Thursday, February 02, 2012

Tattoo You

This is a story about body art and the meaning of life.

A group of of us were sitting around Saturday afternoon, watching football and imbibing adult spirits when an interesting topic came up: tattoos.

We started talking about tattoos and what they meant and whether any of us had ever dreamed of getting one or already had one in a secret location. Out of the six of us sitting at the table, not one person had a tattoo. Not having a tattoo definitely puts you in the minority, it seems, these days. More than 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo, according to the Internet — The Source Of All Truth. That's a lot of folks. But nobody in the group had one.

Nobody in my family ever had a tattoo until my brother busted through the skin-coloring barrier a couple of years ago and got one, then another, then another, then another.

Since my family was always sort of anti-tattoo, I guess my first skin art experience was Mr. Moss, a deacon at my church in Cromwell, America.

Mr. Moss was a World War II vet that was one of nicest people I knew at that point in my life. He was in the Navy during the war, and like a lot of Navy veterans had a Navy tattoo on his forearm.

I say it was the Navy tattoo, only because I assumed that's what it was. By the time I met him in 1984 or so, Mr. Moss' tattoo had been on his arm for probably more than 40 years. In the 40 years since he was first inked, as the cool kids call it today, his tattoo changed from looking like the anchor and chain to looking more like a Chinese Shar-pei.

I can remember sort of being shocked by Mr. Moss' tattoo because back in those days, in rural Oklahoma, the only people who had tattoos were motorcycle gang members and hippies and Mr. Moss was neither of those. A tattoo didn't seem to represent the man I knew who was hard working and kind, a man who would do anything for you. He also seemed to really love Mrs. Moss, who always sang in the choir and after several years of smoking had the deepest voice of all the baritones. 

When I was in the Army, I had my first real personal experience with tattoos.
Tattoo shops were a plenty around an Army base and Fort Lee, Va. was no exception. My buddies and I would all gather round the tattoo shop and look at all the different tattoos and dream of inking our young bodies. For many of us, it was just that, a dream. But for one young private, whom I'll call Dave, because I don't remember his name, decided to go for it.

He got pretty snookered at the Headbangers Club for NCOs one night and decided that it was the right time. I didn't go with him but I remember the next morning when he revealed his shoulder with a giant panther head tattooed right there in front of God and everybody. I could only say, "Gasp!"

It looked like it hurt and that pretty much saved me from every getting a tattoo. Or really even talking about it until the other day.

Crazy things happen when alcohol is introduced into the lineup. And after the football game, we needed something fun to do.

"What do you guys want to do now?" my friend David asked after the game ended. It was still early but we had to make plans. David is not one to sit around for a long time.
Several options were offered up, including visiting more speakeasies, gin joints and adult lounges in the area.

"Why don't we all go get tattoos?" I suggested. "Or better yet, why doesn't Lindsey go get a tattoo?"

David's girlfriend Lindsey was from a small town in Oklahoma and surprised us all by saying she had never had a tattoo but had contemplated one. She didn't know what she wanted but she didn't want something gaudy or ugly.

"What about the OU logo?" I asked.

"I would get an OU logo," Lindsey said.

We weren't quite sure if she was serious, but we decided to carry on the conversation and figure out where she needed to be branded for life.

After several very inappropriate suggestions were made, we all decided that Lindsey would be best served by a small OU logo on her wrist.

"I could do that," she thought out loud.

"I'm buying tattoos, who wants one," David announced to the rest of the table and, I can only assume, other people in the restaurant. That's just the kind of guy he is. He will give you the shirt of his back or a free tattoo if you need one. He's a good friend.
I declined as did the rest of our party and David made the comment that there was no way in the United States of America he was going to get one. But Lindsey was now sure. Only one thing left to do: find a tattoo parlor.

We found a nice place near downtown Dallas that I remember passing when I worked in the area. It always had some cool designs and comfortable looking furniture, so we headed to Tigger's Body Art Gallery in Deep Ellum.

As luck would have it, they were offering a discount on any OU or UT tattoos in honor of the Red River Rivalry game. She picked out the OU logo she wanted, and proceeded to get her body art.

Now just because I didn't want a tattoo, didn't mean I didn't want to watch someone else get a tattoo. So I watched and was thankful every minute that I didn't volunteer to get a tattoo that weekend. It looked pretty painful and I could only sit in the corner and wince and get up every now and again to take pictures for posterity's sake.

The logo turned out nicely as did the other tattoo Lindsey got that we won't discuss in this column.

Tattoos have different meanings in different cultures and different eras of time. They have been everything from status symbols to identification marks to devices for attracting mates. Today, they are expressions of personality and creativity.

I still don't want a tattoo but I understand a little more if somebody else does. It still weirds me out a little bit to see those tattoos up around somebody's neck and face but I get it, I suppose.

I sometimes wonder what Mr. Moss might think about some of the tattoos of today. I wonder if he still would have gotten his if he had it all to do over again.

I also wonder if David will ever offer free tattoos again.

Some things we may not ever know.

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