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Tattoos & Taboos

The white screen of the TV washes my grandmother’s front half in a cool, technological glow. The lights in the living room are all off, the curtains pulled shut. I went simple for this presentation—black typing over the default Google Slides theme.

Marie Clapp is the most risqué relative I have, and she also happens to be my favorite. She has a few powerful principles, as all strong people do. One of them is to never, ever, get a tattoo. My younger sister stick-and-poked her way through this rule eight months into her first year away from home. Then again, two months later. And again (permanently) in another six. Lindsey has the impossible combination of a youngest sibling’s flippant confidence plus the aged wisdom of the oldest. 

The screen. My clicker. Our gurgling stomachs, and the scent of dinner wrapping the room. “Grandma…” I begin, “I have some exciting news. I don’t know whether you’ll find it exciting, but it’s important to me that you at least know.”

Artwork is my first line of logic. Er, string of logic—line of attack. My attempt at an appeal to logos. I am a student. I’m fortunate enough to be immersed in the world of higher education. I am cultivating an appreciation for the arts as I’ve never before. Tattooing a piece of art onto my body is a tribute to the great realm. One wonders whether it’s not a pathetic tribute at that. My half-an-inch by two inch design is not particularly pronounced. 

Grandma’s smile has pinched itself into a grimace. Next slide! 

More logos. The screen darkens a bit as a collage transitions onto it. Last night, I painstakingly copy-and-pasted 37 photos of every family friend and celebrity who have tattoos. I couldn’t find photos of the tattoos themselves, so instead I just used the faces of their owners. 

“Emma Stone, Orlando Bloom, Emma Watson…” I can’t bring myself to look at her face, so instead I rattle off the names of my role models in body art.

The following slide is a clipart photo of rum and another of coke, lined up side-by-side. Grandma’s second principle is to avoid drinking. In typical “do as I say, not as I do” fashion, she has plenty of first-hand experience(s) with alcohol. One story I’ve only grown to love more with each passing year of college. While my mom and uncle were young, she went dancing with some friends and confronted the unruly power of the Mixed Drink. Diet Coke shrouded the flavor of the rum until it was too late. She spent the entirety of the next day in bed, and Grandpa had to tell my uncle that she was under the weather. 

I turn back to face her. “Everybody makes mistakes,” I say, and despite my nerves a grin unexpectedly crawls onto my face. We banter like this. She can handle it. 

The next slide is a photo of the two of us on Halloween. She’s dressed as Little Bo Peep and I’m a tiny witch. The point is this—she knows me. So well. I think it’s working, a bit. The gears are turning. Time for a wrap-up hit of pathos

“Johnny Depp once said,” I read off a piece of printer paper, now wrinkled from the sweat of my hands, “‘My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.’” 

The final slide is a checklist. It reads “My tattoo is…” in bold Playfair Display font. Underneath are four boxes, all checked off. A symbol I will never tire of seeing. A subject that has transformed my life, forever. An image I find beautiful. Located somewhere discreet (that word is for her benefit specifically). 

All that’s left to do is one thing. I lift up my shirt. On the top right of my ribcage, to the side of my chest, sits a teeny, shaded croissant.

Cover photo courtesy of ful-filled

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