I stared up at these options, nonplussed, scared. I jabbed desultorily at what seemed to be the most innocuous drawing - a heart - after being talked out of the next-safest, a ladybug. In retrospect, it would have been nice if I'd gone with the ladybug, since Rachel on Friends got a heart tattoo right around the same time. I'd love to be cool and tell you that my devoid-of-meaning tattoo came first, that I wouldn't get a heart tattooed on me just because a character on a TV show did, but let's be honest, I had the hair, and I probably did. It's not like a heart is something novel and unique in the first place, so whether I did or did not get this tattoo in order to be more like Rachel Green is really of quibbling import.
I've thought often in the intervening years about getting another design - something more meaningful, and somewhere more conspicuous, somewhere that I don't have to bare skin to show off my ink. But I never thought of a design that mattered very much to me, so I slotted the tattoo idea for "later."
A few weeks ago, I saw this amazing blog entry about how a NY comedian met his idol, Morrissey, and got Morrissey to write "Morrissey" on his arm, and then he got it tatttooed, and the wheels began a-churning.
I started fantasizing about what I might have Amy and Emily write on me, if I ever had the chance. I dismissed "Indigo Girls" because a band name feels too obvious and billboardy. I thought of "Lucystoner," a reference to Amy's song "Lucystoners," which is a reference to Lucy Stone, the first woman to refuse to change her name after marriage. I love the song, and I love the idea of proclaiming my feministy-grrl-power, but I saw three issues with putting "Lucystoner" on my body, to wit: 1) The song is about sexism in the music industry, an issue which, while I care about it, doesn't really affect me; 2) It's an Amy solo song, not an Indigo Girls song, and 3) The casual observer would totally just assume that my name was Lucy and I liked to get high.
Then I thought of getting "a+e=ig" lengthwise across my arm. Then Joanna said "But... Nazis?" and I was like, "Huh?" and she was like, "Concentration camps... serial numbers tattooed on the forearm..." and I was like, "But I had this friend who got writing there and it looks so cool," and she said "but this is vaguely numerical and you know, might evoke the Nazis." Vaguely evoking the Nazis, or even possibly doing so, is not a chance you want to take, particularly when we are talking about a thing that is going to be scrawled on your body for the remainder of your life, so I scrapped that idea too.
At this point, I stopped talking about the tattoo with people.
Because when I thought of the right thing, I knew it immediately.
And I didn't require confirmation.
I picked the song about a dead cat. It's never been my favorite Indigo Girls song. I don't mean that I dislike it, although believe it or not there are a few IG songs that don't do it for me, but it's never risen to the top of the heap as a beloved, freedyed mantra song. It's an important song, from arguably their most important album, and it's a beautiful song. I've always liked it. But it's never been my favorite. It's a eulogy. It's a song about a dead cat.
It's also a song about bravery, ascension, change, freedom, rebirth, joy from pain, fiercing it out, breaking ties that bind, and raging against the machine, and it embodies everything I want to be thinking about at this moment in my life. So I resolved to shore myself up for the next chapter by getting a message of strength - solitary strength - inked on me by two people I idolize.
Warning: I am about to describe the experience in creepily minute detail. Creepily Minute Detail should probably be the name of this blog. I hope you do not expect otherwise at this point.
So I'm at the stage door. I'd just seen a show - my first time in 26 Indigo Girls concerts seeing them by myself. It is all very fitting. Seeing them alone was a thrill. I didn't have to share them with anyone; it was just me, and the girls, and the energy of faceless hundreds. The show was like every IG show - better than the one that came before. I don't know how they manage this, but they always, always do.
Emily. I smile at Emily, brazen, not nervous, like we are friends, like she's as excited to see me as I am to see her. Unlike the last time I met Emily, I didn't ask someone else to speak for me, and I didn't sob helplessly afterwards. I said something about how amazing they are, gush, gush, and then I asked her to write the word "Secure" on my arm. "In block letters?" she asked. "However you want to write it." She wrote casually - big, expansive, childlike letters - smiled, and moved on.
Amy. She is so rare and so pretty and her eyes are - how can I put it? like stars. like the sun. like the moon. they aren't like anything. I dismiss caution by looking directly at them, and then I ask her to write "Yourself" under where Emily has written "Secure." This is the first time I have met both girls after a show, and it is also the first time I have asked a gay icon to write on me, unless you count that time I had Carson Kressley write "Surfboard" across my chest. Amy scrawls in tight, compact capitals, very different from Emily's, and I thought, "Exactly." From somewhere on my left someone said "She's getting it tattooed," and Amy said "Oh? They can probably clean it up for you at the place." I focused - of course - on Amy's wrist bearing down lightly on my arm, willing the seconds to slow down, and I said "Well, I wanted it in your handwriting," and she laughs out a charming bit of self-deprecation: "Oh, I've got terrible handwriting." She's finished now, and it's perfect, but I don't want to fawn or contradict. I just say thanks. Again. How can I ever really thank these people so that they understand. I can't. I don't even try.
You know, it's not like I'll ever need to be reminded that I like this band.
But all the same, a reminder is a nice thing to have.
falling softly as the rain, no footsteps ringing in your ears
ragged down worn to the skin, warrior raging have no fear
secure yourself to heaven, hold on tight the night has come
fasten up your earthly burdens you have just begun