This is on my left wrist, known as a 'bracelet' tat.
You all may have noticed I have a pretty significant interest in history. It's strange, though, because being adopted, I don't know what my own personal history really is. My adoption records list my cultural/genetic heritage as "Northern Europe", and I was born and raised in an area populated by German settlers, so I figured there was some kind of German/Viking thing going on. Then my hair started turning silver in big streaks and I assumed there was some Celtic mixed in, somewhere - it's not an unusual combination. (Prematurely silver hair - mine started turning white when I was sixteen - is a recessive gene found in a lot of Celtic-dominated groups, much like red hair is found among the Norse.)
I had always wanted a tattoo, since I was a kid, so when I turned eighteen I got serious and started looking around at tattoo designs. Quite early-on I got the idea of Celtic knotwork (this was 1987 or so, long before the huge popularity of all things Celtic). Celtic knotwork, while kind of Celtic, was also a design used among the Norse and later societies like the Anglo-Saxons. So I figured it covered all the bases in terms of what my heritage probably was. Plus, I liked how it looked. That was a biggie - I sure wasn't getting a tattoo of something I didn't like, heritage be damned.
Then came finding the EXACT knotwork design. That actually took the longest. From 1987 to 1993, I scrounged through libraries and later web sites, looking at all the knotwork I could find, and nothing really spoke to me. Then, Morgan Llywelyn published her book "Finn MacCool", a novelization of an Irish folk tale, and there, on the cover, was the knotwork I wanted. (She's an Irish history/culture scholar who, in between publishing scholarly works, writes wonderful novelizations of ancient Irish myth. Try "Red Branch", the easiest-read and most entertaining version of the Ulter Cycle that I've ever encountered.)
At the time, we were getting ready to move to Hawaii, and the husbeast pointed out that we had one of the best tattoo parlors on the East Coast, Ancient Art, right down the road in Yorktown, and if I wanted the tat, I should haul ass down there and get it.
So I did.
I walked into the place, slapped the book on the counter, and said, "I want this, around my wrist." the guy working that day peered at it and said, oh, you want ____ (I forget his name), he specializes in knotwork tats." and went and got someone else. We talked about how exactly I wanted the tat - how big, solid or shaded, outlined or not, etc - we had a major disagreement over color (he wanted to outline it in black, I insisted on woad blue for the whole thing; I won, it's my arm), and he told me to come back in three days for the actual tat. (I found out later, that's the policy with a lot of really reputable places, when you go in looking like a conservative librarian, and demand a tattoo - even if they have the time right then, they make you wait, to be sure you want it.) Three days later, I went back. It took about an hour.
At the time, I was working as an accounting clerk, and got the tat on my left wrist, figuring I could cover it with a watch or a big cuff bracelet as needed. Obviously, when you're working with people's money, you need to look trustworthy, and fifteen years ago, tattoos on females were a big no-no in terms of looking reliable. (They still aren't smiled upon, in most of the US, though they're starting to chill out a little, depending on the tattoo and where it is on your body.) What I didn't count on, though, was the total unobservant-ness of the non-tattooed world. People with tattoos or an intest in them will spot my tat immediately and ask about it. People who don't? Sometimes they never notice. I've had people who've known me for years in some cases all of a sudden gasp and ask me when I got a tattoo - the answer is always "Before you met me."
Just last month at my gym, the owner of the place was doing my weigh and measure. She laid her finger on my tattoo, started laughing, and said "When did you get this?" and I said "Uh, 1993?" and she kept laughing and admitted she had just noticed it. She, at least, had seen enough tattoos to realize it was old and she was unobservant. I assume most people see it and their brains think 'bracelet' and it just doen't process.
When I lived in Hawaii, I got a lot of questions over it. People would ask if it was an "Island" tattoo, meaning Polynesian, because knotwork has a strong resemblance to some of the carvings done by the Maori in New Zealand. And I would explain yes, it was an island tattoo, but the island was Ireland. And we would have a nice talk about the similarities and differences in our cultures, whatever they were.
At the moment I am designing another tattoo - an arm band for my right bicep, of flowers from all the places I've lived. And I have promised myself that if this working out thing does the trick and I wind up with abdominal muscles I'm willing to bare in public, I will get a belly tattoo. Though that probably won't happen, the abs OR the tattoo. Hope springs eternal.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Tattoos, and stuff.
Over at Bells' blog, she shows a photo of her tattoo (a nice tree of life design) and an explanation on why she chose it. She asked for stories about other people's tattoos, and so I thought I'd discuss mine. (This would make a fine meme, so if you've got a tattoo, consider yourself tagged. Cough up a photo and the story of when and why you got it.)
at 1:33 PM