Last week I was driving down the street when three young women came out of a cafe in the middle of the afternoon. They were dressed in a manner that indicated they wanted to be perceived a certain way: dyed black hair, short kilts with knee socks, heavy chains around their necks, ripped t-shirts with (presumably) goth phrases I don’t understand.
Ever the armchair anthropologist, I continued to observe them while I sat at a stoplight. They walked toward a rusty old sedan and turned to get in. The girl getting in the back seat had a skirt so short you could see the tattoo across the back of both thighs reading “See you in hell”.
Oh honey, I thought as the light turned green.
For a while I toyed with the idea of a tattoo, but I never wanted one enough to commit to it. While I’m sure I could have come up with something subtle enough to have been appropriate, and I’ve seen lots of lovely tattoos on other people, part of me rebelled against having something that would follow me around the rest of my life.
Not only would I be committing to an image, I’d be committing to be a certain kind of person – the kind of person who had that particular tattoo.
I’ve always been scared of the things that can’t be undone. And as much as we’re told that there’s nothing that can’t be undone – tattoos can be removed, promises can be broken, choices can be changed – the truth is everything leaves scars.
Perhaps that was why I dated so little in my younger adulthood: I knew I wasn’t ready for serious commitment, and none of the people I met made me want to change myself or my life. So why would I move myself into a relationship that was going to wound me (would change me be a more neutral term?) if I could just as easily stay the way I was.
On my best days I think this is a virtue, but the other side of prudence is fear. It’s the same fear that kept me from writing, that still keeps me from writing, because what I put out there can’t be reined back it. I’ve never had this problem with speech. Writing feels much more permanent.
I don’t regret anything I’ve done, and that’s a good feeling. I also don’t regret anything I haven’t done. But I need to stay on my guard, being sure I don’t avoid risks just because I’m afraid of what scars they might leave.