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I was a big Dawson’s Creek fan as a teenager. I had an excessive vocabulary and not unlike Dawson Leery had the perfect family and had a tendency to create or at least read drama into my everyday life. I probably tortured my first boyfriend far more than was really fair and Paul, hand on heart, I’m sorry. I was a strange teenager and I can only hope you are looking back and laughing from our comparative vantage point of being oh so grown up.

2008 was a frighteningly long time ago but I’m not convinced we ever really change. I was always hopelessly idealistic and with hindsight my marriage wasn’t as unhappy as I’d like to make it. My husband has his flaws for sure but we had many good times. The key thing was a world view that I had developed at fifteen. I wanted a big love, an all encompassing love and while I sincerely loved my husband, it wasn’t the stuff of teen dramas. Arguably (and this argument I used during the relationship) that kind of love is unrealistic or at least unsustainable. It can be dangerous to hold out for something that is quite possibly the stuff of Hollywood.

But at the grand age of 25 I decided I’d rather hold out for the ideal than settle and in a quite unexpected place I came across a phrase; Carpe Omnious (from the film Hard Candy). The phrase bounced through my mind. Seize it all. Take everything! The grammar wasn’t necessarily perfect but in my mind it became Carpe Omnium and I decided that it was the soundbite of my ideals.

I had the words Carpe Omnium forever imprinted on my skin this week. As part of my determination to follow through with my 30 before I’m 30 list I got inked. I was terrified by my artist was patient and we met twice before I actually went through with it. I was anxious about the pain but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared and I enjoyed a degree of adrenaline rush which I can readily appreciate can become addictive.

I confessed to my mum as soon as I got home, not wanting her to find out via Facebook. It may seem strange that at 27 I still feel a degree of being answerable to her but I think that level of respect is something we never really grow out of. Yes my body is my own and I behave in whichever ways I consider acceptable but it’s good to touch base now and again.

Something she wanted to know was why. As I was fully aware of my mum’s feelings about tattoos I had never bothered talking about my desire for one and so it came as something of a surprise. I have always been interested in them but that only really escalated due to a brief relationship with a friend. I had never spent much time close up with inked skin and I was fascinated by how it looked and felt. This was enhanced by the fact his day to day dress completely obscured what he looked like when not suited and booted.

I’ve always been fascinated by the line we each have between public and private and the varying shades along that scale that we reveal to different people. The study of proxemics considers our interpretation of personal space to be based on our culture. For instance, my experience of Sri Lanka was greatly marred by the acceptability of what I felt bordered on assault. As I climbed Sigiriya, “helpers” continually grabbed at my arm which unsteadied me as I flinched away from them. But the helpers seemed genuinely surprised when my ex-husband not only refused to tip them for their “help” but was angry at how much they had upset me. In what world is it acceptable to grab and pull at another man’s wife wondered my ex-husband. In what world does a man allow a woman to climb a mountain unaided they possibly wondered in return.

What we expose of ourselves to the world is a personal choice (at least amongst those of us not enslaved in Burqas) and I relish the decisions that entails. Among one group of people I know, my nickname is determined by my hair colour. Like Clementine I apply my personality in a paste. Similarly a girl I know whose hair is gorgeously curly, straightens it each day; each of us making choices as to how we wish to be perceived. Am I more interesting if I’m a redhead, is she more sophisticated with her sleek hair?

My tattoo has more than one meaning. One element is that I loved the idea of committing to a piece of art in an extreme way. A key part however, fits my interest of what is public and what is private. The design itself I’m happy to share (hence its inclusion here) and yet because I never wanted to have to dress around it, it is located somewhere only those closest to me will ever see it. Blown up, a photograph of an intimate part of my body becomes devoid of meaning associated with that aspect of the human anatomy. I can publically expose myself while retaining every degree of my privacy.

Magritte explained this far better in his The Treachery of Images than I could possibly hope to in words so please click the link if you aren’t already familiar with the work. What we see and what is there is more complex than first appears.

(This column is up a day late because it completely slipped my mind. I’m between jobs this week and took a trip to Liverpool with my mum. I got back around eight o’clock and was so eager to catch up with the boyfriend that I forgot it was Thursday.)
8/14/2010 02:49:42 am

Thanks for linking me to this - very interesting reading, and great art! I would never be brave enough to get a tattoo but occasionally I wish I was.

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Kathryn
8/14/2010 03:49:11 am

It was one of the scariest decisions I have ever made and the guys at Lotus Ink were surprised I came back so I was obviously displaying my doubts.

But I have never had a second of regret. While at times I've felt that given the choice, I would unpierce my navel, it's as though my tattoo was always meant to be there but was missing.

A key thing for me was research. My tattoo healed amazingly quickly as Rich of Lotus Ink is very gentle and very skilled. I was recommended him by someone I trusted (thanks Andrew), someone who had had four tattoos and said that Rich was the best by far.

Incidentally, I found the planning process to be really enjoyable and meaningful. It might be an interesting exercise for you even if you only ever keep the design in a drawer somewhere. After all, my boyfriend is the only person that sees mine (sorry Andrew).

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