This post is part of an archive. To read the current version, we recommend “Taboo Tattoos”
Some people are just a little different. They are college professors, people who own lizards, driving instructors, and folks from Dakota Territory. One such Dakota product was a hard-bitten dairy farmer who lived near my high school.
He had a habit of quoting himself with all the pomp of Shakespeare, “All the work we do in life amounts to one thing…moving stuff. Regardless of the size, distance, or complexity all we do is move stuff. Think about it.”
This man and his family refused to own a television. He equated it with “running an open sewer pipe directly into his living room” and it was hard to argue with him. After the evening meal, they would sit around their spacious living room of driftwood lamps, burnt orange afghans, and plether furniture digging through a box of conversational questions.
“Alright Matt we’ll start with you.” He drew the first card and took on a parental tone. “If you had to get a tattoo (and I would break your arm if you did) what would it be?”
This is an idea I’d floated across my thinking before and I was ready with an answer. “I would get two red, evil eyes tattooed to the back of my head. With my buzzed hair, you would only be able to see them only if you were standing directly behind me. And if I decided I didn’t care for the look anymore, I would simply grow my hair out a bit.
Not waiting for the other young males in the room to murmur their agreement, the young lady beside me chimed in, “I’d want a tattoo that was small and tasteful.”
The farmer and I quickly exchanged looks. Both of us were confused by the obvious contradiction in her statement.
She continued. “Um, I would probably just put my name in decorative lettering across my shoulder or ankle.”
“Isn’t that a little like taking a permanent marker and writing ‘banana’ across your bananas or branding Fido across your hairless chihuahua’s backside? I mean what fun is it to get a personalized license plate and then put BOB 1 across it?” I was trying to be funny but it came out a bit harsh.
She took offence, “Well Matt, just because you’re a weirdo doesn’t mean I have to be. I mean eyes in the back of your head. How dumb is that?”
Another boy sitting to my right said, “Oh mine is worse. I’m planning on having a tight rope drawn between the nipples on my chest. Then I’ll have a stick man put on tight roping across. That’s cooler right?”
A mixture of grunts and uncomfortable chuckles indicated weak approval.
“Yea that’s neat until you get old and the rope loses a little tension.”
The farmer suppressed a smile and rubbed the side of his temple. “You know, a tattoo is like dental work or a hip replacement. It’s an investment that depreciates one hundred percent in the first minute and has absolutely no resale value. Only the tattoo doesn’t improve your quality of life. The only thing it really proves is you aren’t smart enough to move when someone keeps sticking you with a needle.”