My boyfriend, Luke, got his first tattoo today in Lexington, Ky. I went with him for moral support and pretended to read my Spanish textbook while I watched. As we were leaving the tattoo parlour, Luke said that halfway through getting it, it hit him that he was literally going to have that tattoo forever.
I think every decision we make is like that, somehow. Tattoos are more obvious and prominent, but the more subtle decisions are perhaps the most powerful. C.S. Lewis said, “Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?”
When I got my tattoo a week after I graduated from high school, I wondered if I’d regret it. I put so much weight into the decision that I somehow assumed it would have stressful consequences. But really, I hardly notice it now. Maybe once a month, someone will gaze at my bare ankle and say, “I didn't know you had a tattoo. Is it new?”
I think that all of our decisions should reflect who we are and what we’d like to become. Obviously, that should include the way we handle our bodies. The bird of paradise tattoo on my ankle represents my childhood in Papua New Guinea. The ink was made out of isopropyl alcohol and the carbon from a kerosene lamp. It was then pricked into my skin with a straight pin shoved through the end of an eraser. I accidentally washed out the ink that night, so my best friend’s little brother, Tobias, had to redo it the following day.
But really, why do people get tattoos? To express a sentiment; as a reminder to themselves. Luke chose print crop marks because he is a graphic designer. A girl in the booth next to us lay in her underwear getting a large picture seared onto her chubby thigh. To each [her] own. I think what people really want when they get a tattoo is for people to ask them, “So what does it mean?”
Tattoos are a beautiful expression, in my thinking. One of my favourite verses is found in Song of Songs 8:6-7a, which says: “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away.”
In a way, Jesus has a tattoo to remind Him of us. Isaiah 49:15-16 says, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
Every time Jesus looks at the holes in His palms, it's a reminder of His sacrifice on the cross. I think that’s a fantastic expression of love.
I found this poem in "The Best American Poetry, 2012" anthology for my poetry writing class. I thought it was pretty wonderful. Plus, the title kind of happens to be my name:
By Kerrin McCadden
She says, It’s my birthday. I’m going tomorrow.
What’s your favorite font? What should I
have him write? Serifs, I say. I like serifs.
I like old typewriters, the keys little platters.
I don’t answer the question about what to write.
The vellum of her back. I am not her mother,
who later weeps at the words written between
her shoulders. I get ready to retract the idea of serifs,
the pennants that pull the eye from one word
forward, but the eye loves a serif. When we
handwrite, we stop to add them to I. Read this
word like typeface, make me always published,
I am always a text. Write this on your back,
I want to say. Write that you are a lyric
and flying – serifed, syntactical. Becca chooses
Make of my life a few wild stanzas. She lies
on the bed while the artist marks her back,
his needle the harrow for her sentence. Make of
my life a place to stand, stopping-places, a series
of rooms, stances, stare, stantia, stay. She has
shown him a bird she wants perched above the final
word, stanza. It is a barn swallow – ink blue flash.
He says, toward the end, so she can know it will hurt
to ink so much blue, I am filling in the stanza now,
and he stings her right shoulder again and again,
filling the room of the bird. Make of my life
a poem, she asks me and him and her mother
as she walks away, make of my life something
wild, she says. I watch her strike out across
Number 10 Pond, the tattoo flashing with each stroke
and there is barely enough time to read it.