I’d Paint My Body ‘Til All My Skin Was Gone Or, Wear Your Heart On Your Skin In This Life


I have wanted a tattoo since I was in high school but never really took the leap and actually got one because:

– Pain. However, the older I get, the more I realize that Westley was right (as he always is because there is a shortage of perfect breasts in this world and true love doesn’t happen every day) – “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

– I’m flighty. Like the flightiest little bird that ever took to the skies. If I’m going to get something indelibly inked onto my flesh, it damn well better mean something instead of just being a flight of fancy.

Over the years, I’ve thought the following would be good tattoos: stars, the nataraja, a number of quotes from The West Wing (including Josh’s line about how President Bartlet’s a good man with a good heart and he doesn’t hold grudges. That’s what he pays Josh for), various words written in various languages that are not English and a Sailor Jerry style swallow.

These are all terrible ideas.

Among my less terrible ideas – the last lines of The Great Gatsby:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

But that’s a whole lotta text for a girl that doesn’t have a whole lotta real estate on her body.

Also, Baz Luhrmann did his level best to ruin Gatsby for me with his stupid plastic zebras and fixation on ALL THE WRONG THINGS (the shitty millennial music video aspects of the story – Pretty people! Money! Champagne! – instead of focusing on how the hope that sustains a man is the same hope that will destroy him. J.R. Jones was so right when he called it, “a ghastly Roaring 20s blowout at a sorority house.”), so my veneration has waned a little.

Among my decent ideas are Bruce and Bukowski.

There’s a lyric from Badlands that I’ve been chasing around my head for years – “It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

Happiness should be the default setting for humanity but as I grow older, I realize that this is not the case. Happiness is often hard won and the pursuit of it is something that people feel they have to apologize for.

Yeah. That’s bullshit.

Your happiness matters. You should strive towards it and to hell with anyone who begrudges, condemns or demands atonement from you for being glad you’re alive.

It’s tough, though and every now and then – you need reminding of this very simple fact. Every day, you wake up to absolution.

I’m sure there’s at least one cautionary tale about dating someone with a Bukowski line tattooed on their body.

Hell, if I was dating a guy and I found out he had a Bukowski tattoo, I would consider it:

A) a massive car dealership sized red flag. Like dude. No. This is going to end badly. Danger Will Robinson. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
B) ridiculously hot.

What? I am large; I contain multitudes.

For all his piss and vinegar and bile, Bukowski had this sense of hope. He kept it caged like the bluebird in his heart and the booze and the cigarettes and the whores and the broken hearts couldn’t keep it from singing out:

What matters most is how you walk through the fire.
Life is as kind as you let it be.
It has been a beautiful fight. Still is.
We have all this beauty in the world and all we have to do is reach out and touch it.
No one can save you but yourself and you’re worth saving

And of course – Hey baby, when I write – I’m the hero of my shit.

I probably wouldn’t get those last lines inked on me (despite the fact that I am certainly the heroine of my shit) but the rest of his work? Definitely worth deliberation.

I don’t want a tattoo because it’s cool or because a majority of my friends have one (those days have long passed me by). I want one because it would be a conscious decision I made regarding the state of who I am.

I’ve got scars I never requested. Tiny marks from wounds that never healed properly I never sought out. Freckles that have bloomed all over my neck and decolletage, giving me the appearance of an Everything Bagel. Even my pierced ears were a decision made for me as a child, but a tattoo?

That’s an alteration I have full control over. A permanent addition to a body that has served me well for the past 30+ years. A body that has survived hell and heartbreak and sickness and scrapes. A body that I don’t always love (as evidenced by my penchant to yelp out, “Oh, what in the unholy fuck is that all about?” while looking in the mirror) but manages to surprise me more often than not (yoga has made me realize how alternately strong and weak I am).

A body that is completely mine.

And what better way to honor it than by adorning it with something I love?

I Knew A Girl Who Kept Tattoos For Homes That She Had Loved, Or Let’s Talk Indelible Ink

I want a tattoo.

I’ve been turning this idea over and over in my head since my late teens but to date, nothing’s come to fruition (unless fruition means watching a Miami Ink marathon on TLC and spending entirely too much time poring over Contrariwise).

Three issues factor into the lack of indelible ink:

1. I’m like, 86% certain my mom would straight-up murder me. I asked my sister for her opinion and got the following:

Me: I want a tattoo
My Sister: No you don’t
Me: Yes, I think I do
My Sister: Have fun never seeing Mom again
Me: Mom couldn’t be that mad about it. Not if she wants to see grandbabies
My Sister: Can’t have some if you’re dead
Me: Good point

You know what, though? Murder is illegal in these here United States and I’m almost 30 (oh dear God…). So, I’m thinking maybe this one doesn’t hold up as well as it did when I was 19. Maybe. (I love you, Mom. Please don’t break my legs at the kneecaps)

Also, this exchange exemplifies why my sister is the favorite child and I am the first pancake. The one who turned out a little squibbly that invariably gets fed to the dog.

2. A fear of needles and dislike of pain in general, but in the words of Buttercup’s beloved Wesley — Life is pain, princess. Anyone who says different is selling something.

3. Indecision. What would I get? How big? Where? Do I really want this permanent addition to my body?

That last question made me realize something. After twenty seven years, I’ve got more than a few permanent additions on my body that I never really wanted — the scars on my right elbow (fell off a wall when I was seven, face-planted onto asphalt this past summer), the scar on my left knee (slashed open by leg while exiting a car when I was 19), my misshapen right ankle (fractured it when I was 17 while meeting Everclear) and that weird thing on my forehead from when I smashed into a wall (once at seven and again at nine).

When it comes to scars and other disfiguring oddities, I’m smothered-and-covered like Waffle House hashbrowns. These marks all tell a story, so why not write my own instead of smashing into it?

Which leads us to the bigger question of, “Alright. You want to get one…but what the hell do you want to get?”

If I was a man, I know exactly what I would get — a bluebird on my chest in honor of Charles Bukowski.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate over if you’re a broad with a bit of a va-va-voomy figure. Why? Because boob tattoos are trashy. Like mayonnaise and potato chip sandwiches trashy.

If I was remotely close to being a bad-ass, independently wealthy and tattoos were licked on by kittens, I know exactly what I’d get — the last words of The Great Gatsby.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

I’ve mentioned this to a few people and the first comment I usually hear is about what a huge hunk of text this is. Valid point. Especially when you consider that scientifically, I’m classified as puny.

I still keep chasing it around, though. These words knock me on my ass every single time I read them. They get tangled up in my head and make more sense than scripture, hymn, passage and verse. These are the words I turn to when I’m in need of solace or just a sense of security. Of home.

And that’s why I want them indelibly inked onto me. Because you can lose books and papers and pictures in frames. You can lose memories as well, but a tattoo? It’ll be there when everything else is gone.

Thus, we arrive at an impasse. I know what I want. I just don’t know where I want to get it or what I want it to look like.

And so we beat on….