Tag Archives: body art

Before you are dismantled

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“Before you are dismantled, fixed and broke again you are not yet a lover. Remember on the right night and under the right light any idea can seem like a good one and love…love is mostly ill advised but always brave.” Yrsa Daley-Ward

“And here I thought you were jaded.” He’s teasing, gently. The skin’s been healed a while now, but it’s been cold enough to keep legs covered most days. Not everyone has seen.

“The worst. I eat hearts for breakfast.”

“Seriously. I’ve never heard you say anything about love that didn’t sound like you hate it.”

I’m not sure what to say to that. I do hate it. It’s monstrous. It changes you. One day you’re at sea all filled with the thrill of wind and open water, daring every storm to just try; it’s never seen anything so fierce as you, so strong. And then out of nowhere you’re cast out like a stowaway, like vermin, like nothing. You’re left alone God knows where with no keel and no sails and no anchor. People are talking but what language you don’t know. They broke your compass and your heart and Broca’s area, too. You wonder if you’ll ever learn to fit the shape of yourself again (You will, it’s just a new shape and it has something of a limp).  If you’re even human, anymore. If you’re not just walking jetsam with water in your ears. They didn’t even keep your bones for scrimshaw, after all that. Not even your bones.

I hate it so much. Because I can’t quite stop forgiving. Because I can’t quite say it wasn’t worth it. Because life does, in fact, go on.

I’m using tattoos to reclaim parts of myself, a bit at a time. It was easy to feel weak for having been in love. To treat myself with disdain for it. Ill-advised is putting it mildly, when you’ve carried the wreck of a memory long enough. It is easy to try to shame it away until it is not part of who I am. But it is also brave. And I still can’t quite say it wasn’t worth it, either time.

The text is an excerpt from Artichokes by Yrsa Daley-Ward. Her book, bone, is most definitely worth picking up.


My other tattoos are here:

Don’t touch me, a how-to guide for handling my panic attacks from Beckett

and

i like my body when it is with your, a reminder that sometimes the body is so quite new a thing.

“Doesn’t it hurt?”

I’ve just mentioned wanting another tattoo to the girl I’m partnered with on this project. She’s surprised to hear I have any: they’re not large and easily covered. She doesn’t ask what design, or where, or what ink I already have. She doesn’t even ask why I like it. She asks what most people who have no body art do when talking to those who do: “Doesn’t it hurt?”

Well, yeah, it does a little.

So?

First of all, I’m a sexual masochist. I get off on pain. So I wouldn’t call the pain a drawback.

That’s hardly relevant though. The pain isn’t the reason I go for piercings and tattoos, but if I didn’t like pain it still wouldn’t be a reason not to get them. Pain is a side effect, usually fairly mild.

“But doesn’t it hurt?”

My partner plucks her eyebrows. She goes to the gym regularly. She’s lamented that a sunburn would be “so worth it, if I could just tan!” Pain for beauty is a transaction we widely accept. If someone believes the misery of yanking out eyebrows one by one every [however often one plucks eyebrows] for years on end is worth the result, surely they can understand that a single sitting followed by a brief recovery in exchange for a permanent desired modification is a better return on investment.

We do things that hurt. Not because we like the pain (though some of us do), but because we value what it brings us. Pain is a side effect.

“But doesn’t it hurt?” is a stupid question. Of course it hurts. If something breaks the skin and there’s zero pain you’re probably looking at some serious nerve damage. Anyone who asks already knows this. The question is really “what kind of person would endure pain for body art?” The question shows a certain idea about body modification: that it’s barbaric, disgusting. That (unlike a perfectly arched eyebrow), it has no value.

That’s actually okay. I don’t care if this girl, or my mother, or any number of other people think piercings and tattoos are worthless or shameful or otherwise problematic. That’s a conversation I’m willing to have. But “doesn’t it hurt?” can only be answered with a “yes,” and it’s in no way fair to use that yes as evidence against body modification as a practice. It really isn’t relevant.

Also, seriously? I beg folks to hit me with blunt objects until they can’t lift their arms anymore. I’m supposed to be scared of half a second with a piercing needle? Please.