Tattoo You

One of my greatest talents is avoiding self-reflection. I’m content with believing that I’m hip and easy going. Unfortunately, I have kids who call me on my crap. Unlike fair-weather friends who can be kicked to the curb when they criticize me, I take to heart the observations of my children.

For example, I like tattoos. I really do. I own a couple myself and admire the courage of those who have murals painted on their arms, chests or backs.

I recently discovered that as much of a fan I am of tattoos, I like them on others more than on my own children.

Our son Harrison has no tattoos. Our daughter Laine got her first one in December of her eighteenth year, when she was home for Christmas break from college. As a veteran of one tattoo at that point, I was excited for her.

Lainetat3When she was at the tattoo parlor, I wandered in to take a look. I nearly fainted. The artist was painting a very large antique key across her left shoulder blade. “It sure is big,” I said. (Okay, I probably said it more like, “IT SURE IS BIG!!!”)

Later Laine said she didn’t know it was going to be so large and asked if I was okay with it. I apologized for my initial reaction and told her she could have whatever she wants painted on her body.

Lainetat1A few years later, she got a single lens reflex camera tattooed on her right ankle. It was small and dainty. I liked it.

Lainetat4A few years after that, she and a couple of her girlfriends decided to get red button tattoos behind their right earlobes. I thought this sounded sweet and fun. I envisioned a petite shirt button. She came home with a coat button. “It sure is big,” I said. (Okay, I probably said it more like, “IT SURE IS BIG!!!”) Noting her disappointment, I added, “But I like it.” She was twenty-three, it was her body, and she could tattoo whatever she wanted on it.

Flash forward a few years to Harrison’s wedding. Months before the event, Laine—who is now twenty-six—chose a strapless bridesmaid gown. I encouraged her to wear a shrug to cover her back, thinking some people in the audience might be offended by the large key on her back. (Yes, I did and yes, I am now ashamed to admit it.)

A couple of hours before the bridesmaids were scheduled for photos, Laine asked if she could speak with me privately. I panicked. What could she possibly have to speak to me privately about? I feared I would be reprimanded for some inappropriate behavior. I had no idea what I might have done.

She spoke softly as she took me on a retrospective of her three tattoos and my reactions to each. She said she would not wear a shrug to the wedding ceremony because she is who she is—a woman with a large, beautiful tattoo on her back.

I was ashamed that I had asked her to compromise who she is in order not to offend others. I apologized. (Mostly, I was relieved that she didn’t point out times when I might have acted like a fool during the wedding weekend.)

Then she said, “A few months ago I got another tattoo. It’s on my arm. And it’s big.”

I braced myself, took a deep breath and said, “That’s fine honey. It’s your body and you can do what you want.”

Lainetat2

Lyric from the Bright Eyes song, “June on the West Coast.” Also a description of Laine’s hometown, Fort Bragg, California.

She pulled up the sleeve of her robe to reveal a quotation in beautiful calligraphy on her left tricep. I won’t lie—IT IS BIG and caused me a moment of shock. I hugged her and apologized for making her think I disapproved of her previous tattoos. She is a successful, kind, productive citizen of this world. She can tattoo whatever she wants onto her body.

In the days that followed, the need to reflect on what happened between my daughter and me poked me in the ribs. Why could I accept and admire body art on others, yet have such a difficult time accepting it on her?

When I gave birth to her, I created a perfect masterpiece with delicate, soft skin that I lovingly bathed and caressed, protected with sunscreen, and bandaged when wounded. I now realize the sense of ownership I still harbor toward that skin. Deep in my heart, I can’t help being offended that she so casually lets people scribble on it.

On others, I consider tattoos art; on her, it’s graffiti.

tattooyou

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Welcome Wagon

If I worked for the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce, I’d start a Welcome Wagon. I would design and deliver gift baskets to new residents. Mine wouldn’t be your run of the mill, welcome to our wonderful community, isn’t it beautiful, have a pizza on me type of basket. When someone decides to move here, they already know it’s a great place. My baskets would feature some of the more quirky aspects of our small town.

