I’ve searched high and low for an adequate measure of self expression. My hunt has included a variety of available choices: spray tan, lavender hair, and no less than 100 black lipstick brands. While I was ogling the craziest tattoo designs through a window on the street corner of Desperation and 5th,
I became serious in my contemplation of how the beauty of a new tattoo might add to my overall physical attractiveness. Heck, it may even be worth the pain and suffering if I end up glamorous and self expressed. I have many role models on whom to base my opinion, Angelina Jolie, Eva Longoria, Beyonce Knowles, and even the princess of all things bright and trashy, Paris Hilton.
My overtly conservative best friend – a Republican who is sans all forms of body art – gleefully recommended that I research my available options. I turned to the best resource of truth, knowledge, and constant supply of conflicting information; the World Wide Whatever. The information that follows is not stone cold fact, rather intensely narrative in nature. I give this disclaimer because I am well aware of the high degree of detail and accuracy required by most body-art seekers.
First, I began this educational quest by reflecting on my reasoning for said self-expression. Why did I feel this unrelenting need to deface, yet beautify, delicate parts of the nether-regions of my body? Not a clue. Thank heavens I firmly settled that in my melon.
Next I gathered historical data to justify my grownup adult actions that were yet to come. My trek down this quasi trail of truth was more of a self-guided tour of a 2,000 year-old Samoan village. I’ll admit right now that I find it interesting the technical marvels that define today’s tatoo arena have not traversed the murky lines distinguishing tattoos from the ancient Polynesian art form of “Tatau.” To administer the ancient ink, a village tattoo artist known as the “Tufuga” used items such as sharpened bird bones, shark teeth or the much sought after boars teeth tied to a turtle shell. It was considered a rite of passage for young teenage men to undergo the excruciating torso-to-kneecap demarcation.
Some may find it disturbing that two women from the Fiji islands introduced Tatau to the men of Samoan culture. Who better to administer the first Tatau than a scorned woman; right? I believe the encouragement of this ritual is deeper proof of woman’s intention to further man’s belief that these testosterone induced behaviors make them appear manlier.
Several masculine sports come to mind when I ponder “manlier.” Noodling is the refined skill of placing one’s hand into a dark, cavernous hole under muddy water to extract a bottom dwelling fish without losing fingers. The winner goes home with all ten digits and Friday night’s fried food du jour. Or, how about the wildly popular Chi Kung? This hyped up and mildly delusional form of karate allows any male having a routine psychotic out of body episode to channel enough energy to break cement blocks with his forehead. I certainly would not argue that the benefits of the latter are immeasurable if working in the field of masonry. Nonetheless, I’m sure it was a well thought out plan by women to help men realize that permanently marking the body with ink would be “manly.” But I digress.
To better stimulate your visualization of this three-month grueling Samoan process, imagine half your body replacing all the balloons at the 132nd Annual Fall Festival’s dart throwing booth. Tiny darts repeatedly puncture your torso instead of the Festival balloons. The Tufuga would take an instrument fashioned into something similar to a hammer and tap the end of the razor sharp animal carcass until it pierced the skin deep enough to deposit the desired level of inky residue securely in place. Thus creating what I am certain was an attractive symbol of virility and machismo.
Rest assured that Samoan women were not restricted from this treat to their vanity. Quite the opposite. A slighter form of self mutilation – tiny polka dots – was applied to the canvas of the female hand. The feminine Tatau was known as Lima. Without these feminine beauty dots, a woman of social status would never be able to serve Kava, the narcotic drink of the day, to the Chief of her tribe.
While I sat at the designated bar for the evening, Coyote Ugly, it occurred to me that in 2,000 years this custom had not changed. Every beverage-serving beauty that night was adorned with perfectly painted, pierced and panached parts. I also cannot help but think about the permanent eyeliner poster child, Michael Jackson. What woman doesn’t aspire to Morticia-like bat eyes? Could it be that Polynesian women understood something the post-modern woman has found elusive all these thousands of years? When it comes to men, the more alcohol flowing throughout the testosterone community, the simpler control of the same becomes.
My natural curiosity demanded I uncover the contents of the inky substance injected through the bird bone syringe. I was mortified to learn that a glandular substance from three-week old rotted bovines was injected under the skin of societal dudes and debutantes of the day. You can imagine how relieved I was to learn that our more humane tattoo solution is a mixture of 80% alcohol, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, and iron dioxide. It would be the perfect answer to sun exposed pigment problems if only we would grind in some zinc oxide with our pestle. No more worries in the tanning bed.
So what happens if I get a tattoo of some “great idea at the time” image I might later regret? Say a rose that later sags with the aging breast, or maybe an idyllic picture of a rock star that now resembles my wrinkled grandmother? But worse yet – what if the precise tattoo application of the United States flag on the back of my thigh looked more like a melted patriotic doormat on the back of my yams? In my old age, will I constantly be subjected to questions about the mystery blob amidst my finely honed cottage cheese? I wonder if Paris mulled these same questions over in her pretty little head before commissioning the barbed wire art around her waist. Nevermind. A woman who uses an iron to make a grill cheese sandwich probably doesn’t worry about “consequence of action” too often. But nevertheless, I am worried about buyer’s remorse.
How liberating it felt when I discovered there are multiple ways one of these costly little works of art could be removed if I woke up amidst a regrettful Las Vegas morning after moment. There’s the older, less popular version of dermabrasion, which uses a high concentration of blasting sand and a power tool. I could go the chemical route and just have Tannic Acid poured over the unwanted rendering. This option only causes slight disfigurement akimbo to that experienced by fire victims. The trendier methods of removal include lasers of several varieties: CO2, Argon, Ruby, and Alexandrite. But the loud ear-splitting noise of the smoke evacuators caused me to remove the last choice entirely from my list. After further inquiry, it was relayed to me that these “evacuators” remove smoke created from burning flesh. Yikes, not me!
Alas, I am resigned to remain the same social pariah – forever barred from attaining a Samoan Chief’s station in the tribe or hold down a sexy drink-bearer career. True, I will walk the streets minus decorative displays of personal uniqueness. Realizing the shame my ancestors would have bore knowing that the direct offspring of their heirs refused to properly “come-of-age” is a weight I can hardly shoulder. My own disappointment at not being able to participate in the “post tattoo party” thrown at the end of the defamation period for the now mature male Samoan is overwhelming. I will never be able to smash the vessel of an undrinkable narcotic mystery liquid at my feet forever memorializing the passage from one era of my life to the next. Oh, wait. I did that during my college graduation party. It’s a little fuzzy, but somewhat memorable.
For those who brave this mysterious cultural taboo, I salute you. You wear the crown of individualism well and must have an elevated degree of bravery that I do not possess. Or, it could be that you just own more alcohol.
Read last week’s Freelance Friday How to Write The Blockbuster Novel: Edition One
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