When I was a part-time lifeguard, my coworkers and I had three main topics of conversation: the local radio station’s lousy music selection, the lousier parents who showed up as much as a half-hour after closing time to collect their little brats, and if we could get tattooed, what tattoo we’d get. This was a time, back in the Olden Days, when high-school kids didn’t get tattoos, and there’d be no way in our claustrophobic little town that we could’ve gotten inked without running into someone we knew anyhow. My mother, for instance, spotted my friend Sally surreptiously buying condoms in the drugstore downtown, and I never heard the last of it. So, the tattoo discussion was very much hypothetical, but no less entertaining. The consensus was that Erik had the best idea, to get a speck of food tattooed on the side of his mouth, just big enough to be noticeable. It’d be hours of amusement, watching people try to discreetly get him to wipe his mouth, we figured.
But eventually we’d circle around to the same point: Wouldn’t that gag get tired after awhile? Might a facial tattoo be awkward in a professional situation? What if it became discoloured or lost its shape? Those seemed like obvious concerns to us, that our bodies would crease or sag or change and that any permanent marking probably wouldn’t stand the test of time. We weren’t necessarily the most mature and wise — we also enjoyed cajoling kids into doing cannonballs in front of the opposite guard stand and after hours jumped off the pool’s sloped glass roof into the snowdrifts — but we understood that tattoos were for a lifetime while our lap-toned bodies were not. Which is why this piece, which treats the idea that Tattoos R Forever as some kind of revelation, seems sort of naive.
Then again, that might be the right word for someone who gets a tattoo of a unicorn.