Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Addiction, Inc.

They say that getting tattoos is like killing hookers in the basement. You tell yourself you can stop any time you want, but then Sarah Palin doodles on a restaurant placemat with her crayons and gets a billion-dollar book deal while you toil away as a middle-management writer who actually knows how to operate a pen and then Carrie Prejean tells you it’s un-Christian for you to get married while she spanks her vajesus on camera for boys she barely even knows (which there technically isn't a commandment against but then she lies about it, which there is) and the cosmic inequality of it all makes your head spin and one day you look down and holy shit there’s another dead hooker in your basement. Or another tattoo on your arm.

I don’t have a basement, so you get one guess (unless you’re Sarah Palin or Carrie Prejean, in which case you get 74) as to which of the above two scenarios happened to me.

Here’s a hint, for those of you still looking for your rogue-colored crayon or the integrity you think somehow may have gotten lodged up near your cervix (which is not, for the record, a Latin way to say crucifix or a lens setting on your video camera):

This new tattoo—my sixth, which equals one for each marathon I’ve run … and is still two fewer than the Carrie Prejean sex tapes that we know about—was a bit of a well-planned impulse purchase.

I knew what I wanted:
• A Celtic knot whose structure and symmetry would offset the tribal abstraction snaking down the back of my other shoulder and arm
• A big round shape that would cover my entire deltoid for dramatic effect … and continue motivating me to get as pointlessly big as possible at the gym since people would be noticing my fancy shoulders (well, at least my one fancy shoulder) more
• A dangling element that would peek coquettishly out of my shirtsleeve
• Enough wrapping action that it could be seen when I greet people head-on:

Unfortunately, in my little live-and-die-by-the-calendar mindset, I’d also convinced myself I’d walk into a tattoo parlor on my self-imposed get-a-tattoo day, describe what I wanted and get it seared into my flesh on the spot. Which is exactly what happened … except the tattoo didn’t turn out as I’d kinda been picturing it. (Emphasis on kinda, which really didn’t give any tattoo a fighting chance to be what I wanted, right?) And so for the first week I had it I really didn’t like it. Especially because it kinda (there’s that word again) looked like a baroque apostrophe. Or a dialogue balloon from a Gallic cartoon.

But! The darn thing has generated endless praise from friends and strangers alike. It peeks out of my shirtsleeve just the way I wanted. It seems to make my shoulder look thick and round and manly (and fancy!). And the more I see it, the more I’ve started to really dig it for its nontraditionalness. And the fact that the whole apostrophe/dialogue balloon imagery has a quirky relevance for a professional writer … especially one who actually knows how to use a pen. Plus, it’s done. And even though I kept the receipt I’m pretty sure I can’t return it.

Of course, there are still hookers out there (Hi, Carrie!) so I know I'm still gonna want more tattoos. But I may limit myself to one per marathon from this point forward. (Emphasis on may. Even though I was born in April. And I tend to run marathons in the fall.) And next time I will definitely spend more time working with a tattoo artist getting exactly (more or less) what's in my head on paper before I start enshrining half-baked ideas on my body in ink and blood and fancy punctuation marks.

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