Tattoos Are Like Time Capsules

3 years ago

Sadly, I’m a pretty vanilla-looking person despite my best efforts not to be. I so want to be Courtney Love, but no matter what I do, I end up being Laura Petrie.

Because I look so regular, you may not guess that I have a tattoo. Two of them, in fact. Although let’s face it, even your mom might have a tattoo by now. I wonder if hers is a big heart on her arm with “Self” written in it?

When I was a kid, women having tattoos was not what you’d call common. You might have to go to the circus to find such a thing, although in my case I was lucky enough to just have to go downtown. Every once in awhile, my mother and I would join my father for lunch at this diner, and one of the waitresses had a rather large tattoo on her impressive forearm. I was riveted by her, and wanted to know her every detail, and I can only imagine I was far from subtle in my fascination. Had my eyes been able to hang out on coils, I’d have let them.

That pretty much wraps up my entire experience of women having them the ink, until the early ’90s, when it became a thing. I moved to Seattle in the early ’90s, where tattoos were more than a thing. It was almost like you had to have one in order to get your driver’s license renewed.

I was vaguely interested in getting one (see above reference, re: wanting to be Courtney Love), but I also worried it might not suit me (see above reference, re: ending up being Laura Petrie). But then, in 1994, I left a man because he would not marry me. He “wasn’t ready,” he said. Which is curious because two months later, he magically became ready when he married someone else.

To say that this was a blow to my ego is an understatement. In reality, it was the best thing for everyone involved, but try telling 1994 me that. Oh, I was devastated. So I got a tattoo of forget-me-nots and crescent moons, which at the time meant something very deep and important and now I forget what.

I know getting a tattoo because some man married someone else is stupid. But I wanted something that would last forever, because my ex-boyfriend had something that would last forever.

You know, -ish. Forever-ish. In both cases.

Image: torbakhopper

A few years later, I got an Eiffel Tower tattoo on my other ankle, when I was on a trip that did not remotely involve seeing the Eiffel Tower, but whatever. I’ve always liked that particular structure. It was basically just built to show off during the World Exhibition of 1889. I am down with things that are put on this earth just to show off. (Again, see Courtney Love.)

The irony of my tattoos was that I went on to marry a Jewish man, and in the Jewish faith, if you’ve desecrated your body, you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery. So the tattoo I got to commemorate a broken relationship was going to ruin my eternity with the actual man for me. Fortunately, I divorced the Jewish man, which ended up being the best thing for everyone involved, but try telling 2011 me that.

My tattoos are now 20 and 16 years old. Sometimes Laura Petrie me worries a little that a 48-year-old woman should not be going around all inked out like she’s a sailor or something. (A sailor who’s really into flowers and Paris.) But then the Courtney Love part takes over and says, “Oh, screw that.”

My tattoos remind me of a time when I was single and happy and wearing flannel like it was fashionable. They remind me of how things come and go, of how nothing lasts forever, good or bad. In a way, they’re like small time capsules I carry with me to remind me of my younger self. A self I am fond of. A self I might put inside a heart on my arm — if Laura Petrie me would ever allow it.

Originally posted on Purple Clover

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