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A Best Selling Tattoo
I went on a date on Saturday. I’ll pause for a moment while you reread that to make sure you did, indeed, read it correctly. And you in the back, stop laughing. It’s true, though. I went on a date with a real life girl. A beautiful one too, with charisma and charm, who was witty and interesting and educated. It had been quite a while since my last real life date with someone not referred to me as if she were a radiology center for an MRI test. Nervous? You bet, but I think it went well, and that is all I’m going to share about that right now.
I read an interesting little story today that we’re going to talk about. And yes, it’s modification related. On the Huffington Post website, I read a cute little piece by a woman named Melanie Benjamin. And though I don’t readily trust people with two first names, I read it. And here was the gist of it. Ms. Benjamin wrote about writing. She wrote about the toil and struggle of finding success in the theatre of literature. She wrote about her dream of writing a best seller. On these points, I can relate. The difference between her and me is that she achieved that success and I’m a no talent hack. Within her regale of words, she mentions a drunken moment of exclamation that signed a figurative contract. She, while a little tuned up, promised to get a tattoo if ever she were to appear on the New York Times Best Sellers list. The assumption here is that she is not already a part of our beautiful culture. Otherwise the agreement would have less gravity. It would be as if I made the same bargain. But I assume that modification isn’t something that is a ready and fervent part of Melanie Benjamin’s reality. She did achieve the success that all writers strive toward, and her book, “Alice I Have Been,” became a New York Times Best Seller. Congratulations to Mel. Can I call you Mel? In the blurb she wrote about the tattoo agreement, she mentions that her wise and probably kick ass husband called her out on her tattoo deal she had made years before. I’d like to high five Mr. Mel for that. Melanie then continues with a question: “Do I really have to get a tattoo?”
Let’s pause for a moment. I am one of those people that will most always do what he says he’s going to do, especially if it is a dare or a bargain. See also, my navel piercing. (And yes, it’s a pink gem.) Part of that is my addiction to rules and honesty, but a different part of it is the fun and spontaneity that life can provide. The immediate affirmation of life that is the relinquishing of pride or shame when someone points at you and says, “Hey, you promised. Now do the stupid thing you said you’d do.” At the end of the day, it’s fun; and fun is, well, fun. I’ll wager that each one of us can do with a little more fun in our days. Except that guy over there with the tie dye shirt reading Manga books. Settle down, chief.
Back to Melanie Benjamin and her tattoo promise. We’re not going to talk about how people have a tendency to use our culture as a reality vacation or a something that is fringe enough for them to participate in but not entirely commit to. We’re not going to talk about tattoo and piercing for the sake of its happening, nor are we going to talk about how making a tattoo agreement like this is a bit outside of the sense of beautification that we enjoy through modification. We’re going to keep this fun, damnit. So Mel talks about her life, how she was always a good person. Treated people well, good grades, the whole thing. And interestingly, that is the part of herself that she thinks wants to modify. I suppose that the shackled good person is always the one who wants to run, but again, we won’t talk about the assumption that modification is behavior unbecoming of a good person. Another part of Ms. Benjamin wants not to modify. The fear part, the part that sees a small, first tattoo as a bar set and futures goals to raise the bar to follow. That, and she’s afraid of needles. Who isn’t, right? A tattoo machine doesn’t look like a needley needle anyway. The most interesting point she made for not modifying was this: “...if I never hit the bestseller list again,… ...I don’t want to be reminded…” That is insightfully wonderful.
I hope someday I can relate to this dilemma. I hope I can look at a modification and know that I acquired it after my book sold a trillion copies. But the dilemma itself is very interesting. Ms. Benjamin wants not to be reminded of her past success if she is not currently achieving that success. And as we all know, the tattoo is forever, and forever can be a long time. (Which reminds me of how hilarious it is that the zodiac dates have recently been changed.) But my perception of forever is the moment after this. And the moment after this. And the moment after this. Having the modified reminders of moments in my life are beautiful things to me. Looking onto my tattoos, and even some piercings that I’ve had for a stupidly long amount of time, reminds me when. Whatever that when is, it reminds me of it. And memories are wonderful things regardless. I suppose that “I heart Jay 4-Eva” tattoo on your ass is probably reminiscent of a time you’d rather ignore. At least, your boyfriend who’s not Jay and balls up behind you probably thinks so. But there are moments in our realities that will be good ones for as long as forever is. Like memorializing a birth, a death, a friend, an accomplishment. I can understand how Ms. Mel’s tattoo could maybe taunt her forever if she never sells the best again. But what will always be true for the rest of forever is that she was a best seller. No one can take that from her regardless. She will always have been a best seller. Who wouldn’t want to be reminded of that? That’s a problem I wish I had.
Melanie talks about how artists need motivation to create, and few truer words have been written. Well, maybe all that stuff Jesus said in the Bible. But she’s correct. We need to be motivated, inspired and challenged. We also need the bar to be raised just far enough for us to need to squint to see it, but still attainable. Achievable. From my modified perspective, what better motivation than to have something in your skin for the rest of forever that tells you, “Hey; you were great once. You’ll be great again. Go be great.”
I hope Ms. Melanie Benjamin modifies herself and joins this wonderful and beautiful culture that you and I celebrate every day. You and I know that modification is more than a piece of metal through a useless piece of flesh, or a fancy drawing between the layers of skin. We know that modification is a step toward self-actualization, comfort, and beauty. We know that what we do is a celebratory art form using our own carbon meat bags as the canvas. The fear of mod? Don’t worry, Ms. Mel. I’m scared too when I modify. But much like the beautiful, drunken glee of the night you learned about your best seller status, it’ll be a memory that will live forever in you and draw the corners of your mouth to the corners of your eyes every time you look at your modification and think, “This reminds me of my greatness.” We all ought to be reminded of our greatness. Go be great, kids. And stay beautiful.
Melanie Benjamin’s article:
Go tell her to get modified; she deserves this beautiful culture.
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