is represented. And random types that you would never consider as tattoo lovers are there too. Everyone is there. It's a rainbow coalition of body ink and piercing. Within the confines and comfort of an expo, the body is simply a canvas no matter how round, bony, caved-in, curvy or rippley you are; a canvas to be turned into thoughtful, beautiful art or apparently a walking altar for Satan. The canvases, whether XXXL or XXS, whether adorned with a headless baby tattoo or a Hello Kitty symbol all share a I-Love-What-I've-Done-With-This-Don't-You vibe. It's actually refreshing to be surrounded by that much confidence, and interestingly, flaws become less apparent when someone just struts their shit through a crowded convention center.

What's up.

Uncle Marty?

All of us that have been tattooed are bonded by certain similarities: We have endured the pain of the needle; we share the need to express our creativity through permanently marking ourselves up; and most importantly, we have carved into our skin symbols that are personally very meaningful and significant.

Or not . . .

I talked to one tattoo artist at the Pomona Body Art Expo that my husband and I went to yesterday. The artist had turned away a big guy looking to get the San Francisco 49'ers symbol on his arm. I said, "Why didn't I think of that? The 49'ers!" He said, "You wouldn't believe how many corporate logos I've done." I said, "What, like Starbucks?" "Done it," he said. "COME ON!" I yelled at him. He proceeded to tell me all the companies he's branded on people including a ton of car logos, motorbike part companies, Apple Computer and even Loew's. As in all "art", there is mostly bad, some good and a couple brilliant ones. It is exactly the case at a tattoo festival too. And there are usually themes that run though certain generations and cultures. The old bikers get the lone wolf with the moon and the american flag draped around an eagle ("These colors don't run", but they do fade after a few years if not properly cared for). The chicanos get the great Azteca calendar and that one picture of the warrior holding up his dead, gorgeous princess on a cliff. The more gangsta dudes have sets and shout outs on their face and throats. The swinger group have the cherries and pin up girls and nautical stars. Then there's the goth kids that would tattoo their teeth black if that would take. And everyone dips into the asian-themed tattoos. I just read an article about a kid in England that got chinese characters on his arm that he believed meant, "Honor, Truth, Love" and after every chinese-speaking person laughed after seeing the tattoo, he found out it really meant, "At the end of the day, this is still an ugly boy." Whoa - he got punk'ed asian style. The most beautiful piece I saw all day was on a lean Asian woman I called The Fitness Instructor that had a full-back piece that curved to her body. It was a super detailed, fantastically colored geisha that stood in a lotus-filled creek with an umbrella. Jaw-dropping.

I got something new yesterday. As with all my tattoos, the new ones have a lot of personal meaning. But these new ones have more corny significance than the others, and because I'm not big on the inspirational card/emails/sayings I'm a little embarrassed to say it out loud. Which is why I'm telling the internet. I think all symbols have corny significance which I don't think is a bad thing. I think something that inspires and reminds you of commitments and dedications is ok with me. Like a wedding ring. Like a religious icon. Like the roses I got tattooed on the tops of my feet yesterday. I figured I would tattoo things that that symbolize what holds the highest priority for me; dedication to my health and dedication to my family. With peak health I'm can do anything. And my family only means --everything to me. My health takes care of me physically and my family takes care of me emotionally. Yellow/orange rose on the top of one foot; peachy/pink rose on top of the other foot. Heart & Soul.

While getting tattoos, spectators love to browse by and ask, "Does it hurt?" Which is an obvious question, but as my tattoo artist Tim McVoy loves to comment, I get tattoos in the most painful spots. He was not kidding. The tops of the feet. . . WOW, rough. So, when people asked, "Does it hurt?" I yelped out, "Like a motherfucker," which is ok to shout out at a tattoo expo. I said, "like a motherfucker" forty-eight times. Made me feel better. One classic couple came by and talked to me for a bit. He was a good looking guy with light brown skin and round pool-blue eyes in his mid twenties and she was a slightly haggard biker chick in her late thirties that in quick, certain angles still held a bit of hotness -- though not according to my husband. She was nearly six feet tall, waist-long yellow hair; a big girl in a jean mini and a low, white halter that barely contained humongous boobs. My husband ran to me before they came over and said, "One nipple is pointing straight down and one is pointing at a right angle." I couldn't get over how they were trying so hard to escape her top. When the couple stood over me, the guy grimaced every time the needle grinded over my foot bones. And the lady told me that her tattoo -- a hideous train of botched hibiscus on her lower back -- hurt more than having kids. I said, "Really?" She said, "And I didn't have no drugs having kids." And the guy said, "And she's had six of them." I asked, "Tattoos?" And she said, "No, kids." And in our minds, I know Husband and I were both yelling, "DDAAMMNN." She said, "Yeah, my 19 year old is thinking about getting her first tattoo." She looked at me. And this is a critical moment between two women. When one looks haggard (but she doesn't think so but suspects that I do) and she's put it out there that she has a 19 year old daughter when, though she looks like she's been ridden way hard (though her man obviously is loving him some of that), she's still too young to have a 19 year old . . . and she's waiting for my response. And I give it up because after six kids, she deserves that; women in general deserve that. I don't have a beef with her fishing from me and I am actually touched by her insecurity masked as confidence. I said, "You must've started WAY young, girl." She was relieved and answered with coy, rehearsed shyness, "Yeah." Then a tiny three year popped out from behind her with the guy's exact eyes, and I said, "Wow, your baby is really beautiful." Again, she enjoyed the compliment. And I was glad to boost a sister up as my feet were meaningfully getting razor bladed like a motherfucker.


Suse said...

Just browsing through your archives now ... I can't imagine how much it must hurt getting your feet tattooed. But I was touched that you dished out the compliments to the biker woman.

And, the chinese tattoo cracked me up. My hairdresser has red chinese characters on the inside of his wrist (now that would hurt, right? I can't even look at it without wincing,) and I always tease him that it says 'gullible white dickhead'.

inkgrrl said...

I love your tats and your writing! Sorry this comment is in the wrong place, but your girls might also want to check out WriteGirl - terrific place for girls to learn some of the many ways to speak their many truths.