The Best of Auntie Mae’s Various Ramblings on Life in a Small Town Series

Ida Mae Nowes

Nubbins Special Correspondent 

Ruby Crapman was all in a tizzy this week at the Nubbin’s Tuesday night bridge club meeting. Seems her 17-year-old son, Hern, wanted to get himself a tattoo. 

I refrained from commenting that if I had a name like Herndon Crapman, I’d probably consider a tattoo myself.

She went on and on about the horrors of body piercings and tattoos – mostly about the threat of hepatitis and west Nile virus and maybe even cooties, I don’t remember what all, and how you can never give blood once you have a tattoo and how most tattoo parlors are havens for drug dealers – all the usual stuff that folks bring up in such conversations, some of which are true and some are not.

Ruby told how Hern was wanting his tattoo to be a band of barbed wire winding around his upper arm. She just rolled her eyes when she described it, and all the ladies nodded their heads, as if to say, “My oh my, what is the world coming to?” 

It is sort of odd to think about scrawny, blonde, blue-eyed Herndon, who’s always been scared of yellow jackets and snakes, to imagine himself with barbed wire around his arm. But maybe that’s the appeal of a tattoo – being somebody you always wanted to be.

Folks have always been trying out new ways to be somebody they aren’t. When I was a young girl, my brother went through that phase. He had the most gorgeous red wavy hair you can imagine. That beautiful red hair was ooed and ahhed over his whole life, till he got to be about 15 and decided he’d had all the ooin’ and ahhin’ he could stand. That’s when he went down to the drug store and bought himself some black hair dye.

Unbeknownst to the family, he went up into the bathroom and dyed his hair pitch black. The next morning he showed up at the breakfast table without a word. Just sat down and started into his eggs. Everybody stared with their mouths wide open until Ma started to cry. But my big brother was trying on something new – seeing what it was like to be somebody else, somebody with black hair instead of red. It didn’t take too long until he realized he actually liked the redhead he had always been. Fortunately for my brother, the dye grew out.

That’s the trouble with a tattoo. It ain’t ever going to grow out. Now, everybody goes through a time when they want to be somebody else, but eventually they realize there’s no  escaping the fact that you’re stuck with who you are. If you’re lucky, you may even end up liking yourself.

Now, in my mind it’s one thing to get a tattoo when you’re 15 or 17 or 22 and you’re still trying on all those “somebody elses” for a change. At that stage, I say go ahead and die your hair purple or get a Mohawk or wear really baggy clothes. Go ahead and figure out if that’s really you. But it’s different if somebody has already figured out who they are and is happy with that person. Then, if that person says, “By jimminee, I believe I want a tattoo,” well, what’s the harm?

I must have been on my best behavior Tuesday night because during this conversation I refrained from pointing out that not everybody who has a tattoo is prison-bait. I left it to Helga Lee to pull up the back of her shirt and show everybody the tattoo of a cat on her left shoulder blade she got last year when she retired. I’m glad she did though, cause that shut everybody up pretty quick, and then we could get on with the cake.