Wednesday, November 3, 2010

travel blog

Emily Barbo

Blog Post 11/4

What Does Your Tattoo Say?

            I think that tattoos are fascinating. I have been toying with the idea of getting one myself, something meaningful, integral to who I am, where I have come from, and where I would like to go. But maybe I am getting it a little backwards? Maybe, it isn't me who decides what the tattoo means or how it is part of my identity. Maybe the tattoo does that all on its own. If it wasn't the case that my mother would kick me out of the house if I got a tattoo I think I would. One word, across my left wrist, over my blue spider-webbed veins that carries my life-force, connected to my whole body, driven by my heart: Balance. It has more meaning to me than I could ever explain, or ever want to.  

Certainly for the generation in which my grandparents are in, and to an extent my parents, when someone is visibly tattooed they are judged. Quizzical glances are exchanged until they are out of earshot and then the criticizing begins, "Don't they know that will be with them forever?" "What will their children think?" "How is she going to cover that up on her wedding day?" What I have always wanted to say to this (but never had the guts to) is how can we judge a book by its cover. I think that Dr. Ellis raises a great point in that some people don't have the language to translate what a tattoo really means. In a way, a tattoo can have infinite meanings based on the experience, or vocabulary if you will, of the viewer. The permanence of a tattoo is one of the most alluring factors to many people, it is to me anyway. It seems like in this world we are constantly throwing things away, replacing them with new models. Nothing is permanent anymore, everything is virtual. Getting a tattoo is a type of control; while the meaning you associate with the ink on your body may transform, it will be with you always.

            There is something freeing in the thought that Dr. Ellis brings up in the introduction of her book when she says that tattoos travel through space and thought. Tattoos are not stagnant or static. There is a nuance to every person who views it, to the person who created it, and to the one that wears it. It is liberating to think that no one could understand the depths of my tattoo like I can. It would be my own little secret that I could wear openly, literally, on my sleeve. Like a work or art, a painting or sculpture, sometimes words simply can't describe the depth and breathe of how we are affected by what we experience. If (or when) I get a tattoo I won't only be changing something about myself physically, but I will also be changing the way that others perceive me (like my friends, or my Mom) and how I look at myself.  

I also think that where you chose to put your tattoo says a lot, maybe just as much as the tattoo itself. In Flannery O'Connor's story, parker refuses to put any tattoos on his back. This makes sense, why would he? He gets tattoos to enjoy them, revel in them, and fill him up with their meaning. What does it say when you get a tattoo somewhere where the wearer can't see it? Surely then it must be purely social, a means for attention? In my opinion, tattoos should be an external representation of an internal journey. What that journey is and how they wish to portray it depends entirely on the individual getting the tattoo. What kind of journey did the 20-something year old take that drove her to get a rose "tramp-stamp"? I can't say. Maybe I am being just as judgmental as generations past have been. The point is, it's personal. No matter what anyone else says or how they interpret my hypothetical tattoo, it will always be mine and live in me, a "final possession that cannot be confiscated and a testament to one's place in the world."

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