Why I get inked.

I have three tattoos and I love them all. No regrets, no embarrassment, no bad experiences. I just got my third one a week ago and I’m already gunning for more!

Part of why I love getting tattoos so much is the process beforehand. The masochist part of me also enjoys the pain but I don’t want to make you uncomfortable…

Who am I kidding? I don’t care. But I will talk about that later.

I have been fascinated with tattoos since I read this as a kid:

And this tattooing had been the work of a departed prophet and seer of his island, who, by those hieroglyphic marks, had written out on his body a complete theory of the heavens and the earth, and a mystical treatise on the art of attaining truth; so that Queequeg in his own proper person was a riddle to unfold; a wondrous work in one volume; but whose mysteries not even himself could read, though his own live heart beat against them; and these mysteries were therefore destined in the end to moulder away with the living parchment whereon they were inscribed, and so be unsolved to the last.  ~Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

My tattoos aren’t like makeup, an augmentation to temporarily change the way I look and then wash off at the end of the day. My tattoos are a part of me, an extension, amplification, of my being. My process for getting tattoos is this: pick something that is both meaningful and beautiful, and then find a way to portray it to the world in a way that represents who I am. 

Dove Tattoo

Exhibit A: First tattoo (right ankle).

*Note: All photos are right after I got the tattoos (before they healed).

This was my first experience paying a stranger to permanently etch something into my skin so I went with a script, which I highly recommend for other needle virgins. I found the dove from a design I saw on the web and the script says “Shalom” in Hebrew. The tattooing only took twenty minutes and was the cheapest kind of tattoo to get. It only hurt a little bit (I tell people it felt like scratching a sunburn), and it was something I could easily hide and wouldn’t be very noticeable (obviously not something I care about anymore). I chose the word “Shalom” because I admire the word’s meaning and the intricate beauty of the Hebrew script. Make sure you have a reliable source (in my case a professor at my university) check your translation. You don’t want to end up with a tattoo in Chinese you think says “Peace” that actually means “Prostitute.” I was currently studying Conflict Resolution and on my way to Rwanda and Uganda to study peacekeeping and the Rwandan Genocide for a semester. I cherish the ability to “wish peace” on others through actual words and actions. I am a people pleaser, what can I say?

My next tattoo was five years later, mostly because I knew I wanted something more complex and needed to save up.

Peacock tattoo

I wanna see your peacock cock cock… (left shoulder).

I chose a peacock because they are bewitchingly gorgeous. It’s in the “art nouveau” style which is my favorite; all whimsical and flowy with jewel-like colors. I wasn’t initially looking for any type of symbolism. However, in early 2012 I was discovering the meaning of beauty and dismantling my distortion of its definition within myself. It took me five months to decide on this tattoo. I was about to turn 27 and feeling pretty great about my life. I don’t remember ever feeling as confident or secure with myself and I wanted to celebrate it by putting a stunning animal on my shoulder where it will be seen when I feel my hottest – in a strapless dress or tank top. After I got the tattoo I read that the peacock is a symbol of renewal and resurrection and it only made sense.

2012 turned out to be a shitty year for me and in October I started planning my next tattoo. I call 2012 my “year of reckoning and discovery of what resilience feels like when it counts.” So, a willow tree it is!

Willow Tree

Whimsical foliage is the best kind of foliage (right forearm).

There is a lot about willow trees I love. They are gorgeous, their roots run crazy deep so they are a symbol of strength and resilience (ask any home owner who’s had to have one removed from their property), and they also symbolize feminine intuition and grasp of sorrow. I have been re-discovering and studying womanhood and feminism so an owl (my favorite animal and symbol of feminine wisdom) was perfect to stick in there on a branch. There are also kodama faces hidden throughout the tree as tribute to my love of Hayao Miyazaki films. In my favorite, Princess Mononoke, they are a symbol of health and happiness in a forest or a particular tree.

The choice to permanently mark my skin is a big one and I don’t take it lightly. I spend a lot of time planning and designing these guys. Shauna at Grizzly Tattoo did my peacock and tree (the guy that did the dove no longer tattoos) and is crazy talented but I definitely did my homework before finding her. You should only go to licensed/certified tattoo parlors, not only because it still allows you to continue to donate blood to the Red Cross, but it’s just sensible and safe. Letting a drunk friend lurchingly etch your girlfriend’s name on your bicep probably isn’t a good idea; this isn’t either:

Make sure you choose something that will be meaningful to you 20-30 years down the road. You might want to rethink tattooing your boyfriend’s face on your chest, or anyone’s face for that matter. Also, look at the portfolio of the artist to make sure your styles match. Part of the reason why I went back to Shauna is not just because she’s super cool and hilarious while putting you at ease throughout the process, but because she gets me. She actually understands my style and vision. I took pages of images and drawings in to Shauna and spent about a month just consulting with her before even making an appointment. Give yourself time to get ready and make any last minute changes before you seal the deal.

Also, maybe run spellcheck on your script.

Also, maybe run spellcheck on your script.

