During a recent trip to Las Vegas, my girlfriends decided we should have at least one “Wooo, Vegas!” night, so we gussied up (I knew I’d find a use for you, $3 Sequin Skirt!) and hit the Strip.
By virtue of being a group of women, someone put wristbands on us and waved us through a velvet rope. I was the last to go through, and as I was about the pass, the bouncer grabbed my wrist and yanked me back. “I’m found out,” I thought, “I am not a person who gets ushered past lines into clubs! You caught me!” Still holding my arm, the bouncer said something I couldn’t hear over the bass (“Does it have to be so loud in here?” say the Old Lady in My Head). I shrugged and pointed to my wristband with big sad eyes, hoping he would take pity on me since my friends were already inside. Then he flipped my arm over and stroked the inside of my forearm, circling my tattoo and mouthing “What is it? I like it.” At least, I think that’s what he said, because when I shouted “A Phoenix. PHOENIX,” he smiled, winked at me, and let me go. I should be used to this by now.
I got my first tattoo this summer. I’ve wanted one since I can remember, and I finally took the leap as part of “Summer of Yes,” a manifesto my friend Annie and I conceived after both of us had particularly rough springs, and it was basically permission to live every day like it was Spring Break. I had a really fun summer.
Still red. It’s all healed now.
I was prepared for it to hurt (it did, but only about as much as waxing my eyebrows) and to have to conceal it at work. I knew it would bleed, and I knew my skin would “reject” some of the ink over the first few weeks (weird! but ultimately fine). What I did not expect is that my tattoo would turn my forearm into an interactive museum exhibit.
People love to touch my tattoo. No. Sorry. Guys. Guys love to touch my tattoo. Sometimes, it makes sense. Every dude I’ve gone on a first date with since I got it has used it as an open to caress my arm, which is pretty reasonable first date material. After swapping a few stories and last names, the gesture feels flirtatious, not intrusive.
It’s the strangers that irk me. When I’m standing on the bus, hanging on to the overhead bar for dear life, the last thing I want is to feel an unknown fingernail tracing lines on my arm. Maybe I’m unusually sensitive about personal space. I know I have watched mouth agape when my pregnant friends have cheerfully endured people in line at Starbucks rubbing their bellies without asking, because I cannot imagine a world in which pregnant-me would not FREAK OUT about that.
Are there unspoken cues that tell strangers it is acceptable to touch one person, but not another? A girl in middle school had Pantene-glossy hair down to her butt. People used to touch it constantly in public and were always surprised if she (or her parents) balked, as though her decision to have extraordinary hair made it public property. Does having art on my arm make it perceived as up for public consumption? These touchy strangers must be the bane of museums everywhere, rubbing up on the Warhols and licking the still life.