As a teen growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver in the late 1970s the only personal experiences that I had with tattoos were watching them drift by on the arm of overweight bikers or on the upper chests or ankles of women who appeared hard and aged beyond their years. Except for a short period in which I thought fleetingly about having the snarling, teeth-bared head of a grizzly inked onto my entire upper arm, I have always viewed the tattoo as holding far too much stigma for me to consider one of my own. Even as a teen, I could imagine myself middle-aged or an old man facing daily the distorted and faded grizzly head whose snarl had morphed into a mocking grin; the effigy of a persona no longer my own. Today I can breathe a sigh of relief at having narrowly avoided what would have been a much regretted mistake.
Throughout my twenties and thirties I met many individuals who sported tattoos of one kind or another and I came to realized that the prejudices borne of my youth were misplaced. I have found most people with tattoos to be no different than those without. I now believe that the type, placement and number of tattoos incurred, is a result of an individual’s personality and not the other way around. Many of my friends have tattoos and one would never know it, the fact being obscured by clothing or diminished by the inner vis-à-vis outer person.
These facts aside, I never saw the tattoo as anything that I would consider for myself. I could not relate to someone walking into a tattoo parlor, picking a generic design out of a book, and having it permanently injected into their skin. I thought of thousands of people with the same heart or snake tattoo and the potential of them bumping into each other. The result, in my mind, would be akin to two women arriving at the same party wearing the same off-the-rack dress. So many tattoos (nearly all of them) have become skin-art clichés”?”Mom”; the skull; the rose; the snake; vines; butterflies; tears; hearts; women; etc. Without originality, what is the point of acquiring a tattoo other than for its own sake?
Such were my thoughts on the subject when my wife broached the idea of her getting a tattoo about six months ago. The immediate image that entered my mind was of those old-before-their-time women of my youth that I had felt so much contempt for. Needless to say, my reaction was less than supportive; but the subject did not die and over the next several months we discussed the why, what & where of her idea. From the beginning I told her to get one if she wanted, but: However, as our conversations continued, I began to support her and finally decided that I would get one if she did. Ultimately, my wife, her sister, and I went in together to get “inked” just after Christmas.
Having decided that I would get a tattoo, I needed to choose what I would get and where I would get it. I knew that I wanted something that would have great personal meaning to me and that I was getting it for myself and not for others. I had it placed over my upper right scapula so that I and those close to me would see it but the general public would not. And I designed a custom tattoo so that few if any others were likely to sport the same “tat”. I settled on an old-fashioned inkwell and feather quill as a symbolic acknowledgement to myself of my lust for the written word and of my commitment to myself that I will never willingly put down my pen. The three of us are all very happy with our decisions to have tattoo work performed on us and I am often surprised to catch a glimpse of mine in the mirror. I smile and shake my head at the fact that I, the consummate tattoo opposer, have joined the ranks of those with ink.