Tag Archives: tattoos

My Next Tattoo

I know I’m not the tattoo “type,” being neither a biker nor a chef, but I already have two tattoos and am now considering a third.

My first two tattoos were mental health tattoos. The one I’m getting in the photo is a semicolon. (Okay, I’m also a punctuation freak. The semicolon is my favorite.) It stands for the point in a sentence where a writer could have put a period and ended it there. If there’s a semicolon there instead, the sentence continues. As a metaphor, it means “My story isn’t over” and as a mental health symbol, it represents suicide awareness and prevention.

My second tattoo was a colon followed by half a parentheses followed by another colon, like this :):

In emoji terms, this would be happy face/frowny face. In a mental health context, it stands for bipolar disorder, which I have. (Bipolar used to be called manic depression, and it’s a lot more than wide mood swings.)

Determined to try something a little different – and more colorful – this time, I began contemplating options that would be meaningful, at least to me.

Compass rose. A compass rose is the little design at the bottom of a map that orients you to north, south, east, and west. For me, it symbolizes travel, which is a thing I love to do and have done often, both domestically and abroad, with my mother or my husband or by myself.

I also thought of having a compass rose with a yellow rose, perhaps in the center, in honor of my mother. She loved to travel too, and the yellow rose was her favorite flower. But that might be a lot to cram into a small tattoo. (I want something subtle, not showy.) Maybe I can get a yellow rose separately later.

Books. Reading, as all my friends know, is a passion of mine, one I’ve been indulging since I was four years old. I’ve read under the covers when I was a kid, in the hallway between classes when I was a teen, and practically anywhere and anytime now. (I have three e-readers so I can recharge them and still have at least one to read from. But I digress. I’m not getting a Nook tattoo.)

I’ve been wavering between an open book, maybe with a pen, to signify writing books; an open book laid flat; or a small stack of books. I think the stack of books offers an opportunity for some color, so I’ve been leaning towards that.

Orion. The constellation Orion is my favorite. (Is it weird to have a favorite constellation as well as a favorite mark of punctuation?) I love when it appears every autumn, with its belt and sword of stars, and the big red star Betelgeuse at the left shoulder and the bright blue-white Rigel at the right knee, creating a hunter figure from Greek mythology. (Most people pronounce Betelgeuse as “Beetlejuice,” but I’ve heard other pronunciations as well. Isn’t this educational?)

Astronomy is and has long been one of my special interests. I belonged to an astronomy club in high school. I subscribed to Sky and Telescope magazine for a while. I watched Carl Sagan’s TV show Cosmos avidly, then took his astronomy class in college.

Rather than have the stars as black dots connected by lines or superimposed over the figure of a hunter, I would like the tattoo to have a watercolor background, like a nebula.

I’ve been toying with these ideas for some time, but have been feeling motivated to get on with it recently (perhaps because I’ve been binge-watching Ink Master.) This week I got in touch with one of the artists at Monkey Bones Tattoos, a local studio. Mike, who did the punctuation tattoos, wasn’t available, so I selected another tattooist named Viktoria.

She and I then emailed back and forth about ideas and schedules. The earliest opening she had was in August. (Evidently there is pent-up demand for tattoos, owing to the shop being closed during the pandemic.) I sent her pictures of tattoos that looked something like what I wanted. We discussed the merits of each, as well as how my vision might differ from the “reference” I sent.

So, now it’s official. In August I’m getting a tattoo of a stack of books on one of my wrists. I’ve even put down a deposit for the appointment, so I can’t change my mind. When it’s done, I’ll post a picture of it. But I’m still not becoming a biker or a chef.

Train-Wreck TV

Two trains collided head on

It’s pretty common knowledge that I get depressed from time to time. (Just read my other blog, Bipolar Me, if you don’t believe me.) But there’s one thing I’ve found that I, well, not enjoy, but am drawn to when depressed, and that is what I call train-wreck TV.

What do I mean by that? To me, train-wreck TV is a reminder that there are people whose lives suck worse than mine does. I don’t mean shows like Duck Dynasty, Swamp People, or Mama June: Not to Hot. Those I dismiss as being the let’s-all-make-fun-of -the-hillbillies genre. Being from Kentucky myself, I object to the idea that all Southerners are stupid (or inbred, or racist, or other stereotypes). And just forget about shows like Seeking Sister Wife. I won’t watch that until there’s Seeking Brother Husband.

No, what I like are shows best described as People Behaving Badly. The last time I had a real bout of depression, I watched shows like Supernanny and even Wife Swap. The lives depicted there were worse than mine because at least I didn’t have screaming, disobedient children or a controlling or clueless spouse.

But this time around, I’m drawn to competition and “reality” shows, which have lots of People Behaving Badly.

I can’t really get my jolt of “Man, these people are really messed up” from the competition shows I normally watch. The contestants on Food Network competitions may get worked up enough to say, “I think the judges made the wrong decision,” but that’s not really behaving all that badly, merely having a snit. And the Forged in Fire people, even when they lose, generally talk about how much they’ve learned and the friends they’ve made. For people who spend their time hammering things, they’re remarkably personable.

I also haven’t been drawn to Gordon Ramsey cooking shows. Although he definitely behaves badly, I don’t really care to see people being degraded and abused. I feel too much sympathy for his aspiring-chef victims to truly enjoy his rants. Admittedly, their lives do suck worse than mine. At least I don’t have an obnoxious bully screaming at me when I’m trying to make my bologna sandwich for lunch.

Lately, the shows I’ve been drawn to are Bar Rescue and Inkmaster.