Tattoos do hurt, but for me it’s a “hurts so good” kind of pain that makes me feel alive. Okay, less cliché: it makes me feel infinite, yet mortal. I have the ability to feel pain because I’m a human being and because I can feel this pain I am able to distinguish between good and bad; I am capable of recognizing what I do or don’t want to experience. My shoulder tattoo hurt a bit where she had to go over the end of my collar bone, and then my willow tree was testing my limits toward the end, but the throbbing, raw feeling of that needle etching into your skin, and then watching it heal afterward into an exquisite manifestation of your essence makes the experience complete. When I am an old lady with baggy veiny skin and these images don’t look as awesome as they do now, yes, I may consider them a mistake and feel the need to cover them up, but I will also look back at my youth as a Bright Young Thing and remember the pain and how beautifully fresh they looked with fond nostalgia. I’m a big fan of nostalgia. Isn’t part of life learning how not to regret your past mistakes but learn from their reminder?

I am already planning my next tattoo. I will not give any spoilers, but I will say that it will be awesome, beautiful, and with a sense of humor.

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A street car oozing with desire.

She’s hurrying through the rain to the street car that is on the brink of pulling away from the oh-so-close stop. There, made it. Whew. The bangs that are slowly-but-surely growing out are plastered to a dewy forehead and the tome-like library books got some rain but they should be fine. Ear buds are pressed into place so that Jeff Mangum sings ever so louder before drops of rain are brushed lightly from a messenger bag. She settles in the hard seat and straightens her back to observe her surroundings.

Immediate eye contact is made with a pair of clear blue eyes and perfectly mussed hair. Male eyes and male hair. Yep, he’s good looking. Male eyes are suddenly looking back and there’s a flash and a jolt as female eyes quickly dart away.

Lean forward.

Look disinterested.

Glance out the window.

Think about what could be arranged or nonchalantly messed. Look out the window again. Is he staring? Does he notice her? Look toward the window across the aisle. She will look at everything but him no matter how much she wants to.

Fingertips tingle, ears buzz, toes go numb in soggy boots; she ever-so-carefully sneaks a glance at the coif with legs through the corner of her right eye. He is staring. Both smile with half their mouth, a mirror-image of the sideways grin, a “no big deal” facade belying a turmoil of fluttering in the stomach region. Both look away.

She feels his gaze return to her right cheek as they pass the park.

Change the music on your phone.

Gaze with feigned interest at a book.

Run fingers through damp hair.

His stop is here and there’s motion toward the sliding door. She looks once more and chances a full-mouthed smile that he mirrors yet again. He steps off and his back is to her. She follows it with the glare of the sun and her own reflection in her eyes. The street car pulls away as he turns his head to look again. He is walking away, smiling at her, hair bouncing, shrinking toward amorphous anonymity.

She holds his gaze, making the eye contact last as long as possible, the streetcar still permeated with the remains of desire, longing, and what-ifs. She stares at this smiling stranger and looks on as he walks full on into an oak tree.

Yep. True story.

This one is about kissing.

How do people feel about kissing on the first date? This is a first date with someone you only met once before at a noisy bar. You had a pretty great date; there was a lot in common, a lot of laughing and joking around, but is that enough for the whole thing to be sealed in a single closed-mouth kiss? Still reeling with contending emotions when I woke up this morning, I promptly went and Googled “first date kiss.” A lot of people have a lot of things to say on this subject.

This is what I image most of these article-writers look like. They all thing they have "the right answer."

“Read my article about love! I have the right answer, not all of those other douche bags!”

There is a surprising amount of people online saying that it’s NOT a good idea to kiss after the first date. This article says that holding off on that kiss can say “I see long-term potential in you” which seems a bit overly-analyzed and too much “I like you and want to have your babies” thinking for me. Then, this one says it is a way to show the other person that you have self control and are patient enough to wait until a better time (it also uses all versions of the word “seduce” and kind of creeped me out).

Careful, he's seducing as your read this.

Careful, he’s “seducing” as you read this.

This guy even lists some very specific reasons, including the fact that he just doesn’t like kissing people he knows very little. The kiss can hold so much value to some people and and can come with certain expectations (second date, interest in a relationship, sex) so he recommends avoiding it altogether to prevent leading someone on, not to mention potential awkwardness if the other person does not want to receive the aforementioned kiss. The article is from a man’s point of view (usually the person initiating the kiss) so it didn’t do much for me on the receiving end but it was enlightening to see how much pressure is put on guys in general when it comes to ending the first date. I am truly sorry for you.

Pictures: Guy about to implode from pressure t not ask if her carpet matches her curtains.

Pictured: Guy on the verge of imploding due to resisting to ask if her carpet matches the curtains.

Why do we obsess about these little things? I went on to read other articles that said kissing is good to do at the end of the date just for the purpose of expressing interest in the other person and making it clear that you want a second date. Apparently it’s all about signals and blah blah blah.

