Wanting to be noticed
An extremely large woman moved in front of my friend as they navigated the corridors at the Ohio State Fair this summer. My friend said, “She was wearing a black thong and a see-through dress. I was shocked.”
And the conversation at our table at a Troy bar moved ahead and focused on a Yellow Springs establishment were a waitress had more tattoos than most. As she bent over to take orders, all at the table saw that she was sporting two tattoos of revolvers, one on each breast.
My response to the graphic description of the revolvers on her breast was, “She’s sending a message that no one better mess with her and that she expects good tips.”
We can change our clothing when we decide that our skirts are too short, our jeans are too ragged – with today’s styles among my young college students I question if there’s a competition to determine whose jeans are the most frayed, torn- but tattoos are a bit different.
When my oldest son was on leave from basic training in the U.S. Army and getting some much-need sleep, I decided as the mother of this 19-year-old that I had a right to go through his papers to get a sense of how the military was treating him, how he was faring in an organization that was foreign to me at the time and had not been part of my plan for him.
As I leafed through the documents, I spied at the top of one of the paper under Identifying Marks, “Small dragon tattoo on left shoulder.” I dashed back to my son’s bedroom, yanked the covers off him, and as my mother used to say, “As sure as God made little green apples,” there it was. Cute as it was, I didn’t like it.
From my own sons and the college students with whom I’ve worked for decades, I’ve learned that tattoos won’t kill us or our children- unless they are inked at a shop that doesn’t meet basic standards for cleanliness and get an infection.
I know that some Americans have disdain for tattoos, but they need to examine the statistics before they begin to shut out a large percentage of the population. Almost half of millennials have tattoos. The percentage declines with older populations.
I still have a problem with facial and neck tattoos- unless the ones sporting them hail from an African country and can detail the special significance/benefit of the tattoo or scarification. In a March 8, 2018, posting in Design Indaba, a story indicates there is “the disappearing custom of female facial tattoos in North African countries” as photographed and documented by Yumna Al-Arashi.
I’m uncertain that anyone seeking a tattoo would read my column; however, I do have advice:
• Think long and hard about your body art. I recommend against having a partner’s name inked because of the temporary nature of many relationships.
• I had a student in California, infatuated with Disney characters, who had a very large sketch of Goofy on her abdomen. I wanted to ask her if pregnancies were in her future, but I kept my mouth shut- for once.
• Don’t do it when intoxicated or under the influence of cold medicine or other drugs- legal or illegal.
• Make sure you and the artist understand the meaning of exotic symbols before you opt for them.
• Select an artist, a real one. This is no time to use an artist-in-training. Choose a shop with high safety standards.
• Be prepared to spend big buck to be inked and even bigger bucks to have that ink removed if you change your mind.
I must confess that for years I’ve wanted a tattoo of the phoenix. I’ve seen some pretty wicked looking ones, not something I want. I want a phoenix, a symbol of rebirth, whose face and body posture say in a positive way, “I rise.” We all do because we work to bring a touch of sanity to a world that at times can get fairly snarky.
Dr. Vivian Blevins is a Harlan County native. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students as well as prison inmates, and now teaches communication and American literature classes at Edison State Community College in Ohio. Reach her at email@example.com.