How To Overthink Getting a Tattoo
There is not one place on my body that won't look like a melted candle by the time I'm in my early 60s. Or maybe late 30s, depending on how much I want that pizza tonight. There's also no faster route to antidepressants than looking at yourself naked in really bright bathroom light. What wattage are these bulbs? Where did that one hair come from?
I keep checking out my body (that bears an uncanny resemblance to the pile of snow in the parking lot) because I have been asking myself the same question for months now: do I want a tattoo, or what?
I ask myself in a tone that almost implies that I hope it just happens to me by accident or something.
<Mom, you don't need to get your inhaler, I won't have a tattoo at the end of this story.>
I can't believe I'm still asking myself this question. I'm famously decisive in my old age. If I sit too long with a choice, I'll actually die of indecision, so I typically pull the metaphoric trigger quickly. This, though, the permanence of it all, leaves me with a swarm of follow up questions that buzz annoyingly in my way of doing this thing I thought I wanted:
Why do I want a tattoo? What do I want to make so permanent? Is it just a way to express myself? Do I just want to annoy my parents because I have the emotional maturity of a 14 year old boy? Where would I even get it? Will it sag? Does one ask for references at the local tattoo saloon?
The thing is, yeah, tattoos are about as permanent as anything you can do to your body. It's permanent, but my body isn't. So what the heck is this pull to make something artistic of my myself?
Let's just get this out of the way: I'm not depressed or having a quarter-life crisis. Been there done that. This isn't some kind of dramatic change in attitude either. It's my life that has dramatically changed, and weirdly, I want to reflect that.
I just sort of recently decided that I want to do all the things that I possibly can do in this life that other people may have been robbed the chance to do. Even if it's wild and seemingly reckless, like getting a pizza at 9pm on a Thursday. Part of me feels rebellious because at heart all of us are the 16-year-old girl that was told they couldn't do something like get a tattoo, I guess. I wasn't exactly known for my rebellious streak in my younger years.
I mean, seriously. Is it that big of a deal? I can't imagine that a couple lines of ink on the upper layer of my skin that never caused harm to anyone ever is that big of an issue in the scheme of things. And yet I feel like it is.
The biggest thing I can't seem to stop asking is: what will people think when I'm 70?
How will I be looked at if I have tattoos and my skin is sagging and somehow I have more cellulite than I do now, and I have grey(er) hair, and I'm a grandmother? Will other old ladies with sagging skin and grey hair let their grandkids play at my house? Will they think I had a troubled past?
Actually, why would I not want to be looked at that way? My past has been as interesting as I want my body to be. I'm different than I was a couple of years ago, and it's been hard and awesome work. I want to show that on the outside, because frankly, I'm a little tired of explaining to people why going to get coffee is still such a big deal sometimes. (#anxiety) And sure, I want to show that I am not mundane and boring. I want my body to say that there's more to me than just the anxious girl who works in insurance and watches The Office on Netflix every day.
I know, I know. We shouldn't care what people think. But really? Shouldn't we pay attention to what other people think of us just some of the time? Isn't that an important part of evolution? If we didn't pay attention to what people thought of us we would've died as a species, right? We need other people's opinions to make sure that we're on the right footing and that we're not sociopaths. Or at the least that we don't watch too much of the Kardashians.
But what I don't need is judgment about personal expression. I need other people's opinions to right my ship sometimes, maybe, but I don't need them to steer for me.
So what. The hell. Is the problem?
I've done a lot in the last couple of years, and I'm proud. And I famously have a lot of skin, but there's not enough room on this canvas to show all the things that I want to say. I've also spent an embarrassing amount of time in my life jumping from trend to trend; from hobby to hobby; from new passion to new passion. I never spend more than a couple weeks doing the new thing in my life. I'll become a self-professed guru at something, and when the inspiration abandons me, I'm left feeling alone and like a shell. Like my permanence doesn't matter. Gross.
It can feel like there's nothing in my life that makes me want to love it forever, come hell or high water. I'm insistent that I have a thing. Everyone has a thing, and I want one too because I'm a petulant child.
I want whatever this feeling is to be the new me. I want to show exactly who I am, loud and proud, even if I'm not quite sure what exactly that is. I want to show anyone who sees me that I believe in myself *that* much, that I'm willing to wear it forever.
Or something. I think.
I realize in that sinking cold sweat kind of way, that I'm trying to prove something, and I don't even know what it is. Awesome.
So this is what I do now, I sit with my impulses. I sit, and it's hard, and it sucks, and it's practice, and I hate it.
I try to sit with an impulse to decide if it's really me that wants it. Is it the real me that wants to eat that thing, or drink that drink, or take that pill, or yell at that person, or call again, or text for the 30th time in a row, or buy that useless thing on Amazon. <----all things I've done at once.
I sit with things now more than I ever have. I sit and I feel it. I let it run over me or through me, which ever way it wants to run, and then let it move on.
And you know what? Sometimes I don't necessarily feel better after all the sitting. Sometimes I still feel the pull. Sometimes I still feel an itch or yearning or something deep in my gut that I can't quite put my finger on. It feels like something's missing. That I'm missing something. That I should be experiencing more. After all the sitting, it can still feel that I should be more impulsive and spontaneous to be fulfilled.
Sometimes I do feel like this is all just silly. I mean in reality, other then when I sit here and slowly type out what an impulse feels like while my friend naps on my couch, most of the time, an impulse will leave me as fast as it comes to me if I let it.
Today the sitting worked. It's possible I'll get a tattoo someday. Not today. Not until I figure out why it's such a white whale that I feel I need to catch.
Or until I have one too many G&Ts at the Ruck on a Saturday night.
Like all things I dwell on, I've clearly blown this out of proportion. I mean, obviously if I did get a tattoo, it would be directly over my heart, and it would be one word in Chinese lettering: