As the heat tonight has sapped both my will to be productive and my desire to move away from the fan I've decided to wast... I mean spend some time writing up a little piece of my past for you all to enjoy. The decision was helped along by a comment read over on Cranky Prof's site (her link is over in the corner, check her out.) regarding the popularity of Chinese symbols in tattoos.*
Several years ago, a friend stopped by my apartment one evening to kill some time and just shoot the breeze. Topics of conversation ranged from world politics to the previous weeks round of D&D we'd both been a part of**, but at one point he leaned forward a bit and flashed a bit of a tattoo peeking out from the edge of his tank top. I'd caught glimpses of it before, but never enough to see what it truly was. That night I finally decided to inquire – having a slight tattoo fetish and always wanting to know the story behind why someone got an image permanently drilled into their skin.
He turned beet red, grabbed at the neckline of his shirt, and gave a small laugh.
“This? It's what made me become a Buddhist.”
I was intrigued. I knew folks who got tattoos to show their beliefs to the world (heck, I've got a runic symbol on the small of my back to remind me of something important***), but I'd never heard of a tattoo changing a person's belief's afterwards. I asked him to explain. In his own words... more or less :
“Years ago I got into martial arts. Didn't do too bad either. Started fighting, won some rounds... thought I was tough shit. So one day I sauntered into a Chinese tattoo parlor and declared to the artist that I 'wanted the symbol for Ultimate Fighter, Perfect Warrior, you know the thing, in Chinese' on my chest. The guy looked at me funny, then asked to see what I had in mind. I got rather loud and brash and told him 'you know what I mean, what... don't you write Chinese? Just do it, I don't have all day.” The artist quietly went about sketching and finally handed me a page with intricate symbols scattered over it. 'This what you want?' Not really looking it over, I said “Yeah. Exactly. Make sure you get it centered.' ' You sure this is what you want? Why not have some friends look it over. Sleep on it.' At this point I exploded, 'Just DO it!' And 45 minutes later I sauntered out of the shop, proud I hadn't let any stupid artiste try to bully me.
Over the next few months I dated a lot of girls I picked up at the fights. Mostly Asian girls... to go with my new 'samurai ' mentality. Nearly got somewhere with all of them, but never could quite seal the deal. At critical moments when we'd start to get somewhere... but they always pulled back and seemed to look at me funny. Finally, months later I was working hard to pick up this one women I had met at the end of a fight, when she stopped and cocked her head at me.
'Why... why do you have THAT on your chest?' she asked me, pointing at my tattoo now clearly visible through my open shirt. 'What, this? I got it when I started fighting. Its my lucky reminder of what I am.' 'What you are. You WANTED that?' ' I'm a fighter and a warrior. Of course I do.' She seemed a bit startled, and then asked suddenly – 'What do you think it says?' 'What do you mean, what does it say. Can't you read it?' 'Yes, and that's why I'm curious.' 'Obviously', I said condescendingly ' it says Ultimate Fighter, Perfect Warrior... that kind of thing...' I trailed off as her head started to shake and the corners of her mouth twitched. 'It doesn't? What do you mean it doesn't... what does it say?' With a grin she said calmly, ' roughly translated? Stupid white boy should do his homework.' with that she walked away.
I was stunned. And shocked. Horrified. Angry. Pissed... but finally settled on embarrassed. With a little bit of digging, I found out she had been right. All this time spent beating my chest, proud of my superior standing... and I had been making a fool of myself. In more than one way.”
At this point in his story, I interrupted. “Why do you still have it? And how does an embarrassing tattoo equate a religious shift?”
“I'll always keep it. Helps me to remember two very important things in life.”
“What, don't piss off a tattooer right before he inks you?”
“Well, that... and when I start to think I know everything, I just looked down and remember. I'm just a stupid white boy who needs to do his homework.” he grinned. “And to always research anything I want inked onto my body beforehand!”
* And no, mom. I don't have one on me... any tattoos I have will be in languages I can decipher.
**Yup. I'm THAT kind of nerd.
***Sometimes my memory is a bit faulty and I need a reminder to get through the fog. Long story that would involve someone getting me really REALLY good mead before I tell it.