Your Body Is A Wonderland
by Molly Lambert
I hate tattoos. I know this is not a particularly popular stance, it reminds people of being pro-life. "Keep your opinions off my body!" they say. And I say "Why not just keep your favorite quotes and song lyrics off of them too?" Some people have tattoos. Other people do not. Who am I to say which is better?
It is possible that I am just prudish about body modification in general. I have never been pierced, even in the ears. I do not disapprove of earrings or body jewelry, I just know that if I had any extra holes in my face I would neglect them out of laziness and let them get infected.
Some people look great with a nose ring, but they are usually people who are already beautiful to begin with. The nose ring serves to point out "look, I can put shit on my face and it just underscores that I would look perfect without it." Like when pretty girls wear ugly clothes and they seem even prettier.
For a while I thought about getting a piercing, mostly out of boredom with looking at my face. I think this is why people get body modifications, because they are bored of seeing their same selves all the time. But a new person would not be bored of your body. They would not find its lack of marks dull.
I could not pick one shirt to wear everyday, or one piece of jewelry. I could never pick a quote or a picture to put on my body permanently. I'd get sick of it, probably right away. I would want to scrub it off in the shower as if it were regular pen ink.
When I was in high school I drew on myself constantly. My mom gave me a hard time about it. "You're going to get ink poisoning" she'd say, but of course I never did. I drew mandalas on my hands and scenes on my calves. Anything I could do during class to avoid paying attention.
My standard line about tattoos these days is "your body is not a MySpace." But I know that I am wrong, and that it is. Your body is yours to do whatever you see fit to do with it. Perhaps my distaste for tattoos is because they remind me of the Nazis branding Jews as cattle in the Holocaust.
And yet there's something fascist about my desire for an unmarked body. Like Michael Chabon's essay about superhero costumes, I feel as if a lack of tattoos makes a figure its own ideal costume. Like the perfected unmarked human forms in Triumph Of The Will.
Or maybe it is just the humorlessness of most tattoos that offends me. Kurt Vonnegut quotes are popular, and yet I think he'd disapprove of being propagandized as such. Even joke tattoos are serious in their permanence. I know that is the point, I just can't stomach it myself.
Some people have beautiful tattoos. I have seen sleeves and back pieces that are absolutely gorgeous. But I have also seen grim reapers and Tasmanian Devils and eight balls that were nothing besides tacky, and to get tattooed seems to me to be putting yourself in a club with them somehow.
I do not aim to stop tattoos, or even really to make you reconsider them. If you have some and love them, that is great. If you are thinking about it and remain unsure, it's still really up to you. I'm just warning you that when you show it to me I will flinch, because you were already so lovely before.
Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording.
"Elegie" - Patti Smith (mp3)
"Sisters of the Moon" - Fleetwood Mac (mp3)
"Storms" - Fleetwood Mac (mp3)
Herman Melville tat is pretty good
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Of Course There Are Always Exceptions To Rules