After twelve loooong years, it looks like the tattoo ban has been lifted. My husband has suggested we get paired tattoos (wait – don’t stick your fingers down your throat just yet!) of a cat and a mouse with a brick, and I’ve yipped like a Yorkshire terrier in heat and accepted.
So the tattoo ban. Allow me to explain. I got my first tattoo in my mid-teens when I was still at a posh school ‘For Young Ladies’ (nb – I’m now neither), and my twelfth at 22. At the almost-middle-age of 34 I still miss the endorphin glow that comes with the bzzzzzzzzzzzzzt of the inking machine pulling at my skin and the instant feel-good factor of a permanent, positive change to the sack of meat my mind lives in. But when I got #12, my then-best-friend-now-husband did me a deal: he’d help me pay for it if #12 was it. Well, I agreed, sure, why not?, thinking it was unlikely that we’d still be friends in a couple of years (let alone married with a kid and a cat) and I could go without further body modification for the few months or years we remained friends. I’ve never been great at relationships or human-to-human stuff so I didn’t see this agreement affecting future tat plans. But bugger me, we got together, said ‘I do’ and that meant I didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t go back on my word and get someone to sink some more ink.
Twelve might sound like quite a lot, even for a chunk like me. But it’s not as if my tattoos are big and scary – I never saved up enough for that. Most of them are no bigger than the palm of my son’s hand. There’re a lot of them, though, and they’re generally quite badly done. There’s the rat above my belly button with a squinty tail, the shark on my chest with anatomically incorrect fins and oddly shaped bubbles, the pentagram with wiggly lines (I spent ages getting the angles perfect and the lines straight with a ruler and compass at the back of my chemistry class – and it was all for nought), and the most lurid, garish, ugly flower fairy in the known universe. Cicely M. Barker would see no magic in this inking. It’s a psychedelic vomit splash of a fairy. Just as well it’s on my back so I don’t see it.
Actually, unless I’m wearing something very low cut (rare) or having some kind of medical examination (equally rare) you wouldn’t know any of them were there unless you came swimming with me or I told you. That’s so I don’t have to wear long sleeves or polo necks when I get interviewed for jobs. Or pancake make-up which apparently doesn’t smell or taste nearly as good as it sounds.
My favourite is probably my dog’s name, emblazoned in a bright green scroll across the top of my arm, but more because of who she was than any artistic merit it could claim. I had many others picked out for my back, arse, hips and upper arms, including Calvin & Hobbes (and some snowmen), the ISBN and barcode for my first book, some cartoons from the early 1900s, and my favourite saying ‘Better to light a candle than curse the dark’. But, till this weekend, all seemed lost.
I don’t know what changed or why, but we’ve agreed that in a few months’ time we’ll get Krazy Kat and Ignatz (an old comic strip penned by George Herriman) tattoos for our 9th wedding anniversary. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, Krazy is a dreamy cat besotted with a brick-throwing mouse called Ignatz. The plan is for me to get Krazy mooning about on my upper arm, and my other half to get Ignatz (and brick) on his. We’ve got 5 months to go over 31 years of comic strips and choose The One, find a tattoo artist we trust, and save up for it. We’re taking our time and Doin’ It Right.
Unlike Cicely M. Barker, Mr Herriman can rest easy in his grave.
Gill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at email@example.com, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.
Gill’s often-sad sometimes-grisly nonfiction book about the Victorian Titanic will be published in January 2014 by Pen & Sword. Feel free to send her chocolate.