As Permanent as a Moment You Want to Keep Like an Heirloom


I got my first tattoo when I was sixteen. My boyfriend was skateboarding professionally and traded a local tattoo artist some Zero decks and Independent trucks in return for my first tattoo-- it was, much like every sixteen-year-old beach-blonde's first tattoo: my astrology sign, a roman numeral II for Gemini with a little butterfly on the side.

My second tattoo was much the same, in some dude's apartment in high school-- this time, Japanese symbols for Inspiration on my ankle. Cliche yet meaningful to me at the time and therefore meaningful still, although I'm not sure it actually says "Inspiration"... but that is beside the point.

I have a crown on my lower stomach that I got after stumbling into Sunset Tattoo in the mood for something, um, regal? I have a grape vine up my foot (San Francisco) three different stars around my wrist, each accumulated in a different city (London, San Francisco, Los Angeles) divided by the word: evolve (as in the stars are evolving) an Anais Nin quote around my waist (East Village, NYC) and a daisy whose petals fall down the outside of my thigh. And now this on my left forearm:


This was the only tattoo that wasn't spontaneous: the words I have made my modus operandi: Tell the Story Until it Comes true. I told myself if and when I ever sold a book I would tattoo these words to my arm, like a permanent cheat-sheet to life, to remind me that there is nothing more powerful than a story, than believing in the themes and the characters and the possibilities of happy endings or at the very least, learned ones. That if I wrote enough manuscripts (four, total) eventually one would be published.



These words have appeared in some context in everything I have ever written, both fiction and non and I stand by the idea that through narrating our lives and adventures we will discover our own truths. That by believing in our stories we can write and then re-write our lives accordingly.

I don't believe in destiny but I believe in fables. The Anais Nin quote around my waist was taken from one of my favorite books, House of Incest, which says:
"What is allotted me to say? Only the truth disguised in a fairytale..."

That is what writers do. We disguise the truth in stories and fairy tales. We tell stories in hope they come true, for our characters and for ourselves. (Is there even a difference?)

We tattoo our stories on the world or the walls or pages of books and/or websites, brushing up against the truths of others with our skin or the very least, the glow of white beneath our type face.



I have always loved tattoos, for a very simple reason: they become a skin you cannot shed. I remember where I was in my life for every tattoo on my body. I remember what I was wearing, feeling, and why I walked through the door buzzing from the sound of the needle. The souvenirs of moments both significant and not become stories in themselves.


And to me that is what matters most.

GGC

49 comments:

Anonymous | 3:35 PM

beautiful. simply.
Pascale

Whit | 4:30 PM

Love it.

I have friends that get tattoos on a whim, that's not to say that I don't have a couple of those myself, but they have dozens that mean nothing to them. Why?

I love tattoos also, for similar, though not as eloquent reasons, and the fact that you found something that sits so well with you, and now on you, is beautiful.

Aline | 4:43 PM

Looks awesome! And it's a great choice, an excellent piece of advice, and it looks just lovely. :)

I got my first tattoo 2 months ago in Thailand. A bamboo tattoo of the Thai word for "island" (pronounced like "koh"). After self-mutilating myself for most of my teen years, now I've let someone else do it (a sweet Thai guy with happy eyes), and I like myself more than I have in a very long time.

Cheers to you and the new tat, may this be just one of many wonderful changes!

Daddy 2.0 | 4:58 PM

AND NOW, FOR A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT VIEWPOINT:

Yuck.... get a life - okay, okay - SORRY - I fucked up saying that! - I meant, Get a motivation - one that does not involve a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling that you feel obligated to hang on to for the rest of your life. You will grow up someday (maybe at about 35 like me?)- and find all of these graphics all over your body - that could have alternatively been in code or on paper somewhere..... You know by now that life evolves - it is simply not that permanent... if it is, go get Archer some tats that illustrate how he is feeling right now. Yeah, right????? You are a child at heart, but the heart will change over time..... if it does not, it will grow stagnant. So it will change, oui? And still FEEL young. Sooooo, why leave more tracks of moments gone by when there is new stuff ahead?

laurie | 5:31 PM

beautiful. all of them. congra-tatulations.

Scarlett | 5:38 PM

i love it just like i love all your other tattoos. lovely.

Misfit Hausfrau | 5:56 PM

What a powerful tattoo. Good for you!

bitemycookie | 6:42 PM

dear asshole2.0:

did you seriously just ring rebecca's doorbell and leave a flaming bag of poo? yes. you did.

1. you don't show up in someone's blog comments with an asshole judgmental opinion about the very thing that the person has posted is so precious to them.

2. with a blog as boring as yours, really, you should keep your judgmental asshole opinions to yourself so as not to draw attenion to your asshole boringness.

3. judgmental asshole parents beget judgmental asshole children. so good luck with your unborn spawn. it's gonna be an uphill battle for it to survive in this fucking culture with a dad who's gonna pass down such stupidity.

