Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 • No Comments on Written on the Body
I made a new friend recently. This is not something that happens often for me—though I’m becoming more open to the infinite potential friendships around me. She is someone I have known for awhile, on the periphery of my life in that I-know-you-from-Starbucks kind of way. I feel drawn to her in a way I can’t quite explain—a way that I’ve felt only a handful of times in my life (and not always acted on)—so I reached out to her on a compelling whim and found the feeling was mutual. Odd how life works, isn’t it?
In many ways, we have nothing in common, my new friend and I. Often, that is exactly what pulls me to someone. I find inspiration in people who are different from me. Sometimes, the differences are only superficial and I discover common ground and shared perspectives. I think it may be that way with my new friend. In some ways, she is the person I wish I could be. She gives off the most positive vibes I’ve been around in a long time. I aspire to be that kind of positive force in other people’s lives.
My friend has two dozen tattoos. I have one. I am contemplating a second tattoo, though I can’t decide what I want. A week or so ago, I asked my friend about her various tattoos. She pointed to each one (those that were visible or easily exposed) and told me their stories. Many of them, I was surprised to learn, are about—or for—other people. She has tattoos that were designed by others for her, she has tattoos that she got to honor people in her life. I found myself balking at that. The idea of letting someone else decide what goes on my body—or choosing a tattoo to represent someone else? Um… no. I’ve been married for nearly 20 years and the idea of getting Jay’s name tattooed on my body makes me feel a little queasy. It’s my body. Right? And yet…
People mark us in other ways, don’t they? Ways less visible than an ink outline with color and shading. They leave their imprint in places we can’t see, often in ways we don’t like or can’t decipher for years to come, if ever. We carry these internal tattoos around with us and show them off for anyone who will listen. “This is how I’ve been marked,” we say, without really saying it. No one is unmarked. Positive and negative, we bear the scars that others have put on us, on our soul.
So why does it bother me so to contemplate having a physical reminder of another person on my body? It doesn’t seem to bother my friend at all. Her body is a canvas for her life experiences, a map to the places she’s been and the things she’s done and the people who have touched her life. Her skin is a deliberate creation of memories. I admire that.
I don’t know what my next tattoo will be. I want words—a phrase or stanza or sentence—something to reflect the writer within. I have this notion of letting others choose the words for me—to let those who know me best give me the words to tattoo on my body. I don’t know that I can bring myself to do it, but there is something powerful and compelling about the idea of bearing the words chosen by others. What would they choose, I wonder?