Tattoos and Regret
When I was seven or eight years old, me and the rest of my classmates at Milwaukee Jewish Day School went on a field trip to visit the farm where one of our colleagues lived. We were city//suburban kids so it was a real trip, no pun intended, to get out into the country, but what I remember most about the field trip, in fact the only thing I really remember about it, was that the girl who lived on the farm’s dad had a tattoo.
I do not remember what the tattoo was of but I will always remember the man’s explanation for it: He said he was proud of his tattoo because it was a permanent reminder that he was fallible, that he had made mistakes as a young man and would go on to make more.
This may or may not surprise you, dear reader, (one of the things we try to do here is not make assumptions about our readers and what they do, or do not know), but I myself have a shitty tattoo, a faded black cat I unwisely spent two hundred and fifty dollars on after I got my final payment for You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me.
It’s on my right shoulder, in a place so inconspicuous that I literally forget about it ninety percent of the time. But then some times I’ll be naked in my bathroom and think, “Oh yeah, I’ve got a tattoo” followed shortly by “And it’s fucking terrible.”
But as shitty and basic as my tattoo may be, I nevertheless treasure it because, as the tattooed dad reflected decades earlier, it is a permanent reminder of our fallibility and predilection for making poor choices. I have a shitty tattoo on my right shoulder to remind me I make mistakes, but I also have twenty years of writing prolifically about myself and the world around me to remind me on a much greater level just how often I fuck up.
I have this idea for a column for this site, maybe a patron-only column called “The Most Self-Indulgent Idea in the World” where I would go back and re-read and write about all of the books I’ve written, beginning with 2009’s The Big Rewind. I have not read that book in seven years and something tells me that if I were to re-read it I would be absolutely mortified both by the writing and the jokes (oh, but there were too many jokes and too much over-writing in that one in particular) but also by some of the sentiments expressed.
At one point I even thought about getting an Onion tattoo, but did not for a number of reasons, the most important being a stubborn, superstitious conviction that if I were to get an Onion tattoo I’d probably get fired from the Onion immediately afterwards. Needless to say, it is a very good thing I didn’t go through with that plan. Some folks need a tattoo to remind them they’re fallible. I have the opposite problem, so maybe I should get a tattoo that reminds me that I’m capable of succeeding as well, like the logo for this site, which is full of mistakes in terms of grammar and punctuation and spelling and theme month choices but that I nevertheless consider one of my biggest and most satisfying successes, professionally or otherwise.
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