Tattoos and Quitting the Game

I am having a recurrent thought: “Just tattoo your face and get it over with.”

I don’t have any plans to carry it out, and it’s not been something I’ve ever truly wanted, although there are a few tattoos I’d like to get in other places.

Hypothetically, if I were to do such a thing, it would consist of tribal spirals along the edge(s) of my face. Nothing seriously freaky, but still, an out-of-the-ordinary body decoration, no matter how subdued the art.

I think this thought has been occurring repeatedly because it represents a permanent signing off of the Game. Not the Game of Life, a gauntlet of physical and mental tests from birth through growth, acquiring skills, illness, endurance, etc., ultimately ending in death, which I find to be a fulfilling challenge. A facial tattoo would have almost no effect on this Game.

I am also not speaking of the Game of Family, Friends and Community, which involves the trials and joys resulting from establishing and maintaining intimate connections, which give purpose and depth to existence. I think a tattoo on the face would present some small but certainly surmountable issues in these Games, if played with truly loving, wise individuals. It would definitely weed out the shallow and the severely judgmental, and how could that be bad?

I’m talking about the Game of Society, the artificially dangerous labyrinth of red tape, licenses, diplomas, renown, accolades, credit scores, retirement packages and insurance policies. I’m fairly certain that a tattoo on the face would be quite near a guarantee that a person would lose this Game. I think an intentional walk off that cliff would be a lot of the point.

I currently have a tattoo on my wrist which I can hide with very long sleeves. And I do, for job interviews and the like. Hide who I am.

When it’s visible, there are times when people will be talking to me casually, say in the grocery store, and they will have the normal, blank, polite smile, then they glance over and see my tattoo and their face kind of lights up with a fresh attention. They look back up at my face and they aren’t sure anymore. They were certain of something a second ago, and then everything shifted. I’m not sure what it would be like to just start from that point.

The message with regards to “reputation” would be: I quit. I refuse to submit to random regulations in order to scramble for some of the crumbs you allow to fall from your ivory tower. I hate the Game and I’m not playing, so don’t even try to make me. There are obviously other things, outside of your cruel and soulless box, that mean much more to me.

The message about identity would be: You don’t know who I am or what I’m capable of. If I have this much disregard for the most basic rules of how to participate in polite society then all bets are off. Get to know me or walk away. Pay attention to what I say and what I do or leave now and forever wonder. I’m not an anonymous pawn. I’m not a timid cog.

Granted, there is a lot of anger in those messages. There is a lot of responsibility in moving beyond that point of no return. Right now the idea is serving as simply a way to vent some of my frustration, and a mental exercise in examining possibilities. One thing for sure, it would definitely be a gamechanger.

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14 responses to “Tattoos and Quitting the Game

  1. Really, really interesting exercise. I tried for awhile to make my outsides give some clue about my insides, and it’s really hard for me to make them match up. I think I look too “nice,” dangit. My husband for a few years grew out his hair and then did dreads for the same purpose: make people think before assuming he thought the same way they did. Sometimes I like being able to hide (as with your wrist tattoo), but sometimes I wish I could just be blatant.

    • Lauren, I’m so sorry your comment wasn’t approved right away, I don’t understand why wordpress was holding it as spam? I don’t have the approval function on, so that’s why I didn’t realize I should look for it. Anyway, thanks so much for commenting and for recommending my post.

      I too feel a great disconnect between my insides and my outsides, although less so as I get older. I’ve always felt pretty old, so now that people see me as such I feel like I can relax a little. I really can’t stand being labeled by people I don’t even know, even though I understand the animal instinct to do so to establish level of threat, search for a mate, etc. I just want to scream at people sometimes, whatever you see in front of you, I’m trapped in here and you have to come find me! :D I feel like the tattoo is a little sign to get their attention to this effect.

  2. Wow, very powerful article… I completely understand. I am still hesitant of getting any tattoo for the same reasons… Though I did get a nosestud, but it tends to get ‘overlooked’. People like to see what they want to see

    • Thanks! You’re so right, people do tend to see what they want to see to make the situation fit their current understanding or motives. I think that’s why I like jolting them out of their paradigm so much! ;)

  3. I came to read because Hobo Mama recommended this post. Very well written!
    I have four tattoos and in general I do not notice if they garner me any kind of attention one way or another. I do live in Seattle and, well, it is not at all uncommon to see tattoos (though facial ones are not common). One day I was with my daughter and dog at a dog park and a guy came past me doing a double take. He said “I wouldn’t expect someone like you to have tattoos!” I didn’t know exactly what he meant, but I did like that I might seem unexpected. I like that you can be a person of many identities and hide/share them as you wish.

