The story of ink in my family has a contradictory history. When I was a young'un only servicemen, convicts and rowdies sported a tattoo. My father's cousin, also his business partner had a bleary blue tattoo of a navy anchor on his forearm. He had an enormous amount of bushy hair that concealed the artwork but I found it fascinating. Other veterans of WWII and Korea brought home similar patterns and my dad's cousin's story was more amazing when I found he had laid on an enemy battlefield for three days with shrapnel in his head, his men leaving him for dead. Thus, the brave and valiant warrior came home marked from his trials.
I walked out of an 8 1/2 year marriage and for some reason my father assumed that my first order of procedure would be to find a new husband.
He instructed me to take my time, look around, get to know different kinds of men. This from the guy who wouldn't let me cross the street until I was five. Seventeen years later we were watching one of Sonny's famous slide shows and a picture of my sister-in-law and I flashed up on the screen. I have my arms outstretched and fingers pointing up as if demonstrating a measured length. Sonny who had a few beers commented to the assembled group, "there's Dawn talking about the one who got away and she doesn't mean a fish." Oh, let the earth open up and I be swallowed.
My first sailor had his astrological sign inked onto his upper arm and he was Sagittarius, the winged hunter, but just the loaded crossbow was imprinted on his skin. Never mind that every horoscope I read on the sign stressed the irresponsibility, the footloose demeanor, the infidelity of that birth class. This clashed with my Taurus bull, so logical and anally retentive. None of those attributes surfaced in the young man but it didn't work out because the only things we had in common were food and sex and I could not take him home to meet my father. My mother when she eventually met him loved the boy on sight, as she did all my boyfriends.
Another fellow named Jerome did a homemade job on himself while sitting through a boring civics class. He got the first four letters of his name carved into his forearm with a pocket knife and ball point pen. When I asked why he didn't finish he said, "the class ended." A third fellow was raised in an affluent south berg neighborhood, first born and devilishly handsome and riding the biggest baddest Harley this town has ever seen. Evidently when he and his cohorts broke into a neighborhood deli to borrow some cigarettes and steaks the local jurisdiction decided they would not forgive and forget as his doting mother always did and he got eighteen months in lock-up. Feeling the victim he had BORN LOSER in thick block letters engraved across his bicep. I never saw the original tattoo and by the time I met him he had decided he had some worth and had a huge turquoise peacock emblazoned over the words. Each letter was incorporated into one of the eyes on the tail feathers.
To my credit, barely, my children did not meet these clowns. Mea culpa.
I got past my bad boy stage and started dating men who read newspapers and voted. It had been an interesting stretch of my life and I felt something had been burned out of me.
At the age of 16 my son Jason got my attention by saying he was thinking of getting a tattoo. Oh, I was ready for this one and I reminded him that until he was 18 I owned him, mind, body and soul. It's a simple statement and does not leave room for discussion. I had become my German father. Two years later I was frying pork chops and the boy came up behind me. "Remember when you said I had to wait until I was 18 to get a tattoo?"he started. My parent's mind began drawing into its vortex all argumentative points regarding the subject. "Well, I got one," he ended. It's one of those parental moments that you remember always, the look of the room, the way the sunset came through the window, my youngest son looking up from the kitchen table. I sighed, "do you know how many hours I spent when you were a baby rubbing lotion onto your skin?" He countered "thanks, Mom! The tattoo guy said I had great skin!" Gr-r-r. He had slashes of varying lengths crisscrossing his bicep. But what does it mean, I asked. He didn't know, some kind of east Indian symbol. He's going to be walking down the streets of New York and some Indian will read his arm and accost him thinking Jason has insulted the guy's mother. And tattooing like so many other self-absorbed hobbies is addictive and years later Jason had Japanese koi stencilled across his back, gently turning towards each other. And his last was around his bony ankle, "that one hurt," he says and that proves a point. Don't get inked on a bony area, find a pad of fat which leads up to my tattoo.