When I was in high school it was really cool to go down to St Marks and get your belly button pierced, your cartilage pierced, or a small, questionable-in-taste tattoo, without your parents permission. Somehow I got through these formative years un-inked. This is good because at the time I wanted either a fish or a sea-horse tattooed somewhere on my body…most likely my lower back, as you do when you’re 17. I did however leave high school with 6 piercings and have since obtained four tattoos.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that they could never get a tattoo because they fear they would regret whatever it was they permanently inked on their body. I get this perspective, however it hasn’t been my experience. One of my tattoos doesn’t feel relevant to my life anymore, but it reminds me of a special experience and group of people so it still holds a lot of meaning.
I love hearing what people’s tattoos mean to them and I always have people asking what the significance of mine are. Here’s a little bit about each one in order of their acquisition:
1) “Jump” When I was in high school I was one of 7 seniors to lead the annual junior retreat known as “Kairos”. As a Kairos leader, I had to give a speech to the Junior class about a meaningful experience that changed my life. The retreat itself was full of tears and sentimentality, so you really had to be ready wear your heart on your sleeve. While I prepared to leave for the weekend retreat, I was a bit nervous about sharing something that was so personal with fifty 16-year-old girls. My step-dad, Larry came into my room and said “Imagine you are on the dock in Maine” (oops back track, I used to spend my summers on a tiny island in Maine…ok back to present-past time). He said “Whenever you are getting ready to jump, you are always nervous about the fall and how cold the ocean water will be. But after you come out, the sun warms you and you feel so refreshed. Imagine this experience is like that. You will be nervous at first but once you’ve done it, you’ll be glad you did”.
After Larry said this, I immediately wrote “jump” in sharpy on my wrist and looked at it throughout the weekend. A year later, while on winter vacation from College, my mom, Larry, grandma, aunt, uncle and I were eating at a breakfast spot in Greenwich Village. While we ate I scribbled the word jump over and over on the paper table-cloth. I decided on a version that I liked and Larry and I walked around the corner to a tattoo parlor on Bleecker (which no longer exists). The tattoo artist looked at me funny when I handed him my scribble because 1) he wondered why I didn’t want to choose a typed font since my hand writing isn’t so gorge and 2) he wondered if I was perhaps suicidal or just crazy? But I stuck with my paper table-cloth version. Ten minutes and $70 later I had my first tattoo!
2) Here is the one that doesn’t feel so relevant any more. I’ll give you some background. In my junior year of college I took the advice of tattoo #1 and got up the cajones to audition for the university’s annual musical. This year’s production was “Hair” and I was dying to play Chrissy. I was cast in said role and had one of the best experiences of my life spending two months with an amazing group of people. Being that “Hair” was set in the ’60s and was meant to embody love, peace, and heavy use of hallucinogens, we were encouraged to work hard at bonding with one another and developing a “tribe”. We did develop that tribe and really felt close to one another, spending every day together rehearsing, meditating and eventually getting completely nude on stage.
When the show closed, a group of us took a road trip to NYC for the weekend. Three of us out of that group felt strongly that we wanted to remember our time doing “Hair” and what it embodied for us so we went down to the village to get matching tats. We each got an “om” sign tattooed over our rib cage. This is my favorite part of the story: after getting our matching tattoos we went to one of our friend’s older brother’s apartments in Bushwick. There were 7 people living in the dirtiest loft you’ve ever seen with graffiti on the walls, ladders leading up to bedrooms you didn’t even know were bedrooms and makeshift wooden doors separating each “room”. When we got there, the girlfriend of the brother of the friend looked at our tattoos and said “wow…that’s sooooo cliché”. I was initially pretty offended but then I thought “lady, you live in a hipster loft in Bushwick Brooklyn. You couldn’t be more cliché if you were drinking kombucha out of a mason jar”, and I quickly got over it.
To be continued…