On Getting Tattoos, Life’s Impermanent Nature, and Other Feelings I Can’t Fit into This Title

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February 21, 2013

6:24 PM

I have one tattoo, the result of a dull Saturday and extra money in my bank account. I’m not one for rash decisions, but I couldn’t classify this as anything else. There is no “deeper meaning” to the nautical star hiding under my T-shirt on the right side of my ribcage. There was no planning. There was no waiting period where I weighed the pros and cons or whether I could look at it everyday for the rest of my life. Nope. It’s a piece of flash art tattooed by a guy at a shop I barely even read about before calling my friend to drive me there immediately. It takes me half an hour to decide if I want to buy a bagel at Mews, but a tattoo? A permanent decision that lasts forever? Sign me up.

Can we just take a minute to appreciate what happened? Shortly after paying with my debit card, I turned to my friend slowly frozen in fear.

“My mom. My mom,” I stammered.” She sees where I spend my money. What if she checks my bank statement online!”

“She won’t check!” my friend said, reassuringly.

She checked.

Explaining to your parents that you got a tattoo on an impulse during your first semester at college is no easy feat. All I had going for me was that it was small and well hidden. The fact that I went behind their back and got it at a tattoo shop they had not “checked out” was their main concern. Basically, they weren’t mad, but they were “disappointed in me.” Join the club.

I can, however, say I have 100 percent never regretted the decision I made that day. This, funnily enough, has given my tattoo the meaning it lacked in the first place. It reassures me that I do have control over my own life. It lets me know that not everything I do to make me happy needs approval from my friends and family. It’s a reminder that sometimes things don’t always need to be meticulously planned out to be ridiculously awesome. Sometimes the best things in life come in an instant, and you have to be ready to say yes.

Few things in this life are as permanent as a tattoo. Although it may fade over time, it never disappears altogether. It travels with you, stays with you, and never leaves your side. It is literally under your skin, closer to you than anything else in this life.

Some people don’t understand the allure of tattoos, but these people are not my friends. Just kidding. Kind of. They say, “What about when you get old and wrinkly?” They say, “But it’s permanent!” It’s permanent? What? Why did no one tell me?

To the critics I say: What fun is a blank canvas that you refuse to paint? When I’m old and wrinkly, I want to look at my tattoos, a passport of my life marked not with stamps from different countries but ink from different parts of my life. I will look at my star proudly and remember my first tattoo – the gateway drug to bigger and better body art.

To be honest, this argument is illogical in the first place. Old skin without tattoos is hardly “better” than old skin with tattoos. It’s just people’s way of trying to influence your decision to do what they want you to do. It’s called peer pressure. Avoid it.

A tattoo is not a separate entity; it belongs to you and completes you. It is a part of you. It’ll be there at the beach in the summer and with you during the first snowfall of winter. It’ll be there when you get a D on the midterm, and it’ll be there when you get an A on your paper. It will be there when you fall in love with that girl, and it’ll be there when you’re crying over her listening to No One’s Gonna Love You by Band of Horses on repeat. I mean, not that that’s happened. What? Anyway.

In the last year I’ve changed schools, friends, favorite songs and my desktop background, but my tattoo is still here. The beauty of a tattoo isn’t ruined by life’s transient nature. It isn’t a good thing that must come to an end. It simply is what is it.

Mo Coppoletta, a tattoo artist, says it best:

It’s not commitment with another person, it’s not commitment you have to share, it’s your own decision to get your body decorated, to have that particular design, particular mark on your body. Whatever it is, whatever is in your heart. That’s already unbelievable magic for the wearer.

Oh Mo, you beautiful, beautiful man. Tattoos are magic.

Disclaimer: I know I only have one tattoo, but good art is expensive, and I’m broke.

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