When I was 21, my Doppelganger and I lived above a real estate office and managed a popular Tavern in a college town. We were fresh out of college and finding our first wings of true independence from our families. This also necessitated learning to cope financially and socially. We had the forethought to recognize this was a monumental step in life, and the bad idea to sear it into our memories forever with tattoos.
In the early ’70s body art was not very common. There also was no Internet so we “researched” parlors by asking bikers who sometimes stopped at the Tavern as to studios in the area and pricing. Armed with a massive paper atlas and our hard-earned tips we drove two hours south. I don’t remember much about the place except that it wasn’t in a town where I would have chosen to live. We selected designs from the art on the walls, no sense getting creative when that obviously was this artist’s strong suit. There may have been a small quantity of alcohol involved. I went first with a tiny rose bud just over my left breast. It was positioned strategically so I wouldn’t have to remove any clothes for the installation and could easily hide it from the world.
Doppelganger watched with a seriously doubtful and worried look. I gritted my teeth, smiled and assured her it was nothing. I do remember adjusting my choices as to the number of colors down to just red and black, to cut the duration of the operation. Unfortunately, Dopp chose a small yellow star – easy and quick – but had it put on her shoulder-blade. We were skinny and there was no luxury of a little fat to cut the needle jabs. As we headed back up the highway she looked at me and stammered, “That was a lot more painful than I expected.”
“Hurts like a Son Of A Bitch!” I exploded.
Today, body art is amazingly (to me) commonplace and the variety of talent and choices is mind-boggling. Sailors and bikers of thirty years ago would be somewhat put out by the lack of shock appeal their simple gestures might garner amid current displays. Age seems to be no boundary, nor economic status. This is not a passing fad or phase, the marks are permanent.
I have grown to appreciate some intricate art on those I love. My own stab at non-conformity has since lost its once tenuous thread to the idea of art. The tools no doubt were crude and time has literally blurred the lines. Still, it makes me smile because I know there is a rather muddy yellow star on a shoulder-blade that sealed those memories and many more.
An old tattoo