I have not lived an edgy life. I admit, I'm pretty conservative. In fact, a student of mine once told me that I wear too many turtlenecks, though I suspect L. L. Bean has been happy with my go-to, fall-through-winter staple.
Sure, I have in my closet skinny jeans, peep-toe pumps and a few outfits I wouldn't wear to work. I even have double piercings in both my ears. I've been known to color my hair and to paint my nails.
I draw the line at ink, however.
For all its mainstream appeal, and with my 30s almost behind me, I have not succumbed to the lure of the tattoo. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I have anything against tattoos. On other people, they work fine. My wedding gift to my ex was a tattoo;my brother has plenty, as does his girlfriend; and plenty of my other librarian and educator friends have tattoos. I know they're not just for the younger, rebellious generation.
For a while, I seriously considered getting one. Maybe it was a delayed "quarter-life crisis" at 29, but for that whole year I contemplated getting a tattoo and/or a navel ring. Neither was forthcoming. Both involve needles, which is not a big draw for me.
On a solo trip to Cozumel that same year, I really wanted a temporary tattoo painted on my stomach. The food poisoning I contracted there put the kibosh on that idea. Before I turned 30, I even went so far as to go to tattoo parlors and look at their tattoo books and at the navel rings.
But, I imagined being 80 and wondering why I'd selected this or that tattoo. I wondered how it would look if I ever got pregnant and later, wrinkly. Sure, they're reflections of one's personality. Most people I know take a lot of time to craft the perfect one— and some of them are amazing. Still, I hesitated.
It's not that I'm afraid of commitment, or afraid my taste will drastically change. I mean, I still use the bureau my parents bought me when I was 4, and the jean jacket I got when I was 10. My cat is 12, and I'm not tired of her. And some of my favorite books are still the ones I read when I was a child. So, it isn't that.
The edge I live on, I think, is the edge where I am actually happy with my pale, uninked skin. I like having the same beauty marks (OK, freckles, moles, but admit it — "beauty marks" sounds so much better!) that I've had my whole life. I like knowing that when I am 80 those will be the only marks (aside from some scars) on my skin. I didn't choose them, but they are the only coloring and designs that are permanently me.
These days it's actually countercultural, in some ways, not to have a tattoo. And, I think it's OK. All that considering I did before I turned 30 paid off. By not being able to decide on a permanent symbol of what I valued most or what seemed the most "me," I decided to stick with my original packaging.
Do I paint my nails, change my earrings, color my hair? You bet. But, I won't be changing the skin I'm in anytime soon.
So, I'm not hiding anything under my turtlenecks, they're just darn comfortable. And when my grandkids want to know why I never got a tattoo, I can tell them that I'm really just happier the way I am.
That's the most special thing I could put on my outside: how I feel about myself inside.