4. you are an asshole. truly. do you honestly think a lecture about one of the most ancient forms of art -- body or otherwise -- is going to play with a tat-lover like rebecca? your opinion, here, is meaningless. especially when it diminishes the writer's very thoughts and feeling behind his or her actions, which she is kind enough to share with you.

you seem new to blogging so i will primer you up so you don't show your asshole again:

commenting is a privilege.

trolls are unwelcome.

don't be a disrespectful asshole and neither will i.

now. go far, far away.

Motherhood Uncensored | 7:25 PM

and you tell it well, friend.

Kyran | 7:40 PM

so lovely. i totally get it, although I haven't gotten any myself because I am averse to the cliche factor. but the closest I came, it was because I was going through a huge personal transition and I needed an outward sign of what was happening within.

then I found out I was pregnant.

so I figured I was as good as inked. :)

it was so great to spin around on the terrace at navy pier and fall straight into those amazing hazel eyes of yours.

wishing you every success.

xo

MetroDad | 7:45 PM

My buddy Charlie is the creator of the show "Miami Ink." Last weekend, we got into a discussion about the art of tattoing. GGC...you got some serious cool ink. I fucking love it (for so many damn reasons.)

And BMC? I forgot how much I fucking love you. Rock on.

Hadara | 8:29 PM

Wow...I've been meaning to comment FOREVER. I love this entry, as I love all your beautiful and poetic entries, and I love the cover of the book, and I can't wait to READ the book, and you are a daily inspiration of mine. What shop did you go to? I think the artist did a fantastic job. You've summarized the way I feel about tattoos so perfectly - I only have four, but each symbolizes a deep inner shift that I felt I wanted to commemorate in a way that was equal parts pleasure and pain. I love it - "tell the story until it comes true." I want to say that to myself every moment of every day until I realize MY dream - which is to win the Oscar for Best Original Score - and you will be in my thoughts. Seriously, congratulations - you're amazing!!

Lauraszoo | 9:38 PM

Neat, I like it, but... Owie, ouch, ouch! (I am a woosie)

Jonathon Morgan | 10:37 PM

I love the message. And think it's fucking awesome that you tattooed it on your arm.

Jonathon Morgan | 10:39 PM

ps: daddy 2.0 is a douche bag.

krista | 4:24 AM

Rebecca,

You are my heart sister.

motherbumper | 5:46 AM

GGC - that is one of the most beautiful tats I have ever set my eyes on, and even more beautiful now that I have read it's birth story. If I had a tenth of your talent, I would feel like the most accomplished artist on the planet. And BMC - YOU ROCK!

radical mama | 6:43 AM

That is some beautiful art! Congrats!

Miguelina. | 6:49 AM

I'm so happy your story has come true.

Binky | 7:14 AM

I always enjoy hearing your philosophy about writing truth. I still remember one of the first things I read of yours, which was a post on another blog about the James Frey memoir controversy. You've already made me a believer.

Major Bedhead | 7:40 AM

That is a seriously cool tattoo and a great story behind it. That, to me, is what tattoos should be about - about the story, about the feeling, not about the trend. I love tattoos, even though I'm too chicken to get one myself, and I really love hearing the stories behind the tattoos.

This was beautifully written.

m•riah | 8:16 AM

Awesome, great work! Lovely entry!!

prescott | 8:35 AM

I don't know why, but I'm really enamored with tattoos related to "what people do" for lack of a better phrase -- it just shows such a passion as opposed to a generic "tribal" armband. I know a chef that has a full sleeve of fruits, vegetables, and cooking utensils, and a jazz pianist with a bass clef on his left palm and a treble clef on his right.

I think it's great.

Wendy | 8:45 AM

Simply beautiful and beautifully simple..i love it - but then you know I love everything about you, Bec ;-) You really are an amazing woman

And BMC, girl, you are the WOMAN.

Susannah | 8:58 AM

I am simultaneously so happy for you and so jealous. It is my dream to publish a book; in reading your blog I feel as if I am catching up with an old writer friend. Congratulations.
As for tats--I have an embarrassing dolphin on my ankle, an even more embarrassing Chinese symbol for water beneath that (a mix of a teenage fascination with surfers and Bruce Lee). Oh well. It was a time. Now I have my daughter's name tattoed inside my wrist and that is by far the best story I have ever written.
Cool tat.

Mrs. Chicky | 9:01 AM

Gorgeous, like you friend. It's good to feel that level of passion for something, which seems to be something that others don't understand.

braiding mommy | 9:39 AM

lovely. great script and the other pieces sound beautiful as well.

Her Bad Mother | 9:50 AM

yesyesyesyesyesyesYES.

(running virtual finger along beautiful words on beautiful virtual GGC arm)

(removing finger from screen)

(finger now waving manically at douchebag 2.0)

mfk | 10:13 AM

oh so cool. just like you. I have zero pain tolerance but maybe after I have a kid, a tattoo won't seem so bad... right?

