Resnick: Some thinking about the process of inking

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During one of my late-night Internet browsing sessions, I stumbled upon a woman with the word “Drake” tattooed across her forehead. My first reaction of course was, “This cannot be permanent.”

She will wake up for the rest of her life with a Degrassi actor’s stage name etched into her head. When she goes to interview for jobs, or buys cat food people will not be able to look her in the eyes, because they’ll be a little preoccupied with what is above them. It would also be obscenely distracting during sex, taking the whole joke of calling the wrong name out in a moment of passion to an entirely new level.

Giving it some more thought though, I realized I have a grain of respect for this person. She cares so little about people’s perceptions of her that she was willing to infinitely taint her face and put it on display for the world. This raises a fascinating point about tattoos and body modification in general.

We are not able to understand permanence on a day-to-day basis. It is a concept that eludes us because, when you truly think about it, nothing in life is entirely permanent besides something like a “Drake” tattoo.

That’s what is so powerful about body ink. In an instant, we are capable of making a choice to alter our physical appearance forever.

I had an uncanny sense of control when I got mine, sort of a weird masochistic power trip. The sensation was akin to scratching a mosquito bite for an uncomfortable amount of time. I knew that when nothing else could be predicted and the future was unknown, that little patch of skin covered by scribbled ink will always be there. And I know that lasers can undo the havoc tattoo guns wreak, but their mark will remain, in the form of physical and remembered scars.

I romanticize out of bias, of course. But it really is an underappreciated gift that we can create something everlasting whenever we want. Obviously the implication of this is that it’s a decision that is accompanied by a lot of careful consideration and brain wracking. It’s a different choice than losing weight, getting a haircut or wearing an Ed Hardy shirt (God forbid). Knowing what it is that we want to have on display for the rest of our lives is a tough call.

People change and our ideas about ourselves and the world are constantly shifting with the ebb and flow of days. So it is never a rational decision to get a tattoo. I am hard-pressed to find something that would, without a shadow of a doubt, represent me for the rest of my life. But acknowledging that fact and taking the plunge anyway is one of the more thrilling things one can experience.

A dear friend of mine overcame a health issue in his past and wants to commemorate it with black ink on his skin. It would symbolize what it means to live and shirk adversity like swatting a gnat at a hot summer’s picnic. Of course it too would be permanent just like the infamous “Drake” written on some poor moron’s head. But despite the difference in lasting importance and immediate impact of these tattoos, each individual is making the same bold choice to tell an everlasting story.

So for all the uncertainty in life, tattoos offer us the painstaking choice of permanence. They are stories to tell your kids, moments to commemorate triumphs, and ways to let rappers know how much you care about them. But whatever the tattoo reads or portrays, the decision to accept and welcome it onto one’s body is beautiful in itself.

Gideon Resnick is a Medill freshman. He can be reached at gideonresnick2015@u.northwestern.edu

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