Growing up, I agreed with my parents on most of their values, including this one: Don’t ever get a tattoo. My mother in particular loathes them. She hates their permanency, their boldness (anything non-minimalistic), and how a certain German dictator would mark his prisoners with tattoos before sending them to their deaths. I agreed with her wholeheartedly, and I assumed I’d never want a tattoo in my life.
Then my neighbor got a tattoo on her eighteenth birthday, when I was a sophomore in high school. It was two words on her left shoulder: “Be art”. I’d never seen a tattoo like that--just two words? Where was the color and the giant design? It intrigued me; this girl I’d always known was now changed somehow, because she had this on her body for the rest of her life. When a girl in my grade got a dragonfly tattoo on her forearm that looked pencil-drawn, I was further mystified. Maybe tattoos were cool--or at least minimalistic, simple ones like those.
But then there was my parents and the legacy-with-the-German-dictator to think about. If I got a tattoo, they’d nearly disown me, if not actually do so--they’d at LEAST be immeasurably disappointed in me. Also, would I be dishonoring my Jewish heritage? Most Jewish people don’t get tattoos, both for religious reasons and for that reason. But I’m technically not Jewish at all--while my last name is nearly as Jewish as you can get, my Mom’s Christian, and as Judaism is passed through the mother...I’m Jewish by last-name and culture only. Plus, there was the commitment to think about. What if I decided I hated my tattoo five years out? Or worse, what if the tattoo was horrendously done? These are all questions--and reasons--that have prevented me from getting a tattoo.
But over quarantine, I got into a reality-competition show called Ink Master, and it reignited my passion in them. The show’s fairly simple: Tattoo your “canvases” (human volunteers) with the prompts or rules provided, and the worst tattoos gets their artists sent home, until a winner can be crowned. I learned a lot about tattooing through bingeing that show, such as what American Traditional tattoos look like, what makes a tattoo good (clean lines and decent shading, primarily), and where to not get tattooed for both your own and your artist’s convenience (ribs, palms, and skulls are bad). I learned about some amazing artists, such as Ryan Ashley, the first female Ink Master winner and a bona fide bad bitch, Kelly Doty, who came in third in Ryan’s season and who is based near where I live (also a bad bitch), and Anthony Michaels, the winner before Ryan Ashley. I learned to appreciate the big, elaborate, colorful tattoos that I’d primarily seen on other people when I was younger, and which I had primarily disliked. [bf_image id="q2wioz-cdl1mg-cpcptj"]
Watching the show reignited my interest in tattoos, and over quarantine, I kept coming up with new ideas for what my first tattoo would be. For years I’d thought the key of E flat major on the back of my neck (or below my brainstem) would be my first, but I got turned off to it in the last few months, because I decided maybe I didn’t like the idea of bold lines and a bold Treble clef. So then I thought I’d get the words, “Not if I see you first”, which is the last line of dialogue the character of Chris Chambers speaks in both the movie Stand by Me and its original novella “The Body”. THEN I found a tattoo artist who could do really amazing micro-portraits, and I decided a portrait of Chris Chambers would be my first, until I learned the artist charges $2500.
Now? I think I’d like to get a sun as my first tattoo. I want all my tattoos to have multiple meanings, and the sun definitely means a bunch of things to me. I adore sunsets, my mother calls me her “sunny child”, it’s associated with summer, which is my favorite season in many ways, and the word “sun” is featured in some of my absolute favorite songs ever, including “Sleep” by Azure Ray, “When the Sun Hits” by Slowdive, “Don’t Take the Money” by Bleachers, and “Sunlight” by Yuno. Not to mention that without the sun nothing on Earth would exist! How soon I get that sun though is anybody’s guess, including mine, because of the commitment/parental opinions/Jewish ties. And I may have a different idea for a first tattoo. I may be debating the matter with myself until I die, and never get one. But one thing’s definitely for sure: I now believe tattoos are amazing.