I have kept it to myself, but I have five tattoos. Like everyone else who gets one, I confess it’s addictive.
You probably wouldn’t even be surprised by how many librarians have tattoos. We have to work extra hard to show we’re badass and not just bookish.
When I finished high school, it was still uncommon to get a tattoo. I felt daring enough to get a tattoo, but I played it safe with the design. I thought about what image I would love forever, and knew it had to be a cat. I had never been without a cat as a pet, and vowed to always have at least one. It was hard to decide: Egyptian cat? Parisian ad cat? Cheshire cat? A fluffy kitten? I finally chose a classic, sleek, prowling black cat.
Through high school, I had been a drama club geek, and later went on to study theatre. For almost 10 years, I frequently received gifts of Pierrot dolls and comedy/tragedy masks and other symbols of the acting world. I especially liked the masks, and their symbolism: two sides of a coin, yin and yang, the ups and downs of life. Selecting them as my next tattoo was a no-brainer.
After that, I took a Library Science degree and became a librarian. It was dead obvious that a book tattoo would be next. I had a “duh” moment when I realized books were my earliest love and should have preceded the cat! I gave long thought to getting a literary quote instead, something like “What is essential is invisible to the eye,” or something librarian-ish like “Knowledge is Power,” but again played it safe with just a little, untitled, open book. I liked thinking that anything could be written on its pages.
When I met Rom, we wanted to get matching tattoos that only we would know about (soon to be revealed here!) and we considered making up our own symbol that only we would understand. After much thought, we decided that nothing would ever express our feelings more than music. When I saw this treble-and-bass clef image on a T-shirt, I quickly convinced Rom that it was The One! I had to act fast before (uninked) Rom changed his mind!
Finally, when Link turned 18 and was set to leave home, we discussed getting tattooed together. It had to be something anime-related. We spent ages looking at pictures of all the stuff we’d watched together over the years, and obsessed over Totoro and Cat Bus images. Eventually we had a brainwave and decided on something from the first series we watched together: Sailor Moon! Of course we gave a lot of thought to the cats, Luna and Artemis, but we eventually went for classic wands. I was Sailor Mercury and Link was Sailor Mars, by the way 🙂
Tattoo art in its current glory didn’t exist when I was getting started. It was less art and more just personal expression. Sometimes I wish I had waited and got a full sleeve or a full back with all my interests intertwined. Instead I have five small, random, not-very-splashy pictures on my body.
Long time readers will know this is a work of fiction. My body is still a blank canvas! I have no desire to exhibit anything on my skin. So many of the things I like turn out to be passing phases: Mary Englebreit drawings, Munch’s The Scream, cross-stitching, aerobics, manatees, porcupines, Anton Chekhov, Def Leppard. And think about the things I have liked for decades: Lisa Simpson, The Ramones, robots, peanut butter, Twizzlers, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show (“Don’t dream it; be it”). What a mess my body would be if I applied one of those to myself whenever the urge struck! I would be covered with unwanted souvenirs of my 18 or 28 year old self, in perpetuity. I am even glad I don’t have a tattoo of my child’s name – since they have changed it! I cannot think of one single thing I would want to ink on myself. I can’t even commit to a bumper sticker for my car!
When I watched tattooing shows on TV, like Kat Von D on LA Ink, I understood all the reasons: using tattoos to remember the dead (people or pets), to commemorate a special occasion (running a marathon, surviving cancer), to show one’s passions to the world (Metallica, WWE), for self-expression or self-motivation (cultural symbols, inspiring quotes), to make oneself an “other” (such as when face and neck tattoos were still taboo) or purely for ornamentation.
I don’t feel I need any of those things. I have my clothing and haircuts and jewellery. I think my “look” says enough about me and I don’t want to declare anything else visually before someone gets to know me. I have my writing, art and photos, my thoughts and tastes and way of looking at the world. I’d rather express myself with a photo on my desk, a Facebook post, a playlist I’ve curated, or a salad I’ve tossed 🙂 For my 50th birthday, instead of getting a tattoo, I took a trip to NYC.
Meanwhile, I actually do like tattoo art and I love asking people about their tattoos. I often like the stories more than the art, because the choices say so much about the owner.
Do you have a tattoo story?