“I hate tattoos—especially on women,” he said, prompted by a TV commercial featuring a beautiful model who had been, to him, marred by her markings. “It’s like moldy cheese. You can cut it off, but you still know it was there.”
We were mere days into dating, so he shot me a look and asked, “You don’t have any tattoos, do you?”
I did. Just one. It was done by a friend of my (heavily tattooed) ex-boyfriend’s friend, on someone’s couch in Kihei (which, when I was 15 years old, seemed like the furthest away town I’d ever been to at night without my parents). We paid too much for it, but I’m sure it was because the artist knew I was lying about my age. I’d wanted a canine paw print, simple and black; but that friend of a friend of my ex-boyfriend (who knew me so well) managed to convince me I would not like what I wanted. So instead I got a…well, I’d rather not say. (OK. If you must know, it was a purple dragon. See? Lame. )
After five years together (the “loathsome” tattoo now a decade old), the man who’d likened my hip to the green end of a brick of cheddar said he’d learned to overlook it, and was no longer as repulsed as he had been in the past. That, I suppose, is true love. Nonetheless, any more tattoos, for those five years, were absolutely taboo.
I have a Halloween curse. My plans are thwarted every year, as I seem to get stuck deep in the throes of chest-wracking heaves that dredge from some other dimension phlegm the color of radioactive sludge. Last year, I went so far as to catch blood cancer.
So this year I planned to play it safe (and recuperate) by not doing anything at all except get some much-need work done. But when I opened my e-mail to access the files I needed for this week’s cover story, I found a couple messages from friends at the Paia Tattoo Parlor, part of which described a Halloween special: Pick-A-Skull off their “pork chop list” for just $25.
I’m impulsive and a sucker for a good deal, and seeing as I’m no longer under the tattoo moratorium (or the boyfriend), I decided to check it out.
Likely, I’d chicken out. But that’s OK, at least I was out.
Besides, the events of the past year left me with a few ruddy scars that look more like the remnants of a bad case of shingles than the slice and stitches they actually are. I’ve been dying to both commemorate and cover them up, and this seemed like my first, well-timed chance.
But it didn’t occur to me until I got to the parlor and saw said pork chop list exactly why it is that I like the Paia Tattoo Parlor so much (nor did it occur to me how musty that Mexican dress and sombrero I quickly unearthed from the costume bins were going to smell).
At the skilled hands of Justin Yates, I got the Americana skull of my dreams with a quill pen through the eye sockets and little flowers colored like native poppies. As I got it, friends and strangers asked me how it felt, and I replied “good.” Brendan Smith—who with his girlfriend Sarah was a superb Snookie and The Situation—said, “oh, yeah, good,” and it was then that I realized it was an odd answer.
But really, it felt good.
In preparing for this week’s cover story, Charlie Lustman and I spent a few good hours, as he says, “sharing war stories.” I didn’t have my jaw sawed out or anything, but once you get cancer, you’re part of the club.
Sitting and blabbing like that was nice, really. I haven’t talked to too many other “cancer kids” (as I’ve taken to signing cards to my mom, making her laugh in that tearful “mom” way)—never mind true-blue survivors.
Lustman commented that even if you thought you were kind of tough before cancer, you come to sort of relish pain after cancer. It’s true. Watch someone cut lumps of flesh and bone out of your body—lidocaine or no—and yeah, smiling through the pain becomes a treasured way to experience that feeling…
Monday morning I rushed in to work, and showed body-art connoisseur (and advertising executive) Brad Chambers my new decoration, first thing. “I have a feeling you’re going to get addicted,” he said.
He’s right; I can’t wait for more. In fact, tattoos may just become as prevalent on me as, well, mold on cheese.