Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On My Tattoo (Or, Hey Guys, I Got a Tattoo)

So I got a tattoo a few months ago.

I wasn't planning on saying anything about it, as it was something that I did for myself and shouting about it on the internet right after would've felt like cheapening the moment somehow. However, enough time has passed (3 real life months is basically the same as 3 cyber years) and enough people have noticed it to make me realize that I really need to get better at telling this story.


I got a tattoo a few months ago. Truth be told, it's not something I ever thought I'd do - not because of a problem with tattoos, but because of the permanence of it all. If you're going to have something etched onto your body, I feel like you've really got to be committed. Emotionally, I totally was. I knew exactly why I wanted to do it and what I wanted it to mean. The problem was settling on a visual that would represent that. Several times, I thought I had it, and I'd walk around all smug and satisfied and bad-ass-here-we-go until my old friend doubt would show up and ruin the party.

And here's the thing - I'm all about telling doubt to frak off, because otherwise I wouldn't get anything done. Ever. However, there are exceptions to just about every rule, and if your brain is saying, "Don't put that on yourself forever, idiot," maybe pay attention.

This went on for years - actual years - past my initial, "Maybe I'll get a tattoo...," thought, until I settled into a happy holding pattern of, "Yup, maybe I will, but really probably never..."

Then a thing happened.

At the beginning of May, I went to see Jen Kirkman at the Punch Line. She was doing a stand-up set followed by a book signing, and I was totally on board for all of that. I went alone, because I accepted long ago that while there would be plenty of things in life I'd be able to do with other people, sometimes I'd be the only one who wanted to go somewhere or do something. Flying solo is way preferable to missing out. However, there were two drawbacks to being by myself that evening: 1) There was nobody to watch my tea (shut up, it was cold and I don't drink alone) when I had to go to the bathroom, and very special episodes of every show I watched growing up told me this would lead to me being roofied (I wasn't). 2) I had no wingman to make sure I didn't make an ass of myself during the signing.

'Cause listen, I've had the honor and pleasure of attending several events that have given me the opportunity to meet people I think are awesome, and I love it. There's something kind of soul satisfying about looking someone who's given you a gift through a performance or a book or what have you in the eye and saying, "Thank you for making this thing that inspired me or helped me or just made me happy, and thank you for being here right now and signing this or taking this picture or whatever." The challenge is making those words come out of my mouth. I'm a human being. A shy, nervous, overthinker of a human being.

So while I stood there after the show, first in line (my secret signing nightmare), waiting and wishing I hadn't insisted on finishing that second tea, I decided that the exchange would go one of two ways: A) I would say, "Great show," and, "Thank you!" and then hope that my hands would stop shaking by the time I got to my bus stop, or B) I would say both of those things, then go the extra mile and mention that I'd really enjoyed her episode of The JV Club podcast, because I had.

I've spent so much of my life as an option A girl - safe but scared. That night, emboldened by nothing but green tea, I decided to go with B. And it went well. I left giddy, happy with the exchange and proud of myself for opening my mouth and saying words. A year ago, I wouldn't have done that. A year ago, I would've gotten dry-mouthed and tongue-tied and died a little because that's what any kind of social situation with strangers does to all of us (right?!?!?). Personal. Growth.

By the time I got on my bus, I knew. I knew what I wanted my tattoo to be. It was so clear, so beyond doubt, that it didn't even pop into my head as, "I think this is what I'll do," so much as, "This is it, duh."

The aforementioned JV Club podcast (which I posted about here), hosted by Janet Varney and full of hilarity, sincerity, and everything in between, has been kind of a game changer for me in the best of ways. It's so honest and thought-provoking and therapeutic that my actual therapist is pretty much giving me bonus points for being a listener (disclaimer: I don't think therapists actually give you points). Without going into extreme detail, the podcast has helped me move past so many of the roadblocks I put up in my own life through the simple act of helping me feel like I'm not alone, and I'm a better person for it. Not only that, I feel motivated to keep becoming a better person.

It's kind of funny and awesome that someone who's peripherally been a player in my life for years - Janet's been involved in a bunch of stuff that I'm a fan of and, along with Cole Stratton and David Owen, co-founded SF Sketchfest, which is pretty much Second Christmas - now feels kind of like a friend that I hang out with via headphones for an hour a week and just don't talk to. The conversations on the podcast are that casual and natural and fantastic.

I got the JV Club logo tattooed on my left wrist on May 19th by Kevin at Cold Steel. It's there to remind me that I make an active choice every single day to not be the frightened, angry person I was for so long. It's there to remind me that I am capable of getting through bad days (or months, or years), because they're still going to happen. It's also there to remind me that I have a gorgeous, phenomenal life full of love and light and pure joy that will just keep getting better if I get out of my own way. Once it was on my wrist, I knew I'd made the right call, because it felt like it always should have been there.

So I guess, what I'm trying to say is thanks, doubt. You helped me hold out for something pretty rad this time.

Side note: The day I got my tattoo also happened to be Bay to Breakers here in SF. If you're a runner, it's a race. If you're most of the city, it's a reason to put on a spandex tiger costume and start drinking in the street at 10 AM. Every year, I say I'm going to stay in the house all day, and every year, I manage to forget and make plans. However, the staff at the shop seemed to genuinely appreciate that I was sober and that my best friend, who accompanied me, did not have a tambourine.

Public Service Announcement: You can't donate blood for a year after getting a tattoo. I had a mini-crisis of conscience when I looked this up, because I'm a regular donor (and an in-demand type O donor, which just made it worse) and suddenly felt wildly selfish. I eased my guilt (a little) by donating a couple days before my appointment, and while it's maybe ill-advised to schedule back-to-back activities that result in blood loss, it all worked out. Consider donating in my stead and visit your local blood bank today.

When my best buddy Jennie got her tattoo a few years ago, I was on hand (literally - she's a hand holder) for the experience, and she was always adamant about returning the favor. I am not a hand holder, however, so she took my phone and documented the occasion. Pics after the jump.

Kevin was a really nice dude who made everything completely awesome. With AC/DC providing an appropriate soundtrack (I mean, most of my important life events take place while, "Back in Black," and, "Hells Bells," are playing), we chatted about Tron and horror movies and superheroes. Maybe it was the endorphins and adrenaline coursing through my veins due to the fact that he was technically stabbing my arm repeatedly with a wee needle, but he was very easy to talk to and my biggest fear - that I wouldn't be able to hold still - was unfounded.

It also didn't particularly hurt, just some pinches in a couple spots, which I promise is me being honest and not trying to sound like a badass.

Kevin at work. Me, pro-status holding still.

Things we can't see: how profusely my hand is sweating through that sheet.

Jennie: "Look at what a good job you're doing talking!" She's a supportive friend.

Finished product. The braces are my favorite part.

With JV Club host and all-around excellent human being Janet Varney, who is the only person outside of my immediate circle that I did share my tattoo news with, for obvious reasons. Of course, the second after I sent that e-mail, I was worried that I'd made it weird. I had not. She was stoked. Also, fun fact: first photo-op of my life where I am not a giant. Tall girl solidarity.

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