Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More than You wanted to know about my Tatoo

So, last month Melanie J posted her thoughts on Tatoos. Many of you know that I have one. A pair of angel wings on my back--just kidding. No, it's actually not nearly that exciting or anything. But, there is a story, and it can be summed up in one sentence.

The tattoo artist thought we were the freakiest people he ever gave tattoos to.

You have to go back in time with me to the fall of 1992--the year I graduated from high school. The characters in this story are myself, Leah, and Jan (not their real names, for reasons that I love them both and don't want them to feel embarrassed if they should somehow find this blog). Here is a brief synopsis of us and our relationship to one another.

Josi--Naively independent, moved out of her parent's house two days after high-school graduation. Working full time and barely paying the rent on her apartment she shares with a roommate she did not know before moving in with her. Nice gal though. Canadian. Josi is a full-time student and a few months away from her boyfriend coming home from his mission. She's excited about this, but nervous as well. She was 16 when he left and has grown up a lot during his absence. She worries that they won't have the same relationship they had when he left. She's also worried that if it works out she'll lose some freedom she's come to appreciate so much. She's worried that she'll be fatter than him because he sent a picture a year ago where he was skin and bones. She's anticipating that within the next 6 months her life is going to change drastically and she's excitedly nervous about it.

Leah--Incredibly smart, super ambitious, and four months pregnant. She's not sure she wants to get married. She's not sure she wants to keep the baby, and yet she's very much in love with both the boyfriend and this child growing inside of her. She'd dreamed of law school and a temple marriage and is now struggling with how much has suddenly changed. She's anticipating that within the next six months her life is going to change very drastically and she's scared and a little angry about it. To sum it up, she knows she's not quite ready for all this and has no choice but to face it. She's also a die hard Bruce Springsteen fan.

Jan--raised with privilege, in a family she feels very bonded to, and has a heart the size of Texas. She loves Josi and Leah despite their current and past circumstance, and she's very optimistic about both of our futures and just who we are. She has this streak of wanting to be independent, but is living at home while she attends the University of Utah. She's looking at Josi and Leah and the precipice we both stand on without judgment and I don't think she's anticipating many changes in her life for the next six months. She is optimistic for both of our futures but is first and foremost a fun loving person.

The three of us would get together on Friday nights that Leah and I didn't have to work and drag state street in Salt Lake while blaring the Spanish music station. This was before gangs were an issue, and though in hindsight I can see this might not have been very PC, we were truly not making fun of anyone or anything like that, we were just doing things that made us laugh. We would talk to boys that were also dragging state and give them fake phone numbers.

So, one night, as we're dragging state with the Spanish music blaring, we pass a tattoo parlor which is all lit up. Leah says she wants us all to get a tattoo. Jan and I laugh. Duh. We're good girls (the reputation and pregnancy thing not withstanding) why would we get tattoos? Leah, orator that she is, tells us why. Basically, because we might never get another chance to make such an independent decision. She will have a baby in a few months, I'll have my missionary, Jan will one day give her real phone number to one of these guys we meet. We're all at a crossroads and we need a symbol of our friendship, a symbol of the free-thinking independent girls we once were before we became actual women with responsibility and accountability for other people. Dang, but she made a lot of sense! Why on earth would we not get a tattoo?

So, we went to ASI tattoo and told them we wanted daisy tattoos on the bottom of our big toe. He just blinked at us. "What?"

So we told him again, and he was shaking his head. "No you don't," he said. "It will hurt like crazy to get a tatoo on the bottom of your toe, and white doesn't work."

"Oh." So we put our heads together and a few minutes later presented him with a handdrawn heart (done by Leah). We wanted it on our the inside of our right heel--low enough that it could be covered with footsy socks or shoes. We made this decision because we didn't want it on an area that would be easily seen and we didn't want it under an area that would be covered with temple garments.

He nodded and said it would be $40 per person. Leah balked and ended up talking him down to $25 each. She was a tough chick!

We were getting ready to start when we remembered the ghetto blaster and the Bruce Springsteen tape in the car. One of us went and got it. I mean, if we're going to get a tatoo, we gotta do it to music. I think Leah was first, then Jan, and then me. The song that played during my tatoo was Glory Days. I tried not to cry because Leah and Jan hadn't cried but DANG, it hurt. I mean really really hurt. They use a mechanical thing that is a needle moving at incredible speed, injecting ink into your skin each time it comes down. It moves like 200 times a second or something like that--you can barely see the needle--but it basically felt like a quilting needle (blunt) heated until it was red being scraped through my flesh. It was horrible! We'd passed a guy getting a corpse tattooed on his calf. It was a two hour process for him. No way. I just don't have enough Harley in me to make that even remotely possible.

