I’ve got tattoo envy. Sure, I’m in a member in good standing of “Club Inked”, but in the realm of what’s possible, three plain black Hebrew letters on a forearm, a total of of 3 square inches, is pretty darn tame. This weekend I met the daughter of a friend who hosts a gorgeous, color-bursting work of art on her upper chest: six-point stars expanded into mandala designs and swirling blue clouds (see below). We had a great conversation, me and this young woman 30 years my junior — and the entire time I could barely keep my eyes off her tattoo. What colors! What verve! It made me want to dance.
My own tattoo is definitely not about art. It is a clear and simple statement about something precious to me (truth) in a language that is the holy/street language of my tribe. Sarah’s Judaism informed and inspired her choice of tattoos (did I mention the sizable black & white hamsa on her upper back?) as it did mine. Making my tattoo artistically beautiful didn’t occur to me 14 months ago, but now I’m feeling a little sheepish. I was awfully literal. A little beauty wouldn’t have hurt.
(Well, actually, it would have hurt. Every extra line, color, squiggle, centimeter – every little everything means more time under the needle. And the needle hurts. Stings. Burns. Not impossibly or unbearably, but still…)
I’ll come clean here. There is part of me that can’t imagine walking around with something so BIG. Something so conspicuous and (dare I say it?) youthful. And there is a part of me, perhaps larger, that is envious: of the tattoo itself and of the chutzpah it takes to make it part of one’s life. The pain and the cost and the commitment. The realization that usually arrives after the tattoo: this is part of me! For Sarah, it meant, among other things, certain fashion considerations (no more sheath dresses). For me, it’s a constant monitoring of who might be offended in a crowd of Jews – a side effect I didn’t think about until afterwards and which, in retrospect, was a bit dumb given that I do social justice and Middle East peace work surrounded by other Jews.
Anyway, I’m now thinking about tattoo #2. I’ve been contemplating an infinity sign for a while, but that too is plain and straightforward. A hamsa, maybe. Something with decorative appeal. And I’m trying to figure out how to beautify “truth” without cheapening or hiding it. Something simple, but with a little bit of jazz. Some color. All ideas welcome.