Personal adornment

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Image courtesy of Rachel Kramer. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Last weekend, I got a tattoo. It’s my second—the first is the VFD logo from the Series of Unfortunate Events, which half the world thinks is an Egyptian-inspired Playboy Bunny and has, in recent memory, basically only been correctly identified once, by a sorority sister’s tanked prom date, on a bus back from semi-forma–but the first of any notable size and color.

It took a week from me making the appointment to me being in the chair. In the meantime, I sent the poor man something like seven pictures of cedar waxwings, along with a random assortment of his other tattoos that I like with exciting comments like “I like these colors!” and “These are good lines?” and “I would like this pose unless that’s not possible in which case another pose is good.” For all that I was offended when my corporate personality test showed that I put relatively little consideration into my decisions, this experience does seem to have proved the thing right.

The experience itself was pleasant and relatively pain-free (thanks, insulating layer of arm fat!). I chose the artist because his portfolio book had a coworker’s tattoo in it. I like the tattoo and I like the coworker it’s on, so it seemed like a good omen. When I told this to the artist, he mentioned that he was actually responsible for a whole chunk of the tattoos on my coworkers (we’re a Very Hip Company). Chatting about mutual acquaintances filled up a not-small portion of the hour and a half that it took for the thing to be etched on my person, and helped pass the time.

Currently, of course, the thing is itchy. My personal meat sack, not realizing that it’s attached to a bundle of neurons that wants permanent drawings on itself because Reasons, is of course trying to heal the palm-sized open wound on my arm. Because evolution is cruel, this involves a lot of sloughing of intensely-colored scab skin, and itches-that-quite-literally-cannot-be-scratched. I’ve grown relatively blasé about shedding what looks like red and green snakeskin in the shower, but part of me can’t help but feel silly slapping myself in the arm to stop the itching without scratches that will disrupt the healing process.

(Luckily, since my coworker cohort are a tattooed bunch themselves, and are sympathetically ignoring the slaps and are providing advice on moisturizing effectively.)

The whole experience has been a fun mapping of how the people in my life are connected via the social medias. The day I got the tattoo, I posted a passing reference to it on Twitter, with no photo. Three coworkers responded that they’d already seen the tattoo on the artist’s Instagram feed, and that they liked it. Two dudes in the Wee Hips Coffee Shop that I went to afterwards came up to say the same thing.

Thankfully, everyone’s feedback was positive, but it was a weird reminder that once a mid-sized city is segmented out by age and interest and relative levels of hip, it’s a small space. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone follows each other on Instagram, and goes to the same coffee shop, and will see you at the farmer’s market over the weekend. It’s not a bad thing, usually, and people have been overwhelmingly kind on their reactions to the tattoo (an older woman cooed over it at the theatre), but it does make me wonder if this is unique to Atlanta. We talk about being a city of neighborhoods, but I assume that some of this happens in every big town. It must to some extent, or subcultures would never cohere and grow and become anything of note.

Hopefully I’ll leave town for at least a few years, eventually. Either way, I have an excellent (and crowd-approved) bird.

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