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Passing

11/03/2009

November: it’s almost a year since I got my tattoo, and once again, it’s the season of long-sleeved clothing. The time of year that I can pass as a woman sans tattoo. Sounds just plain weird, I know. Aren’t I happy with my choice? Why would I want to hide it?

Case in point: Last week I spent a rousing 3 days at the J Street Conference in Washington DC, an inspiring crazy quilt of 1500 pro-Israel pro-peace Jews & friends. On day 3, several hundred of us went up to Capitol Hill to meet our reps. On went the dress pants and plain hoop earrings, the suede (as opposed to denim) jacket and black (not red) shoes. No one in D.C. dresses like a schlub or a punk. No one. So there I was, sitting in a Senate office waiting for a staff member, when I realized that I had rolled up my sleeve just far enough for the last 2 letters of the tattoo to be seen.

(Recall that the last 2 letters, mem and tav spell “met“, death. That was a bit disconcerting in and of itself.)

Gee whiz, I hope no one saw this! I rolled the sleeve back down. For all I knew, the Senate staffer also had a tattoo – a skull or Tibetan symbol or Mickey Mouse hidden under his suit. For all I knew, we could have had a tattoo bonding moment (as has happened to me many times), but I wasn’t willing to take the chance. Middle aged female progressives from the heartland who are trying to be mainstream shouldn’t be showing off a tattoo. Just not done. Complicates things.

Chicken-shit? Maybe. Or maybe I’m part of the grand tradition of Jew as Christian, black as white, European as American Indian environmentalist. We all pose on occasion, pretending to be other than who we are – whether to survive a war, escape a lynching, wiggle out of a speeding ticket, or avoid an argument with someone we love. Go through a day being 100% genuine? Now that’s brave.

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