Bar Rescue is a lot like Restaurant Impossible, except with more yelling. A bar business is failing and host Jon Taffer shows up to straighten them out and make the place a success again. But unlike Robert Irvine, who does basically the same sort of thing for restaurants, Taffer shouts a lot and tells people to their face that they’re failures or losers or drunks or thieves or lazy or assholes (he doesn’t spare the swearing) or generally rotten people who shouldn’t be trusted with a lemonade stand, let alone a business like a bar.

And indeed, he is right. The bars they have featured have included one where a horse was allowed into the bar (it shat on the floor) and another where a porn video was shot in the bar while it was open to customers. Next to these, the over-pouring bartenders, demented relatives, and absentee owners seem like mere pikers.

Taffer straightens them out with what could be called tough love – a lot tougher than the family therapy that Irvine offers, though often with the same results. Then he remakes and rebrands the bar, which doesn’t always stick. Some of the clueless owners go back to their old ways, names, and decors, including a pirate bar in a corporate business district. (It might have done fine in Key West.) In one memorable instance, Taffer even helped an owner close down and sell the bar.

Inkmaster is altogether different. It’s a competition show where contestants vie to win $100,000 plus other goodies for doing tattoos. The lives-suck-worse-than-mine element comes in the behavior of the contestants. There’s a lot of X-rated language (thoughtfully bleeped but still identifiable). But the real attraction is the infighting, feuds, psychological warfare, and blatant manipulative behavior of the potential celebrity tattooists. Pronouncements like “I eat the weak” are mild.

The people who receive the tattoos (called “canvases”) are no prize either. They bicker with the tattooists over what their tat should be. They bitch about the results. They make impossible demands. (One canvas wanted a tattoo of a phoenix shooting fire out of her vagina. (The canvas’s vagina. I don’t know if phoenixes have vaginas. The judges’ critique was that the phoenix was poorly drawn.) Their lives suck worse than mine because they have to live with these creations for the rest of their lives, unless they are on a “cover-up” episode, which still doesn’t ensure good results.

I must admit that this show appeals to me because I also have some tasteful tattoos of marks of punctuation, and narrowly avoided getting semicolons where there should have been periods. Not that compares with a bad phoenix-and-fire vagina tattoo.

I suppose that by the time I hit another major depressive episode, there will be plenty of other, newer train-wreck TV to watch. It seems that there’s no end to people behaving badly or people whose lives suck worse than mine. Thank goodness.

My In-Law and My Ink

I expected a total freak out. I really did. So I tried to work it into a phone conversation as naturally as I could.

“Say Mom, did Dan tell you I got a tattoo?”

Instead of the expected shriek, I got a fairly calm query.(1) “Where?”(2)

If I were being a smart ass I would have said “At Monkey Bones Tattoos.” But I took the sensible route for a change and said, “On the inside of my left wrist.”

Then she asked, “What did you get?”

Again, any number of possible responses crossed my mind. But I decided to play it straight and told her the truth: “I got a semi-colon.”(3)

The next obvious question was, “Why?”

I could have said because I’m a huge grammar nerd, which would have been the truth about me, but not about the tattoo.

I explained as best I could. The semi-colon tattoo is a symbol of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. I rushed through the grammatical part of the explanation: In writing a semi-colon is a place where the writer could have stopped, but chose to go on. The idea is that someone will see the tattoo (4) and ask about it. Then you can explain the symbolism and how you are trying to combat the stigma of talking about mental illness. Like I just did.

I wrote about this on my other blog, Bipolar Me (https://bipolarjan.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/a-tattoo-is-for-life/) when I first got the tattoo, so if you saw it there, I apologize for the repetition.

Actually, no I don’t. The message is one that bears repeating, as often as we can and in as many ways as we can. You know someone with a mental illness(5) and that person is afraid to talk about it because of the stigma that still exists around the subject. I have bipolar disorder, type 2, and I talk about it all the time on my Bipolar Me blog.

Talking about mental illness is risky. You often get one of the standard reactions: a fixed, awkward smile; unwelcome advice about cinnamon or apple cider vinegar; outright disbelief; a decrease in contact with that person; sudden bad reviews at work. Perhaps worst of all, you get, “Isn’t that what the guy who just shot up the shopping mall had?”

Ordinarily, I post to my blog on Sunday. But this is National Suicide Prevention Week, so I wanted to post now. You can find out more about the tattoos at http://www.projectsemicolon.com/.

As Mom R. said about my tattoo, “It’s for a good cause.”

 

(1) My father-in-law was a Navy man and sported a few of the more common nautical tattoos, so I guess Mom R. had had a while to get used to the idea. Anyway, at least she didn’t go all, “The body is the Temple of God” on me.

(2) Apparently this is the first required question if someone announces a tattoo. Unless it’s on your face, neck or other readily observable spot. I suspect that everyone who asks imagines that it is located some place at least mildly kinky.

(3) Monkey Bones is locally known for extreme, large, and disturbing tattoos, like zombie cows. (I’m not kidding, either.) I think they must have been so embarrassed at being asked to do a pitiful mark of punctuation that they hustled me in and out in ten minutes.

(4) And if we had been Skyping, Mom R. would have, but Skype has been glitchy lately since I changed browsers. So we have our weekly coffee chats over speakerphone. This prevents a lot of Dan handing me the phone and saying, “Here. Say hello to Mom.” Especially when I’m not prepared with any tidbits of conversation, like a new tattoo. Here’s a picture, if you’re curious:

finished
I guess Mike at Monkey Bones isn’t embarrassed after all.

(5) Depression, anxiety, OCD, ASD, whatever. I guarantee it. Someone you know is struggling, and may or may not be getting help for it. A semi-colon tattoo would show you care.