My Tattoos

It's not often that I get personal on here. But I thought that I would post a blog about all of my tattoos and what they mean to me. 




This is the first one. (It's on my lower back.) I got it for my 20th birthday in 2005. It was mainly just to represent my love of music and the fact that I have soul and passion in everything that I create. That is the one thing that is probably the most important to me. I think you need technique in any art form, but more importantly, you need soul. You need emotion, you need passion, you need something that you believe in strongly. Ideally, a good song/play/film/painting/poem/etc. will be the perfect combination of craft/technique and passion/soul/emotion. But this tattoo was basically me saying that while I may sometimes lack craft/technique, I will never, ever lack soul. Even beyond art, though, it's just about my passion for life, which is most apparent in music and the way that I experience/share/play/create/listen to it.

Then in the summer of 2006, I got sort of a trilogy of tattoos, representing the three bands/musicians that have meant the most to me.




This is a very subtle reference to "Mayonaise" by the Smashing Pumpkins - When I can, I will - along with the bull symbol on the back of my neck because I am a Taurus. It's really a tattoo that describes my determination. If there's any possible way for me to do something I want to do, I will. I'm not a HUGE believer in astrology, but I do like the idea of "the bull" and the Taurus having more perserverence and determination. This idea of the bull during the bullfight - bleeding and dying and yet he still charges on until the very end. This tattoo is also a symbol of everything I feel when I hear "Mayonaise" - there's so much pain and sadness in that song and yet somehow - in spite of all of that - there's acceptance. (The picture isn't great because I tried to take it of myself. Haha.)



The next tattoo that I got that summer was this Radiohead bear, and the lyrics, "Immerse your soul in love" (which are of course Radiohead lyrics.) Not only does this tattoo represent my love for Radiohead, but it reminds me to do just that, immerse my soul in love. Choose love instead of fear. I got this one facing me so that I could easily read the lyrics as it was really a message to myself. (In a way, you could say that all of my tattoos are a message to myself or reminding me of something I need to remember.)



The next tattoo is a picture of Morrissey on my leg. Underneath him, it says, "Don't forget the songs that made you cry and the songs that saved your life." Morrissey/The Smiths were that for me. When I was younger (19 or 20), whenever I was feeling incredibly depressed and alone, I would listen to Morrissey or The Smiths and know that I wasn't. Someone else understood, somewhere. And while it seems like we're all isolated, we're all going through these things together, we're all feeling the same emotions. And in our seeming isolation, we're actually connected.



I got this tattoo in October 2006 shortly after I began a new relationship. I am a Taurus with a Cancer rising, and he was a Cancer with a Taurus rising, so we each got this symbol. Matching tattoos. Underneath his, he has my lyrics, "Please just let me try to consume you," (from "Let Me Try" which I sang with Ruby), and underneath mine, it said "Come fly away with me tonight," which is from the My Brightest Diamond song, "Dragonfly." While our relationship didn't work out, I don't regret getting the tattoo because it was what I was feeling at the time, and it was something I went through. Something that made me who I am.



In the summer of 2010, I got this tattoo. It's from Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the lyric is from the end of "Midnight Radio." I had just played Yitzhak in the play, and the play/film has been such a huge part of my life. (In the summer of 2003, my friends and I went to see the performance of Hedwig at Actor's Express at least 30 times! We were officially the show groupies.) But the main reason that I got this tattoo and that I got those lyrics is because, like Hedwig at the end of the film/play, I have learned that I don't need an "other half" to be complete. I am complete in myself. "Lift up your hands," is a celebration. I'm celebrating being who I am, like Yitzhak who finally gets to be who s/he is at the end of the play. I'm celebrating life. I'm celebrating wholeness.



Also in the summer of 2010, just before I went to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico to start graduate school, I got this tattoo. It's a quill (obviously) with the line, "And I must borrow every changing shape to find expression." Not only is that one of my favorite lines from T.S. Eliot, a line that was also referenced in <i>Painted, </i> my first produced play, but it is so symbolic of everything in my life. I had wanted this tattoo for quite a while since I've always been obsessed with writing, but I felt that a few days before I left for Mexico to start work on my creative writing MFA was the appropriate time. Even more perfectly, this tattoo now covers the zodiac tattoo that represented a failed relationship. Because out of love and heartbreak and pain comes creation. You must use every experience - borrow every changing shape - to learn and grow and create. I don't think of this as "covering up a mistake" - I think of it as a "rebirth" of the tattoo. I can still see the outline of the symbol from the previous tattoo. I know that underneath it's still there. Because underneath any work of art, there is pain and heartbreak and emotion.








So just as I got a tattoo when I began grad school, I got another tattoo last weekend now that I have finished my Master's degree. It was sort of a present to myself.

There is a light that never goes out. This could mean so many things. There's a quote from Morrissey where he says, "When you’re a teenager and in your early twenties it seems desperately eternal and excruciatingly painful. Whereas as you grow older you realise that most things are excruciatingly painful and that is the human condition. Most of us continue to survive because we’re convinced that somewhere along the line, with grit and determination and perseverance, we will end up in some magical union with somebody. It’s a fallacy, of course, but it’s a form of religion. You have to believe. There is a light that never goes out and it’s called hope." So based on this, I think the song is about the hope that one day you will fall in love -- or someone will fall in love with you or both. The hope for love. That is light that never goes out. In another way, though, I see hope in general as being the light that never goes out. No matter how bad things get, no matter how dark it is, there is hope that tomorrow will be better. There is a light that never goes out.

Of course, I have always loved this song -- I even cover it sometimes -- and the tattoo is a symbol of my love for not only song but my love for art in general (as all of my tattos are in some form), but it's also a reminder that there is always hope - there is always love - there is always art.

You could also take it one step further and say that there is something eternal in all living things that never dies and that is the light that never goes out. There is a way to metaphysically read anything!

And really, you can kind of say "we are all isolated and yet connected through art" is the theme of all of my tattoos. This is also why I was so obsessed with "The Waste Land" when I finally understood how that poem more effectively expressed that theme than any other piece of art I know.

So those are my tattoos. Clearly, I'm a big fan of tattoos (much to the dismay of my parents), and all of mine really mean a lot to me. I have clear patterns and themes with all of my tattoos - they all reference some kind of art or an aspect of art - they all have words - they're all in black ink (with the exception of the quill which has "red ink" spilling out of the ink bottle). And they're all pieces of me. The most appealing thing to me about tattoos is that they give you an opportunity to reflect your values, your personality, and the things that are important to you in your appearance. And there's something romantic to me about having all of this music and art etched into my skin.



1 comment

  • Janie

    Janie England

    I came across this while looking at Radiohead tattoos, it seems we have similar tastes in music. I just wanted to say that as I was reading this post you clarified the feelings that linger in the back of mind which have no way to make sense of themselves. I hope one day I can do that for myself, and recognise the things that mean the most. I also want to get 'There is a light that never goes out' tattooed. As you say, it is very universal.

    I came across this while looking at Radiohead tattoos, it seems we have similar tastes in music.
    I just wanted to say that as I was reading this post you clarified the feelings that linger in the back of mind which have no way to make sense of themselves. I hope one day I can do that for myself, and recognise the things that mean the most.
    I also want to get 'There is a light that never goes out' tattooed. As you say, it is very universal.

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