**Note about folks described in this and subsequent blogs. My husband’s name is Eric, and I’m going to call him Eric in the blog. He married me, and this is his reward. Eric and I have four kids, and I’m going to give them blog names partly because I think it will afford them some semblance of privacy but mostly because I think it’s fun to give them new names. Son #1 is 25-yr-old Lefty. Daughter #1 is Isky. She is 23 and has a 1 year old son I call Wonder and a 5 year old daughter named Joy. Daughter #2 is Peanut, and she is, as of today, 17 (happy birthday, Peanut!). Son #2 is 14-year-old Sheldon.**
Peanut is my daughter. Peanut wants a tattoo for her 17th birthday. She’s got it all planned out–Roman numerals to commemorate the day she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I figure she thinks it will be difficult to say NO to this birthday request; after all, she does poke herself with needles all the time. She rarely pulls the diabetes card, but when she does, she usually gets her way. She’s a smart kid.
The thing is, even though she knows it’s a done deal and I know it’s a done deal, it’s hard to say yes. It’s not the actual ink-on-skin that has my stomach in knots: Peanut already has a tattoo on her foot (like I said, she rarely pulls the diabetes card, but when she does…). No, I’m worried about what people will think because I’m like that.
Here come the shoulds. I should make her wait until she doesn’t need my signature on the tattoo papers. I should remind her how beautiful and unmarred her skin is at this very moment. I should stay home and drink a large glass of pinot noir, but instead I am going to drive 45 miles to a slightly larger town where I will buy my daughter an $80 tattoo for her 17th birthday.
The problem isn’t the tattoo; it’s the committee in my head. They start in the minute I contemplate doing anything different like having a raspberry/yogurt shake instead of an egg for breakfast or allowing my 17-year-old daughter to get a tattoo.
The committee gets a kick out of this. They start in all nasally and coy with a simple little Are you sure this is the right thing? and when I answer honestly that I don’t know, they try another route with What will people think? After many years of arguing with these folks I’m ready for their questions, but they always get me with What’s your dad going to say? I’m going to be honest here; the committee members all sound a lot like my dad. I have a feeling he installed the committee in my head before I could talk. What if she regrets it later? they chide. What if there is a complication because of the diabetes? They warn and scold and wring their tiny little hands.
I tell the committee what I plan to tell my dad when he asks me what the hell I was thinking letting beautiful little Peanut get a tattoo: Peanut sticks herself with needles every single day, Dad. If she wants a tattoo to commemorate the date she was diagnosed with diabetes, who am I to say NO? I say this as if it’s not my decision. As if I too think it is sort of a bad idea for her to get a tattoo, but the truth is I don’t think it’s a good idea, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea. It’s just a tattoo. I trust that whether Peanut loves or hates the tattoo, she will also know that it’s just a tattoo.
So we go–Peanut, her two friends, and me–and we wait for an hour on a black faux leather couch in the main room of the tattoo parlor (yes, I know that tattoo parlor is an antiquated term, but I love it for its slightly edgy 80s feel). This is a busy joint. The walls are papered with brightly colored images–dragons and unicorns and hearts and roses– but most of the folks here are waiting for piercings–tongue webs, conches, septums, bridges, daiths and rooks. The little gal at the desk has a tiny silver arrow-thingy in each cheek. Everyone in this place is talking about bars and rings and gauging, plugs and anchors. I wiggle around on the couch, trying to find a comfortable spot. There isn’t one. I have three tattoos, but those piercings, well, I just don’t understand it. Why would people want to put metal bars and discs and arrow-thingies on their faces let alone places I cannot see?
We are eventually called in. And Peanut sits still while a man with the gigantic rose on his neck evenhandedly inks a date on her arm. At first she looks beautiful and serene and then pained. Her little face scrunches up and her eyes get all watery, and every once in a while, she breathes in deep as if she’s been pierced by something very sharp. Her mouth takes the shape of a perfect “O” every time she gasps in surprise.
From across the room, I quit watching. I can’t do it. The pasta I had for dinner moils in my stomach. I look down at my hands and then down at the dirty floor and then I count the empty beverage containers on the counters. Peanut’s friends don’t know it, but I have handed off this watching part to them. I am thinking about Walgreen’s next door and how I’m going to get some double-sided tape to finish Sheldon’s science fair project along with some water because I am fucking thirsty and some Aquaphor because that is what Roseneck will tell us this tattoo needs for at least four days.
The whole thing takes about 20 minutes, and then we are off.
And guess what I do all the way home? I work on a little committee installation project of my own. Why would anyone want a ring in her septum? I just don’t get it. And those arrow-thingies coming out of that woman’s cheeks. What is that?
Peanut is mesmerized by her tattoo. She turns her arm this way and that. Her eyes spark in the dark car. She turns the music up and and all three girls’ phones flash as they take selfies and send snapchats to other friends. We are in the same car and worlds apart, but I know through all the static they hear me. And it occurs to me that I don’t want to be someone’s committee.
So I shut the hell up.