Amy | 10:46 AM

you = epitome of cool

boogiemum | 11:30 AM

Hi, I am a first time reader here, but after this post, will be a regular. I am hoping if I keep coming back maybe some of your coolness will rub off on me. Cuz I am so not cool. I have wanted to get a tattoo for quite some time but never had the guts to do so. Maybe the time is now?

Diatribal | 11:40 AM

Awesome phrase. Nothing like a permanent reminder to keep you "walking the walk".

BTW...came here via BMC's link to the douch-bag's post above. Gotta love friends like her..who defend you and bring you traffic!

shel | 2:16 PM

this inspires me to go get the tattoo i've been wanting to get for the last few years. i love the new one you got (along with the anais nin quote you wrote about). what a great reminder to have with you at all times. :)

Aurelia Bell | 2:35 PM

Your blog brings all the mamas and papas to the yard...and one asshole to boot.

I got my first tattoo a few months ago at the ripe, old age of 31. Pity that I'll look back at it in four years and lament my reckless decision.

I love the stories behind all your ink and this most recent one is gorgeous, just gorgeous Becca!

Unfit Mother | 3:15 PM

Just to piggyback on BMC defensive missive to douche bag 2.0: I am a 37 year old “grown-up” and I have 8 tattoos. And like yours, all of my ink marks a passage in my life and I regret none.

As soon as I am all done with the baby makin’ / milkin’ and my skin settles, I plan on getting more tattoos. I live in a house I own, I have a “real” job and one might even mistake me for a soccer mom on first glance at my trailing brood.

Beautiful post! Move on up to Portland, we like our mamas with many, colorful spots.

superblondgirl | 4:32 PM

I love tattoos and I wish I had a dozen more. I only have two, and before the first I was all "blah blah, I won't get a ton, they should all be really meaningful", but now I just wish I could afford to cover myself in ink. Your stars are gorgeous (I have one, too, only filled in and on the back of my neck). Congrats again on the book!

Anonymous | 9:57 PM

The odd thing about 2.0's weak point of view is that it seems to imply that there is such a thing as permanence in life. Somehow, if we wait until we are all grown up (whatever that means), we will plateau into sameness. Is it not pitiful to repudiate your life until the age of 35? GGC embraces life's fleetingness, and the different experiences she's had. Sucks for 2.0 that he can't do the same.

GGC Admirer

EricaS | 7:15 AM

Stunning ink, GGC. I have a lotus that commenmorates a death, so I'm feelin' the need for a little life, eh? I've been pondering for quite a while, and you a an inspiration for unique spots. Beautiful, Mama!

Chag | 7:36 AM

I think my comment was eaten.

Anyway, I've always said that if I were to get a tattoo, it would be of a phrase that had some sort of meaning to me. But I'm deathly afraid of needles, so that would never happen. My wife has three, though.

And ignore the naysayers!

And GGC Admirer/Anonymous brought up an EXCELLENT point.

Petite Mommy | 12:57 PM

I think the tattoo is beautiful..like you. My husband has several tats and each one means something different and are important to him and his life. I wish I could do it but I am TERRIFIED of needles. Maybe one day...

kittenpie | 7:12 PM

I love your new ink. Simple, clear, and commemorating something really wonderful, an achievement that, like the tat, can't be taken from you. Good for you on all fronts.

(I do have one question though - it always seems to me that the inside of an arm would be an awfully sensistive place, so one I have shied away from. How did it compare with some of your others in that respect?)

Jenn | 1:59 PM

What you said. 110%
I'm still getting inked even though I should know better.

Skin is my canvas. Every piece of art relays a story and time doesn't change that regardless of how old we get. It's a beautiful thing.

And if not for the financial constipation I'd be out getting more colorful reminders on a monthly basis.

barbara | 11:33 AM

It's lovely and so are you.

BOSSY | 1:56 PM

If Bossy ever sold a book she'd have to get this tattoo: Who knew, Chucklehead?

Anne Glamore | 12:13 PM

My husband and I got our first tattoos a couple of years ago at the age of 38.

We weren't quite so brave as to put them in a really visible place, what with the PTA and being lawyers, and I'm frankly disappointed in myself for that. Way to go, GGC.

I wrote about it long ago. My mom was horrified!

Meemo | 5:53 AM

I'm tattoo free, but I admire my sister who's a living work of art. She's got about 10 at this point and she just got a job at a tattoo parlor. Free tattoos.

I just told someone that I'd been thinking of getting one and she said at "at your age, what is this a mid-life crisis". I'm only 35. So I didn't get one when I was a youngin, it's never too late. Is it?

PunditMom | 7:38 PM

You are a bold and awesome woman. It was an honor to meet you. I'm not sure I will ever have the courage to tatoo myself on the ocassion of book publishing or anything else, but those words are so true.

motomama | 5:38 PM

i am not sure where i read it (re-search mag?) but the quote was "a tattoo is a talisman for those who have chosen a path". congratulations on yours.

jennie | 10:52 AM

your newest tattoo is fantastic. I love it, perfect design and placement for the words.