    • Thank you! I did find tattoos to be much more common among a wider variety of people on the West Coast than here in the South. Considering my age, my generally plain attire, my long silver hair and the fact that I’m always surrounded by kids, I think my tattoo kind of throws people for a loop. It’s fun! :D

  4. in college i kept my hair dyed magenta for this very reason. i liked that people had to really work to find out that i was more than brightly colored hair. i hadn’t been able to put into words what it was i was trying to “prove” to people – but i love the way you’ve worded it. i wasn’t trying to prove anything, really, i just wanted to make them all work a little harder to figure out what i was about. & that what i was about was probably not what they were about!

    thanks for writing this!

    & i totally think you should amp up the tattoos. more power to you!

    • Thanks for your comments, Lauren! For some reason people like to take the easy way of labels and assumptions, and I applaud your efforts to bust them out of their complacency.

      I’ll post pics when I get my other wrist tattooed!

  5. YES. YES AND YES.

    THIS is why I had my hair neon red for six months and why I had purple and blue stripes in it after that. I could never put it into words. I have also similarly thought about getting a tattoo on my face for this exact reason.

  6. Oh wow, I totally get this. I have 4 tattoos, but all are always hidden by my clothes. Sometimes I feel like getting on that is really visible so people will see who I really am. I am not the conservative wife and mother people think they see. I am a rebel (well, a little bit of one) who has ink and drank and partied and went to New Orleans just to celebrate my birthday, and went to midnight concerts and strip clubs just to see what it’s like. I backpacked thru Europe by myself, bought a house on my own when I was 22 and a car when I was 23. My tattoos represent those things to me, but no one can see them. Alas, I work in a conservative office environment and probably always will, so I stick with my pixie cut hair and bold nail polish to represent the real me.

    • Thanks for your comment, Olivia, it puts me in mind of one of the main reasons I appreciate tattoos, and that is for the stories a person can tell about them. It’s like we’ve written the title (or a synopsis) of each life tale on our skin so that we can use it as a starting point, whether we’re talking to others or just pondering in solitude where we’ve been and what we’ve done. I guess to follow this line of thought, a facial tattoo would just be a permanent, open invitation to the world to shut up their judgment for a moment and open their minds to hear a genuine, profoundly lived story.

      Okay, now I want one really bad. I thought all this talk would cure me of my crazy ideas! :D

  7. Thanks for this post, I found it via Hobo Mama. I too feel that I look too “nice” as Lauren put it. I’ve been through the dyed hair, piercings (only the nose stud has stayed), tattoos (one on back one behind ear), and outlandish clothes. I am a new mama and find myself expressing my silly nature through my sons leg warmers or onesies, we live in Seattle so that is really all very normal. Something is lacking with this method. I didn’t realize it until I read your post. I don’t dye my hair anymore because of the chemicals put on me and into the water but I do miss it. I miss spending hours in the bathroom with a girlfriend dying our hair, expressing myself through body art and showing the world what it feels like to BE ME.
    I will say that I know more about myself now than I did then, I express those feelings and emotions through different channels now. I find a deep connection to my yoga practice and really any way I can move my body and connect with that emotional energy. I recognize yoga and movement practices are very different that getting a tattoo and I am not saying, “hey maybe you should go meditate on a rock somewhere instead of tattooing your face!.” :) For me, when the desire and longing to change something arises, I check in and usually find there is more to the story. A desire for something more than just a quick change or a bright color to show the world who I am today. Usually it is a longing to reevaluate how I am crafting my life, how I want to be in relationship with my community and how I give my gifts.
    anyways, thanks for making me think, thanks for letting my type through this and remembering it is all a process. ONE “NICE” BIG MESSY PROCESS!
    and – I’m getting another tattoo after I stop breastfeeding because dangit tattoos are awesome :)

    • Thanks for adding to the conversation, Katerina! You bring up a fascinating idea… we can express ourselves through an unmoving sign on our person, such as a tattoo or hair color, or we can express ourselves through the fluid movement of that body through the world… that is an incredible perspective. The first seems fun and easy, the second seems intense and powerful. I don’t think I’d ever made that connection before, that the desire for outward expression might signal a need for a more profound change than just physical appearance… I agree that we should play with both as we are inspired! :)

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