Monday, July 11, 2011

In Which I Re-Think Ink

Tattoos seem to be so ubiquitous in the yoga world. Maybe, rather like the kid who tells his parents that 'everyone ELSE is allowed!!' it only seems that way because I don't have one. That's not a perfectly apt comparison, because though my husband would be less than thrilled, if I was deeply committed to getting a tattoo, not only would he not stand in my way, he would likely come along and hold my hand.

Though I have heard the opinion ascribed to some that a tattoo would desecrate the instrument of the body and is therefor an un-yoga thing to do, I have yet to meet anyone espousing this view. Thinking about the yoga teachers I know personally, there are a couple who may not have tattoos, but most seem to have multiple, or extensive permanent body artwork. The om symbol is of course popular, on the sacrum, or the wrist. The peace sign is common as well.

I've toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo many times. I've had many ideas, the majority permanently dismissed, some returning for further rumination several times. At the risk of exposing myself as a silly person (What's that you say? Too late?), I'll reveal some of the permanently thrown by the wayside ideas:

1. A large, magenta and pink Cheshire Cat tail starting close enough to my butt crack that the bottom would be concealed by any attire on my lower half, and continuing up my back, curving toward the top.

(rather like this one)

2. The Om symbol (Yes, classic, yes, something I'll always relate to, but...just too over-done!)

3. The symbol for Ananda (bliss in Sanskrit) Frankly, I never could find that word written in Sanskrit and even if I could, I can't read Sanskrit and neither can anyone else I know. I am consistently irked by tattoos written in languages the person they're on doesn't speak.

4. My personal favourite: a siamese cat fighting a large octopus. I thought of this in Junior High, and sincerely thought it perfectly symbolically represented the fight between myself, and convention. really like that...

If these ideas were dismissed out of hand, it makes sense they haven't made a permanent appearance somewhere on my skin, but what about the ones that pop up as viable repeatedly? With having a tattoo practically an expectation of my field of work, what am I waiting for?

There is a complicated interwoven web of reasons between me and the tattoo parlor. A primary one, and one that, if I truly thought I had found an image I would forever be proud to showcase on my body would not be a concern, is that I'm skittish about things that seem permanent. Strange I know coming from the woman who married at twenty-two, but true nonetheless. I've never dyed my hair in my life. Oh sure, it fades, it grows out...I know very few people who dyed their hair and were able to let it go back to its natural color. It becomes this inane and terrifying cycle of fakeness...I also won't cut off more than a few inches of my hair at a time for the same reason. Do YOU know anyone who chopped off his or her long hair, and later actually succeeded in growing it back out to its former glory? Me neither.

When I feel confident that there is an image I'm interested in, I do absurd amounts of research on tattoo-getting and tattoo removal. I suspect I know more about both processes than many people who have actually undergone them. When it comes down to it, I feel silly making an appointment with a dermatologist to explain the tattoo I'm thinking of and find out the likelihood of its being capable of relatively easy, painless, and cheap removal.

There is also something that rankles me about using my body as space to advertize what I believe, or feel, or love. I have a mouth that does that just fine, thank you, and my fingers are none too bad at it, either. I don't need to shove my inner being under people's noses in the form of that so distinct style of artwork. I know who I am, and if I want you to know it, rest assured you will, too, no tat required.

On the other hand, perhaps the tattoo is not to share your beliefs with others but to reaffirm them to yourself. If that's cool for you, it's fine by me but...really? Do you have trouble remembering what you believe or something...? That speaks to a deeper issue that a tattoo will not fix.

But, the reason that cuts deeper to the bone, the reason that I doubt I could ever reconcile, the reason that it took years for me to put into words, is that I object to viewing my body as the canvas, as opposed to the work of art itself. I love and cherish every inch of my incredible, capable, strong, beautiful body so much, there is nothing I could add to it that would make it more beautiful, more an expression of who I am and what I believe. No matter how sincere the attempt at self-expression, be it for myself or for others' benefit, it would be a desecration of this precious temple to stamp a billboard on it. Anything I could add would only take away from the miracle of my body as is.

I have strong opinions on this matter, so I think it's worth pointing out that everyone is going to have their own opinion and should or should not, as the case may dictate, get one or multiple tattoos based on their own. No one should feel bad about their own body artwork because of my opinions on the subject. Theories I may espouse for why other people have tattoos likely apply to some people, and likely do not apply to other people.

That said, the beliefs I espoused regarding tattoos in the paragraph before the preceding one is something that I've extrapolated: I suspect there are those who have tattoos in an effort to make their bodies beautiful, or to distract the eye from the body itself because they don't feel that their body is beautiful. This makes me so sad, because everyone's body is beautiful.

It's such a losing battle to say this in our society, which focuses so much attention on a particular body type that happens to be trendy in a given moment. Has anyone else noticed how pears are falling out of favor and apples are stealing the spotlight? Just look at how current trends showcase legs while keeping the waist pretty vague. I don't have to tell you that I have my own demons in regards to this subject. That's probably already apparent, and also a bit beside the point.

The future of Omily tattoos is another thing that's very vague. I had a deal with myself running that I would (maybe) get a tattoo in honor of my first aerial performance, but the more real that possibility becomes, the less I want "Born to Fly" on my ass for the rest of my life. Go figure. It is a complex thought process, indeed.

While I can't offer more than speculation and second-hand information, it seems before I close I should offer nobler reasons for getting a tattoo than I earlier suggested. Let's see...

1. as a reminder of personal and cherished beliefs
2. as a tribute to something or someone much loved
3. because getting a tattoo feels really cool
4. because it's something this person wanted to do before they died
5. because having a tattoo looks really cool
6. because OMG, the person's parents are willing to let him or her!
7. because a particular tattoo idea is so beautiful that it sweeps aside all concerns about getting one
8. It's an intriguing idea, the stigma is gone, and there are enough people in one's life to cajole one into it
9. as a right of passage into a new phase or stage of life
10. as proof of how much one loves someone or something, and that he or she will always love that someone or something

Ok...few of these reasons are noble...I'm thinking I should cut my losses before my facade of objectivity crumbles completely. Enjoy your tattoos if you have them! If you're not enjoying them I know all about your options for removal...If you have a reason for your body artwork that does not fall under the jurisdiction of the eleven reasons I've included here, I'd be most interested in expanding my repertoire of tattoo motives!

Live Omily, and for those sudden tattoo urges that, tattoo aficionado or not, you suspect you'll regret, have you considered henna?


  1. Speaking of having gotten married at 22, today is our 2nd Wedding Anniversary! Maybe we should consider tattooed wedding rings..?

  2. Maybe I'll get a tattoo too! We can cry from the pain together!