Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I am not particularly fond of tattoos.  That doesn't mean I look down on anyone who sports on but I feel that a tattoo is as much of a commitment if not more of one than marriage is.  A tattoo is with you one hundred percent of the time while you can get in the car and get away from your wife for a while.   It is with you for your life once it manages to make it onto your body while you always have the option of separation or divorce from your wife.  Depending on what part of your body you put your tattoo on it can grow to be a saggy old thing that looks like it has been through the wringer.  Actually that is a way in which a tattoo is very much like a spouse.   If you put your lover's name on your body as a tattoo that name follows you wherever you go while if you change lovers during your lifetime, the name of your lover changes along with you.

It seems that when I was growing up the only time you saw tattoos were on ex-military personnel or criminals and gang members.  A good wholesome all american boy would not be caught with a tattoo.  I remember my uncle Buster had lots of tattoos but then he spent a little bit of time in the Missouri Correctional System so that was expected and fine by me.

My generation didn't seem to go for tattoos.  Some of my fellow boomers are getting into the tattoo scene now but for the most part they keep them small and not so very much in the open.  I am not sure why they have decided to get a tattoo this late in life unless it is to make them feel younger.

The generations that followed mine have had what has become almost a love affair with tattoos.  They have their arms covered, their ankles colored and who knows what other parts of their bodies are covered with the brightly displayed work of the tattoo artist.  I know that some of my nieces and nephews have tattoos.  Some of them are very obvious tattoos while others are not so out there.  I imagine I know a few of my nieces and nephews that have tattoos but they don't know that I know.  It is almost like a little game. Like they want to have a tattoo because it is a mark of their generation but they also have that feeling of permanence that a tattoo brings and this perhaps makes them a little uncomfortable.  The fact that they think I would tease them about it unmercifully probably also has a lot to do with the fact that they don't want me or others of my generation to know they have one.

Tattoos are suppose to tell a story about yourself.  That is my way of thinking anyway.  If you are going to go to all the trouble and expense of getting tattooed over fifty percent of your body, it had might as well say something about the person adorning themselves with them.  It should say where they are from, what they like, the music they listen to and whether or not they love their mom.  If anyone is going to get a tattoo the first one they get should say "MOM".  That is simple tradition.  The tattoo phenomenon has gone way past just pretty inked pictures burned into the skin and has advanced toward body modification in the form of piercings.  Earrings are fine but something in your nose that snot is going to be catching on all the time is not.  You wonder why today's kids can't hear very well?  For one thing the music they play is much louder than what I use to listen to and back then I was warned about losing my hearing..  They also have a problem in that they can't clean their ears out because there is too much metal stuck in them.  Q-tips would seem to shred fairly easily if you try to clean your ears while you have ten things of metal sticking in each ear.  That is just an off handed observation I have made over the last few years.

This piece isn't about piercings though.  It is about tattoos.  It is about one particular tattoo as a matter of fact.  It is about my tattoo.  Yes, I have a tattoo.  I gave it to myself one day in science class when I was in the seventh grade.  My teacher for science was Mrs. Denney.  As I remember her she was about five foot eight and weighed ninety pounds.  Her eyes were large and stuck out of her head more than they should have and her skin was drawn tight over her facial bones.  To put it mildly, she looked like a walking zombie or something out of "Night Of The Living Dead".

Mrs. Denney did not think too highly of me.  There were a couple of things that happened during that seventh grade year that gave her good cause to think I was not the smartest kid around.  First off, I didn't fair too well in her class.  My grades could have been a lot better but I hovered between the F category and the C category.   One mid term I found my self failing her class and so she gave me one of those terrible "F-SLIPS"  to take home to get signed by my parents so that she knew that they knew that I knew I wasn't doing very well.  F-SLIPS were not a very welcome thing in our house.  They often led to being grounded or having to do homework in classes even when homework wasn't assigned.  I made the decision that I could forge my mother's signature on the F-SLIP without taking it home and reaping the consequences.  I signed my mothers name and then looked at my handiwork.  It wasn't quite right.  So I erased the signature and tried again.  This time it came out much better.  When I gave the slip back to Mrs. Denney the next day she questioned me on whether I had even taken it home or not.  I assured her I had but then she pointed out a flaw in my system.  I had signed directly over where I had erased the first one.  After stammering around and assuring her I had taken it home she decided to give me a break but warned me that if she ever found out that I had not taken the F-SLIP home, I would have to pay dearly for it.  All this meant to me was that I had to buckle down and get the grade back up to a C by the end of the quarter, which I did without much trouble.

The other thing that I think made her think I wasn't too bright happened during one of her lectures one day.  I can't remember what she was lecturing about but I do know it was boring.  I had one of those old clicker pens with the spring in them and you push the button to click the cartridge out of the pen casing for writing and click it again to make the cartridge go back into the casing.  For some reason my curiosity was really high on how this pen clicker thing worked.  I began doing experiments with it.  Seeing how many pages in my text book it would mark before clicking back in.  Seeing of the table or the book was stronger when it came to the force of clicking the pen.

The last experiment I did was I put the pen with the cartridge withdrawn on the table, clicker side down and put the other side of the pen, the cartridge side, under the palm of my hand.  I was fairly certain that the forces would offset each other and nothing would happen.  I was wrong.  As soon as I pushed my hand down on the pen the cartridge shot up and into the palm of my hand.  I picked my hand up and looked as the pen hung from my hand dangling there.  It hurt a bit but then I began to wonder how long it would take for the pen to loosen from my palm and fall back to the table.

It was at this moment that Mrs. Denney walked by my desk.  She asked me what I was doing and I told her I stuck my pen in my hand.  She gave me a look that really is indescribable and asked me why would I do that?  I had no idea and so that was what I told her.  I simply didn't know.  She sent me up to the nurse where the would was cleaned out and a little bandage was put on to cover it before I was sent back to Mrs. Denney's classroom.  As I walked in she gave me that same look as she had earlier when she saw the pen dangling from my palm and told me to sit down before continuing her lecture.

The result of that little harmless experiment was my first and last tattoo.  It isn't easy to see but it is there.  In the middle of my palm if you look close enough there is a little blue dot.  It has been there since I was in the seventh grade.  It is permanent and is a part of me.  I carry it with me where ever I go.  That tattoo will be on my body when I die.  I have no need to get a tattoo now.  I was one of the first kids in my class, in my generation even to get a tattoo and be cool.

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