The Lack Of Origin Story
I got through a questionable adolescence and young adulthood without a tattoo. I thought, well, maybe my thing is to be weird WITHOUT a tattoo. When I was in high school, tattoos were for bad kids. I wasn’t a bad kid. My dumb hot goth boyfriend had BAD RELIGOIN tattooed on him at a party, which is now covered with a demon, and probably with dirt because I think that guy’s dead now.
I am of a somewhat perverse personality, not with like whips and chains but in the way that if there’s something everyone else loves, I hate it. I’ve never seen Titanic or had acid wash jeans. Once something is a cultural phenomenon, I’ve already moved on.
In college, everyone had tattoos, so I turned up my nose. When I left school, I found that every punk, every goth, every hip kid, every overpaid graphic designer, every coffeeshop-clogging creative was heavily inked. How cool could it be? I worried that a tattoo had to mean something deep and eternal. I worried about getting something that would later be dumb. My friend Bryan had a Stray Cats tattoo from the 80’s that I watched go out, and in, and back out of fashion, in a way that could make you seasick if you looked at it too closely. So, I just didn’t worry about it.
Joker’s Comedy Club
One time I was doing comedy in Tri-Cities, Washington. That’s right. Three small towns: Kennewick, Richmond, and Yakima, gather their low-self-esteem populations together and call themselves the Tri-Cities in an attempt to matter. The Thursday night show had a promo table with a local tattoo shop, and they were giving away a tattoo to the prettiest girl in attendance who didn’t have a tattoo. This really brought my two worst personality traits into the foreground: I am cheap and I am vain. The nice tattoo lady said I was cute, I should put in to win the contest. I laughed and said OK. I didn’t think she was right.
Then I had a really good set, I blew my headliner off the stage. He was murky and resentful. I was drinking for free. I checked in with the tattoo lady. She said I was still the winner by a mile. I was feeling small-town famous.
I hung out longer than I usually do. I started thinking about what kind of tattoo I wanted. I decided on an octopus. Like on the Kraken rum bottle, although that is a Kraken, which is not real. We got ready to line up for a vote. At 11th hour, she showed up: Brianna. Brianna was 24 and had blonde hair piled up on top of her head, and was somehow wearing a pink baseball hat perched on top of that. She had dimples. I knew I had lost, and lost badly.
Brianna got a dynamic ribbon reading “ALWAYS RESILIENT” tattooed on her ribcage, which I am told is a very painful spot, and that was a comfort to me. It was executed right in public, on a rickety massage table in a dark corner of a nightclub. I started to think maybe I was glad I didn’t win.
But then, I woke up surly and resentful that I didn’t have an octopus tattoo. Complaining to my friend Richie, he told me: believe, there is nothing more expensive than a free tattoo. You’re glad you didn’t get inked in the shitty tri-cities. When I got home to Los Angeles, I got a birthday gift from my baby sister so I could get a tattoo at a fancy shop, from the lovely Amy Nicoletto @amynicolettotattoo, and I don’t think I could love it any more. It looks good with dresses, it looks good with t-shirts, it’s just an accessory that I have all the time, and it doesn’t mean shit.
Wisdom Of The Ages
Looking back, I realize that if I had gotten a tattoo in my 20’s it would have been for The Cure, and if I’d gotten one in my 30’s, it would have been for Nick Cave, and they’d still be great today. This is an often-overlooked plus to being someone who maxed out their taste and personal growth at 17, and will always be the same asshole, and who is also cheap, and also vain.