Vanity, thy name is…well, mine.

This post will likely cause my poor husband’s head to spin off into space. He needn’t worry too much. This is all just a little trip into my poor little brain.

I have a confession. I like ink. As in, tattoos. Some of my earliest memories involve sitting on my Papa’s lap and looking at the tattoo he had on his right forearm; a tattoo that was, well, just short of obscene. The very scantily clad woman was tall, thin, and was beautiful, even though the ink work was very old (1940s) and somewhat blurred and green with age. I would ask Papa, “Who is she?” He would say “That’s your Nana.” “No it’s not, Papa!” was my standard response. Nana (God rest her) was, to my four year old mind, definitely NOT tall, thin, and beautiful (and who is at 70 some years old?).

His green lady fascinated me. I wish he had lived longer to tell me more about where he had that tattoo done. Was she a real person? What was his life like when he had her put on? Sadly, I never had the chance.

I guess I was always a little into body mod. I started dying my hair when I was 14. I wanted it that “unnatural” shade of red that you see on punk rock girls, but I was in ROTC and our standards required any hair color to appear natural, so I (after checking it with Masterchief first…can you imagine how the poor guy felt having a 14 year old hand him a bottle of bright red hair dye and ask him “You think this will be okay?”) dyed my hair bright, but relatively natural red and have ever since (except for the stint with black hair).

Once I was 16, held a job, and no longer required a parent’s permission, I started getting my ears pierced. Again. I had my first set done when I was 8 (my Papa took me…funny that). Apparently, I needed at least 3 more holes in each ear. If I didn’t have such a difficult time healing (I have some metal irritation issues that made piercings a very slow healing affair), I would likely have gotten more done.

I dyed blond streaks into my hair when I got out of ROTC. I dyed the streaks blue when occasionally, when the mood struck me.

I love and appreciate that my mom didn’t protest too much. She just reminded me that when it came time to find a job, none of this would be acceptable. She was right. I am glad I played with all this stuff while I had the freedom to do so. Since moving to Richmond, and coming heavily under the influence of both my husband and of the very conservative state offices I have been working in, all of my modifications, except the red hair dye, have ceased. And now, I haven’t even dyed my hair in 7 months and I have 4 inches of my natural color showing. I am in the process of deciding exactly what to do with my two-toned hair at this very moment. (I am leaning towards going back to red.)

But as I am liking my body more, and less irritated by the reflection looking back at me in the mirror, the old ideas of certain modifications keep creeping back in. My fascination with skin art has never disappeared, and I have long wanted to find the courage and the right art to be permanently made part of me.

For a long time, I thought I wanted a tattoo of a peacock feather. Small and on my shoulder blade, where it would be discrete and generally under clothing in my conservative state offices. Turns out, to get a decent looking peacock feather, it must be fairly large. Such a detailed tattoo cannot be worked too small or it will blur. You just can’t get that much detail into too small a space. Plus, in looking at tattoo examples on the web, none of them picked up the color the way I really wanted. So given that I wanted nothing even as large as the palm of my hand and that I didn’t like the way the colors were coming out, I let that idea go.

The peacock feather was really a passing phase. An idea I liked but not one that was executable in the form and fashion I really wanted.

Besides, there is really only one piece of art I would want indelibly marked into my skin.

I want Rosie.

I always thought I wanted Rosie in black and gray scale because I thought it would appear more classic 1940s that way, but after looking at various samples across the web, I think I like her better in color. I would want her on my deltoid of my right shoulder. Not discrete, there. I do wear a lot more sleeveless tops these days. I would want her in all her yellow and blue glory. I wouldn’t need the word bubble announcing to the world “We can do it!” because just having her there, sleeve rolled up, determination written all over her face says that far more eloquently.

(For the record, if you think of Googling Rosie the Riveter tattoo images, be careful if you are at work…as is often the case with tattoo pictures, many are NSFW or small children for that matter, as I found out, rather shockingly. I thought it was totally disrespectful to have Rosie tattooed on someone’s butt, and then that someone have her photo taken with her girlie parts exposed…not very high-feminist, that. Would have been nice NOT to have come across that image at work, too.)

Out of deference to my husband’s serious aversion to tattoos, I would never proceed with the little fantasy I have detailed. That may sound rather anti-feminist after a discussion about the very symbol of modern feminism, but I have always found feminism to be about respect, not about getting one over on the other team. If he got on board and I found the courage (the greater issue here), it might change. I’ll let you know if that day comes.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Teri Pittman on April 27, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    I did not get a tattoo until after my husband’s death, when I was 57. Always hated the idea. My boyfriend, however, loves the idea. I now have a morning glory vine that goes up from one hip and almost to the shoulder. I may get it finished some day. If you do ever get that tattoo, pay to have a good artist do it. It’s worth the extra money. And be aware that some parts of the body are very sensitive. Tattoos over the backbone and on the shoulder tend to be more painful.


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