So we got our tattoos and felt as though we'd become blood sisters. The next week we took our tatoo artist some heart shaped sugar cookies. He smiled one of those nervous smiles you might give when someone hands you a little red pill you've never seen before and tells you to swallow it. His boss freaked when she learned he'd done a tattoo on a pregnant girl. He was happy to never see us again when we left that night.

I told my parents about my tatoo the next day, they gave me blank stares and said they were glad it wasn't a communist symbol or a skull and crossbones. Leah told her mom a few days later and her mom was really mad about it, but got over it. As of three years after the whole thing, Jan had managed to keep it hidden from her parents. She wore socks all the time and a band aid when they went swimming. I wonder if her parents know now.

A few months later, Lee came home from his mission. We started talking about marriage that night. A couple weeks after that, Leah got married and they moved in with his parents. She had a baby about two months later and made the veil for my wedding dress a couple months after that. Sadly, in the 15 years since my wedding I've seen her about six times. I haven't seen her at all for the last 13 years. Our lives were busy, and I wasn't always a great friend in the sense of supporting the people around me.

I still talk with Jan a little bit. We're not what you would call close, and mostly we just send Christmas cards and chat now and then. We're both married and have four kids. Once in awhile we'll get together and I'll think that we're going to build from there, but it just hasn't quite happened. I'm not upset about it and I don't blame either of us, it's just one of those things. Once Lee got home I was stuck to him like glue, I think all of my friends at that time felt a little abandoned and I can't blame them for that. We've all just moved on. Tatoos didn't do much to bind us to one another.

And as for my thoughts about that tattoo now, when I'm so much older and wiser. I'm pretty neutral about it. My husband hates it, my kids think it's cool--which scares me--yet it does showcase the girl I have been. I did fear I'd lose my independence when I settled down; I didn't feel ready to give that up even though being all grown up also what I wanted more than anything. My tattoo does remind me of those things. Whether or not that's a good thing to be reminded of is still up for interpretation. As for my feelings about tattoos in general--I don't recommend them because you can't change your mind. I mean, I guess you can, but tattoo removal is extremely expensive. The tattoo that cost me $25 to get, would cost about $800 to remove. The colors have faded and it looks washed out and more like I drew on myself. I have to have ongoing discussions with my kids on why tattoos are bad, and yet explain my own behavior in a way that doesn't make them say "Well, mom did, so it's okay". It's impossible to give that lecture and not feel like a hypocrite.

So, there you have it. My tatoo--for good or bad, it's part of who I am. Let's just hope my son doesn't one day come home with a naked hula girl on his bicep.


Annette Lyon said...

That's an awesome story, Josi. Thanks for sharing it. I've always wondered. :) I love who you are today, tattoo and all.

Tamra Norton said...

It's a part of you, Josi--so what's not to love?! :) Great story!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Amazing story. All the tattoo is now is a reminder and a visual aid, eh?

Crystal said...

You are so funny-I could add on MORE stories, but I'm not that kind of sister :) Isn't "Jan" in Cedar City? Leah makes me sad though I wonder if she ever went to Law School? hmmmm, well we all know you turned out great I lived to tell the tale!

Julie Wright said...

This is one of my favorite things about Josi, your ability to be totally honest and open and amazing. What a great story!

Heather Moore said...

I think your tattoo is cute :)

Melanie Jacobson said...

I love this. The feelings behind it, the memories it brings back of that time in my own life. It's a perfect vignette.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of naked hula girls... My dad had one on his arm - it took up most of the space between his wrist and his elbow. He got it in the navy before he found the church, and boy did it embarrass him to no end! If he couldn't wear long sleeves to church, he would put a bandaid over her bare chest, or color in a bikini or do just about anything to cover it up.

He also had a one eyed wildcat, he used to tell me I could have it after he died. He's been gone twenty years, and I'm still considering... LOL

Jewel Allen said...

Now we'll all be looking down at your sandals next summer trying to catch a glimpse of this tattoo :-)

Jenny Moore said...

Ok, I cried the whole time I was reading this. I love you guys! I hear Jan's parents found out after she had her first baby and she was staying at their house. She apparently confessed through a haze of percocet. You're the best friend ever.

Karlene said...

When I was a senior in high school, and my brother a junior, we skipped school one day and took the city bus downtown to get tattoos. It was Monday and they were closed on Mondays. I never got the nerve to do it again. Don't know about him. But if the prophet didn't say not to do it, I might.

Also, my daughter swears the YW pres in her ward got a tattoo of the YW colors done like jewels in an ankle bracelet--just recently, while she was YW pres and everyone thinks it's cool. ??

kbrebes said...

Love your story. So sorry about your friend.