Unsavory characters . . . criminals . . . convicts . . . military and ex-military . . . bikers . . . hippies . . . Japanese mafia . . . rednecks . . . greasers . . . and probably many more politically incorrect images for my fellow human beings who have tattoos. Negative images. Growing up those were the only ones I was told had tattoos—people on the dark side of life. Thus I pretty much grew up thinking that tattoos were not good and said something bad about the individual. This is sad because I was grossly misinformed.
Fifty percent of my immediate family has tattoos. Until the kids graduated and moved out the wife and I were adamant in our resolve that they could not have a tattoo. The oldest child wasted little time getting a tattoo—within three months of going off to college. Since that first tattoo he has expanded it and it takes up a good chunk of his back. The daughter was next with a small one of a dove on her shoulder, followed by a peace symbol on her wrist, and then one –a phrase—across her shoulder blade. The youngest was the last to decorate his body with a tattoo—a cross of his design on his shoulder. It was difficult to picture our own children as any of those unsavory characters mentioned above . . . though at times we wondered. They were just being themselves . . . their tattoos supposedly help to define themselves through body art. For the most part I can see them in each of the tattoos. Had to soften up the opinion on tattoos when the preachers’ kids are the most decorated ones in town.
I also have two clergy friends –a husband and wife—who have tattoos. They got them to mark an important milestone in their lives. They had simple tattoos done above their ankles—a safe place for a minister to have a tattoo. I always thought there was a rebellious side underneath that conservative ministerial air around them. Truth be known, they are pretty normal people—nothing close to the caricatures mentioned above.
I have been thinking about tattoos lately. Over the years the kids have tried to get me to consider getting a tattoo—even volunteering to get one at the same time. Each time I have come up with good reasons not to get a tattoo. I don’t like needles. Needles cause pain. Tattoos are made with needles. Sounds like a legitimate reason not to get a tattoo . . . unless they serve a lot of beer while the tattoo is being done. That’s one reason. A second reason is that old image of what a minister is supposed to be—tattoos are not a part of that image. The congregation would start talking, as if they needed something else to add to the fire. It would not be good. Another reason is that I do not picture myself as being . . . well, unsavory. But, I do have a little rebel in me and tattoos still fascinate me.
Each year, I get closer. The problem is that I now cannot decide on what I would get for a tattoo. It has to be something that represents who I see myself as, what I believe, and how I want others to see me. I don’t want just any old tattoo. I want one that is me. Something that has significant meaning to me. Right now I am stuck between two images:
Yeppers, I am stuck between a moose and a turtle. Until moving to Montana I would have never considered a moose. The turtle would have won hands down. The moose has made great progress in my psyche in a short time to the point that. I thought about something like the image above, but even as a minister I don’t think that is too tough looking. Probably something my grandchildren would love, but would get me laughed at in any of the local watering holes.
Despite the moose gaining in popularity I am still leaning towards the turtle. Ever since I was in junior high—all because of a fluke—I have been given turtles as gifts from family members for years and years. I don’t know if it is because I look like a turtle when I wear green, but I have quite a turtle collection hidden away in the bowels of our house. In popular culture turtles are portrayed as easy going, patient, and wise. Also, due to their long life span, slow movement, sturdiness, and wrinkles many cultures see them as symbols of longevity and stability. Sounded good to me . . . all things that I strive for and lots of people think I need.
When the day comes the above image is the tattoo I will get. It will be on the inside of my right wrist—yeah, I know, for a guy who hates needles and pain that is about the stupidest place for a tattoo. Ignorance is bliss and I am pretty blissful. But that is the design I want. Not only does it represent the turtle, but it also represents the mountains. I love the mountains. The youngest son found this design a couple of years ago and thought about getting it as a tattoo but never did. I even offered to pay for everyone in the family that I hiked with to get it at one point (in a braver or drunk moment, I think). Told them we would call ourselves the “turtle club”. Remember the “turtle club”? If you do then you will understand my answer to that question: You bet your sweet ass I do!
Now begins the process of convincing myself that I need to get the tattoo. Convincing myself that it won’t hurt. Convincing myself that it does not matter what the congregation thinks. Convincing myself that I am not a hoodlum or unsavory character. Convincing myself that it is okay . . . even at my age. It is better late than never . . . besides I have also been thinking a lot about black leather and Harley Davison motorcycles.
I’m getting old and I have a lot of catching up to do! Stay tuned . . .