As of Saturday, I have joined a critical mass of Portlanders by being officially inked.
(Yes, it hurt. Like a string of bad words.)
The strange thing about tattoos is that everyone seems to have one, but they are all different. So by getting one you are at once being unoriginal by joining a subculture, but at the same time you are strongly asserting your individuality (The Great Hipster Dilemma). Oh, paradoxes.
I've had a long-time fascination with tattoos. Being in the Northwest means I get to see them even more, and I love seeing the differences and variations on everything. Some are completely original, some are homages to other pieces of art, some are traditional. And yes, some are dumb, ugly, and produce thoughts of "What were they thinking?" Just like any other expression of self.
People get tattoos for a lot of reasons. Historically, it was a way to say you belong to something. Gangs tattooed their members, Christians in Egypt would tattoo a cross on their wrist, and countless cultures have elaborate tattoos signifying identity, beliefs, or simply good fortune.
There's something very mysterious about the permanence of the tattoo. It's saying that no matter what, this image/idea/word will still be true. And that's scary! It's intimidating to commit to something like that. But it's very attractive at the same time, very seductive, knowing that something has enough meaning to you that you'll keep it with you always.
As for my tattoo, I love it so very much. It's been a long thought process for me--I've been thinking about getting a tattoo for years, and this one in particular for over one and a half years. Even after all that time, when I was finally sitting in the chair, it still felt like it happened so fast!
It symbolizes a lot of things for me about the nature of stories, books, knowledge and transformation. I've always felt that stories can show truth (almost better than life), and the kind of stories you tell yourself or absorb--about you, about the world, about anything, matter. They can change you, broaden you, and empower you, or do the opposite.
Past that, I just love the image, and the uniqueness, the simple lines and hint of art deco style, and the flow of the composition. I love that if I turn my head and peek at my shoulder I can just see the top bird flying up.
And once it stops itching and burning, I'll love it even more.