Should I Get a Tattoo? And Other Pressing Questions

Lately, I have been reading this passage from Rilke’s Fear of the Inexplicable every morning like a meditation. I wish I could say I came to Rilke’s prose in a more organic way, aroused by my quest for enlightenment and my love of poetry, but really, I just re-watched Kissing Jessica Stein, and love-lost Jessica is moved to date a woman after reading this piece.

                            For it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves
                            from case to case, indescribably monotnous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort 
                            of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.

                            But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most
                            enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive and will himself draw
                            exhaustively from his own existence.   


I am galvanized by these words in a way that I have never been before. All too often my fear of failure paralyzes my momentum. Just recently, in fact, I allowed shyness to wedge itself between me and a fleetingly pleasurable experience. I don’t want to live like that anymore. I want to exclude nothing, I want to wade barefoot in Rilke’s “riverbed of endless possibilities,” draw exhaustively from my own existence.

I read Rilke and I want to become the antithesis of myself, change absolutely everything about my entire life. I want to dye my hair black, run away to France, leave a note that says “I went to see about a girl,” and change my name. I yearn for a blank canvas so that I can draw myself again, because the new Wendy will embrace everything with self-assuredness and clarity, even the most enigmatical. Except, I dyed my hair black in my twenties and I looked like an anorexic Emo. I’ve lived in France and came back the same, save for gaining some baguette weight and a few French swear words. I don’t know any girls in France and I really like my name. 

I know self-development is a life long process. Trying to get in touch with one’s true self to become more authentic is a marathon, not a sprint. Nature, like semi-permanent hair colour, takes time to change. But I’m feeling so restless and impatient at the moment. I need some sort of transformation to give me something to hold onto, something to focus on, inspire me, bring Rilke’s words to life. So what can I do now?  What can I do today, right this very minute, to move myself forward, except, I don’t know……………get a tattoo?

Yes! I should definitely get a tattoo!

Growing up in the suburbs and attending a Jewish private school, I thought tattoos were a way that we, as a society, marked criminals. Like a conveniently walking, talking, sex-offender registry. Thankfully, I have grown up (and moved into the city). Now, a member of society-at-large I appreciate their mainstream artistry. I find tattoos incredibly sexy on other people, like David Beckham (did anyone else want to lick his H&M underwear ads on the subway? Just me?) so why not get one myself? I have always really liked the idea of one’s body as itself a medium for expression. But what do I want to express? It’s a lot of pressure to committ to the same expression for a lifetime. To my friend’s and family’s fatigue, I have a lot to say. Even if I were to settle on something that has meaning to me now, what if my tastes were to change? Change, after all, is the whole point of this exercise. I want a tattoo because I am a restless person in the first place. I am mindful of the fact that I really wanted a nose ring back in high-school and am so very thankful now that I opted not to get one. Probably in the same way that people who didn’t get barbed wire tattoos in the 80’s and Chinese symbols in the 90’s are relieved by their decisions.

I was thinking of getting something to memorialize my mother, which would certainly be timeless. Except, if I get a tattoo for my mother I am committing to eventually getting one for my father. You can’t play favourites with divorced parents and I’m just not ready for multiple tattoos. I don’t even have one picked out yet, let alone two!

A girl I once wrote with had a semi-colon on her arm and her twin sister had a colon in the same place. Should I be recruiting a friend to get tattooed with me? I don’t want my one, single tattoo to get lonely. Or is this like having your partner’s name tattooed on you? Angelina had Billy Bob lasered off her arm, but what if I can’t afford to have my friendship tattoo removed? Or what if my friend has his removed and then I have half of a whole tattoo? That would be embarassing. I’ve let my extra ear piercings close up since university when I grew tired of them, but I don’t think you have the same option with a tattoo. They don’t just go away on their own, unless they are done improperly in which case I will definitely regret having gotten one.  

Placement is another concern. Sure, I like my neck right now but what if, twenty years down the road, like Nora Ephron, I feel bad about my neck? I won’t want to draw extra attention to it or have to worry about my tattoo going with my turtleneck.   

I’ve started researching ‘lame tattoos that one shouldn’t get’ so I am certain not to get a bad one in a bad place, but this introduces a whole host of other concerns. Apparently it is possible to be allergic to tattoos, an allergy that can’t be tested for except by getting a tattoo. I’m not typically so risk averse, but if my last allergy test is any indication, which identified grass, air and trees (as a species) as severe allergens for me, then there is a good chance that my cool, irreverant, perfectly placed tattoo will have an incurable itchy rash around it. That’s not very sexy. Looking into the chemicals found in tattoo ink to see if I can pre-detect an allergy, I uncover all manner of articles about the link between tattoos and other illnesses. This, however, answers all of my beforementioned questions about what kind of tattoo to get and where to get it. Because it is at this moment, the one where I am googling “Ftalate, Phthalate, Iron Oxide (Fe3Oand  FeO), disazodiarylide, manganese ammonium phosphate, aluminum salts, quinacridone, dioxzine/carbazole, and possible links to cancer,” that I question if perhaps I am not meant to be part of the inked community.

I think I am just going to have to be patient and wait for my actions, so mechanically affected by old habits, to catch up to my transformed thoughts. I will have to let change happen for me more organically, more spontaneously.

So, I guess what I’m wondering now is: are there any women out there who want to date me??