Let’s say you’ve moved to Fort Bragg. We’ll sit at your kitchen table drinking lattes from the Mendocino Cookie Company and start with the least controversial of topics—global warming. The weather along our coast is fickle. Some whiners complain it’s too windy or rainy or foggy. What sissies. They should not be allowed an opinion until after they’ve spent a winter in the Midwest. In the past few years, the effects of climate change have benefited our area, ushering in increasingly warm, sunny days. This makes it hard to remain a hater of greenhouse gases. To keep you focused, I’ll give you this bumper sticker:

The basket will include a copy of page 31 of the California Driver Handbook which specifies the right of way laws at four-way stops. On second thought, scratch that. Those laws are useless in Fort Bragg. Instead, I’ll add a flashcard printed with the rules of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. This is how right of way is determined in our town.

If you find yourself at the corner of Franklin and Chestnut (an intersection complicated by left-hand turn lanes), you’ll know it’s your turn to move after you’ve been honked at twice, flipped off once, and rear ended.

DSC02395The highlight of the basket will be my patented Taaka Vodka/M&M candy gift (made for less than ten dollars). As you open the Taaka to take a slug and toss back a couple of M&M’s, I’ll caution that this is a great place to live if you don’t have anything to hide. Similar to high school, gossip is a popular form of spreading “news” in our town.

I’ll tempt you to reveal your secrets by claiming I was once a roadie for Van Halen. If your story isn’t equally as entertaining, I’ll stir in a few spicy details before passing it around. You’ll become an instant celebrity.

Your basket will also contain a coupon for a free Gird Your Loins class at the Mendocino Sports Club. You can cash this in after you’ve made the mistake of opening your mouth to express an opinion and need to learn how to defend yourself from attack. We are a passionate and polarized community when it comes to such issues as the Dollar Tree Store or Taco Bell. Dare to take a side and you will be pummeled by the opposition.

tacobellWhen The Fort Bragg Advocate News asked for comments on their Facebook page regarding the future building of a Taco Bell, one woman innocently posted: “Yuck! We don’t live here, but plan to someday. One of the reasons we love Ft. Bragg is because of so few corporate chains.”

Poor, naive thing—she knew not what she started. The cannonballs fired immediately:

“Ft. Bragg doesn’t need you here.”

“Interesting that most of the ‘anti establishment’ nut jobs are not the people born in Fort Bragg but those who are transplants.”

“There’s enough of these lunatics ruining the town, they don’t need more.”

Her response: “Why are you all being jerks just because I expressed an OPINION?”

One of the greatest gifts of living here is the lack of suburbs. It’s difficult to remain a snob when you can’t huddle within your own socio-economic class.

More than twenty years ago, I took my first trip to The Purity. I stood in line with a man who had a wire coat hanger fashioned as an antennae around his head. He clutched a plastic gallon jug, half filled with red juice, to his chest and spoke lovingly to the box of doughnuts he was purchasing. I avoided going to that store for several months until I learned that trips to Safeway or Harvest put me in line with similar folks.

Like me, you’ll learn to accept people for who they are—not for the status they hold. As a result, you’ll have friends from all walks of life—from the intellectual to the illiterate, the wealthy to the poor, elderly to youngsters. Since this gift is far too large to fit into a basket, I’ll substitute a candy bar purchased to support Little League, a $25 gift certificate from Triangle Tattoo, a dollar gift certificate from the Dollar Tree Store, and a promise from someone to take you on a pub crawl through the Barmuda Triangle (the configuration of three of our oldest downtown bars: Tip Top, Welcome Inn and the Golden West).

Toward the end of our visit, you will question if you made a mistake by moving here. Quite the contrary—four-way stops aside—you are one of the luckiest people on earth.