A String, in Theory
When the tattoo artist asked me since when did I want to get one, as an obvious follow up question to my previous statement about having given myself an ultimatum of getting at least one by my 30th birthday, I didn’t have an answer. I couldn’t remember. May be because I had always wanted one. I grew up seeing faded green coloured patterns/symbols/dots(?) on my grandmothers’ forearms, and mostly on the bodies of women who cooked or cleaned or cared for us while growing up. For them it was almost always their husbands’ names. As if they were branded. Like cattle. Branded they were, domesticated. Domestic helps. Anyway. For me it was always just fascinating. Sort of a “birthmark” of choice. I have one. A birthmark. A massive brown oval yet somehow shapeless blob with two (relatively) smaller round black blobs inside it (update: in recent years one of them has disintegrated into many tiny dots). For most of my life I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it. Well now we coexist. But coming back to why I wanted a tattoo or was it ‘since when?’ well, doesn’t matter. I got one. For now.
One of the reasons I didn’t get it in my 20's is because I wanted it to be meaningful. FULL of meaning. Oozing with meaning.
The thing is, I’ve always felt that I never had a single thing that meant enough (and also looked good as a design) to be on my body forever. I get over things rather quickly. Very rarely do things, events, people impress me for a long enough time. So I got over this search of meaning.
Actually, more definitively, I got over it when I met this theatre director with a big circle on his neck (and I loved it! It was just that, a big circle) and I asked him “why that?” and he said “just”, and whether he meant it or not, from that moment on I felt at ease with the idea of having a tattoo that just was. No meanings attached.
And now I was on a constant look out for shapes, flowers, leaves, anything I liked. But I still hadn’t found the one, the first one. By now I had started to believe it was to do with commitment. But I don’t have commitment issues. What! No.
Meanwhile, my 30th came and went. Bye bye.
I was still searching. For meaning? Blech.
Then I shortlisted some ideas, even went to one tattoo artist in GORAI! (Gorai is basically the Mars of anything) still didn’t get one. It was too far, too expensive, too much. (too this, too tat(too)
One evening, I started to play with the idea of getting complementary tattoos, with my unsuspecting sister. If I had a partner to go with may be the chances of me finally getting one will increase? She was least bit interested, also least bit aware of the plan.
So the obvious next step was to think of designs we both would want. What would be good enough to convince her to maybe get one? A place we grew up in? Home?
I couldn’t convince her, but the same night I finally went and got one. For something I had spent years thinking about, this seemed fairly impulsive. While the tattoo artist was adapting the design I had shared with him, I was still not sure. I kept creating scenarios in my head of how I will just end up leaving without actually getting it done, all the while in the background the guy kept complaining to his fellow tattoo makers about the lame music that was playing and to switch to something “cool”.
The next thing I knew I had okayed the design and my arm was stretched out under a bright white light, and he was still complaining about the music. And as the needle had just started to pierce my skin, he turned to his colleague (yes very careless of him) and requested for some Aerosmith to “get in the zone” and there it was, ‘Crazy’. Steven Tyler’s soul-stirring screams filling up that dimly lit tattoo studio (the general aesthetic of that place and that dude was ‘trying too hard’). But here was a song I discovered may be when I was 14/15, a song I had listened to on repeat for hours, for years, a song I grew up with. In fact, it was my high-school BFF and my song. While I grew out of that friendship way before “forever”, the song stayed with me, although up until that day it always left a bitter taste of unwanted memories of an unwanted friendship. I’m glad that changed.
And just like that, all the women I knew with discoloured green brandings, my relationship with commitment, with my birthmark, with my sister, the Aerosmith song, my search for meaning, search for shapes, and all my growing-up years, came together in that one line drawing.
What does it look like?
a distorted face
a pizza slice
a string of thread
a place of longing