You see, when I was hit by a police car while riding my bike a year and a half ago, I broke my hand and my collarbone. I had very good surgeons taking care of me, but I did not follow directions very well as far as after-care was concerned. I rarely wore by sling, but the kicker was when I attempted to move a (small) refrigerator by myself (my friend Gerbs was supposed to come by and help but he was late and I was impatient). My collarbone had a screw in it holding it down, you see, and when I put weight on the arm my shoulder kind of dropped, the screw came out a bit, and it never quite healed right, much to the consternation of my very stern doctor. It looks like my collarbone on that side is sticking out of the skin a little, and my shoulder is lower than it should be, and it feels...well, 'almost' right. But not quite right.
I was stupid to have done what I did, though in the scheme of things it's probably no big deal, a cosmetic thing. But its not often you make a mistake and have to live with the fallout for the rest of your life. My shoulder will always be jacked up, and it will always be a reminder to me, 'if only I would have listened.'
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I dated a woman once who cheated on me with someone she met at a bar, and she got herpes, and now she has to live with that the rest of her life. I was upset at the cheating part, but mostly I felt bad for her because she would have to live the rest of her life too with this gross STD reminder of what happened to be irreparable damage done. I'm not bitter about what happened; but it does suck for her.
Adultery, STDs, broken collarbones that don't quite heal right. And tattoos.
I have been wanting to write about tattoos for a while, but never knew quite what it was that made them worth writing about. The aforementioned woman was covered head to toe in tattoos. I thought it was kind of sexy at the time, but now I think it is just so...permanent. Not stupid, not trendy, just permanent. I can't help imagining people with tattoos up their arms (as seems to be the hipster trend now) as an old person walking down the street in a tee shirt, still sporting those hipster tattoos at 70, 80, 90. It's like a mini marriage between your skin and the ink: "Till death do us part." But it's with you for the rest of your life. That's pretty big, bigger than a jacked up shoulder. Or maybe its no big deal at all.
I think people who have tattoos get really tired and annoyed when people point to them and say, "Ooo my, that certainly is interesting. What does that mean?" It's a double edged sword--you got inked because you wanted to stand out, but once you are standing out--even as an 80 year old--you have to account for it. Kind of like having a public blog, you're putting your body on display for the world to admire as a kind of work of art. And nobody really gets art. So it will always be annoying.
I'm not a good candidate for a tattoo (though I have entertained the idea). I change my mind too much about things, have too many interests and identities to stick with just one representative symbol or whatever or 'who I am.' I want to die sporting a clean canvas. I like the aesthetic.
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I remember a kid in high school who's quote in the yearbook was:
Why write something now I'll only regret later?
I thought that was very smart that quote: half smart-ass, and half intellectually smart...like he knew himself very well, or knew the future, or both. We live with regrets, only some are bigger and more permanent than others. Tattoos can be a minor regret (or no regret at all, though if you have a tribal tattoo around your arm like Pamela Anderson, or the word "LOCO" inked across your forehead, or any Looney Toons character on your body, anywhere, well that you might be a good candidate for regret). But they are so fascinating to me because they represent a real aesthetic commitment to something...however goofy and trendy that aesthetic might be.
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A priest told me one time that when we confess our sins to God, he throws them all in the middle of the ocean and plants a sign that says, "NO FISHING." I thought that was cute; I liked that, like we don't have to revisit our sordid past, doctor's orders. But what do you do when your stupid decisions stare back at you in the mirror every time you take your shirt off?
You learn to live with them, I suppose, and take them as lessons learned. We can't live this life without making mistakes, so mistakes, in a way, show that we are really living, living as if we know there are no second-takes, as if we are writing on the wall in permanent marker, that is, as long as we really know it, are fully informed that this is not a dress rehearsal. When we get to Heaven God will ask, 'where are your scars?' I hope I will have a few to sport that aren't the result of mere stupidity.