This is seriously a foreign language to me and what is up with all the subtlety?  Why don’t you just say “Hey, I like you and we should see each other again?” Why does it have to be some sort of game with rules, expectations, and non-verbal signals that I don’t understand or detect? If it’s supposed to be some sort of game or sport my expectation is to constantly be fearful of this kind of public embarrassment:

As I re-enter the dating world I have some mixed emotions about all this beating around the bush. When you date in high school and college you are dating younger men that you probably have known for a bit since you most likely run in the same circles. There are no “blind dates” or  worries about first impressions since you are already acquainted with your date. You’re young and just looking for new experiences, not in your late twenties watching your generation settle down with long-term relationships. I miss the carefreeness of it all but this was my life 6 years ago.

It’s nice to know I am going out with men that are more settled and sure of themselves financially and career-wise. I know he can mostly likely afford to pick up the check or the gas on an excursion and will never ask me to lend him some money so he can buy an Xbox (yes that has happened to me). I know that men in their late twenties/early thirties are most likely on the same page as me goal-wise since we have already left behind that peak in our lives when we figure out who we are and what we want so are already underway toward living our lives.

Sorry, Hipster Barista, you're not my type.

Sorry, 22-year-old Hipster Barista, you’re not my type.

So my answer to the question “Should you kiss on the first date?” is: WHO THE HELL CARES?! Just do whatever you want and if it’s weird, it’s weird! You’ll learn from it and move on to either a second date where you laugh about awkwardness or you never have to see the person again and your problem is solved!

Crap, I’ve morphed into Carrie Bradshaw. Can I please have her apartment sans giant mole?

I will take Mr. Big, though.

I will take Mr. Big, though.

…and I’m back!

All has been quiet on this blog but I’m back. No excuses. No apologies. I just haven’t felt like posting anything in a long time. I dub this my “fluff” piece to help me get back in the grind of writing “in public.” It’s good for me.

A few weeks ago I ran back and forth between doing some laundry and drinking wine with Scandal. It was late so all of these things combined resulted in me splayed on the floor, my hair fanned behind me like a disheveled peacock with a sore, throbbing ankle. In my hurry around the corner from putting my last load in the dryer I had tripped down the single step into the sunken living room; I was trying to beat a commercial to the finish line.

It’s a humiliating feeling as I imagine looking down at myself from above wearing over-sized men’s black sweats and a paint-stained college sweatshirt while doing laundry and drinking alone at midnight. I want to believe that my loose, wet hair is arranged like a Victoria’s Secret model and I resemble a perfectly posed Olympic synchronized swimmer, but I’m not. Not to spoon-feed, but this is a low point in my life.

I am divorced. Coincidentally, Valentine’s Day was the official end of my marriage. I am single again and not sure what I think about it. At work today I had the inevitable question from a client on the phone about my “new” last name.

Female Client: Oh, did you get married?

Me: Nope. The opposite.

Female Client: Oh, I’m so sorry.

Me: I’m not.

I’m experiencing a feeling of relief and ease of the stress that comes with waiting to “move on” from something. It’s also a feeling of pain and sadness that comes with nostalgia and loss. I’ll get through it. When I am not feeling the occasional moment of bitterness I am optimistic. I recently moved back to Portland and am living by myself in my own apartment. I’ve never lived alone before and I really like it so far, though I miss living with Lauri (my sister) and Molly.

I miss us being like this!

I miss us being like this!

This also means I re-enter the world of dating; I have to deal with the single men that judge and ogle and take you for granted (women do this, too). I hate the pressures that come with dating. I loathe small talk and always feel like I am in danger of saying the wrong thing or falling on my ass (literally). It’s exhausting but I plan to make it fun. Bring it on, MEN.

Yeah, even you guys! I'm not afraid of you!

Yeah, even you guys! I’m not afraid of you!

I had a fun night out this past weekend and a tall handsome man asked for my phone number. I gave it to him because he made me feel pretty and I am going on a date with him. With the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw I’d like to say that being single is fun and unpredictable. I like the new feeling of independence and plan to continue experiencing it for a long while. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being single and I hate that society makes you feel like half a person if you don’t have a significant other to call your “boy/girlfriend.” Yes, I am unattached and unmarried, but that doesn’t mean I’m perpetually bemoaning isolation from the world!

Can't. Function. Need. Someone. With. Penis.

Can’t. Function. Need. Someone. With. Penis.

I have awesome friends and family and I have fun with them. Yes, I think an important thing to remember is that just because you are single, you are not alone.

10 Best Things about Living Alone

  1. You can watch 10 episodes of Community in a row without guilt or shame.
  2. You can hot box yourself with fragrant incense to your heart’s content.
  3. You have appropriate justification for talking to your cats…if you need justification…
  4. You can consume a whole container of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups ALL BY YOURSELF.
  5. TTVD (Total TV Domination!)
  6. You want to take a 30-minute shower? Well, go right ahead!
  7. You get to fill a space with just your crap without worrying about breaking someone else’s crap or having to ask to use another person’s crap.
  8. You can cook a big meal and the leftovers are ALL YOURS.
  9. You can make a castle with your dirty dishes and no one will tell you different!
  10. Two words: Naked Time.

Ok, this isn’t one of my best lists but I promise to get better! It’s late and I just want to watch some more Community.