From the earliest moments of my ability to permanently store thoughts in my brain, I have memories of being creeped out by a number of ordinary things. Such things included polo shirts, those narrow zippers on the back of women’s blouses, V-neck tee shirts, brown tortoise shell buttons, Henley collars and doilies.
Topping that list, though, were tattoos. They frightened me, and the idea of touching one made me queasy. I don’t know how this visceral aversion came to be embedded in my being, but it persisted for quite some time.
As an adult, a lot of my neuroses have dulled. For example, I can sit next to someone wearing a polo shirt on the subway and not feel like I need to wash my hands afterward. More importantly, my inability to cope with other people’s tattoos has pretty much faded into nonexistence. I even find myself actively liking them sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong; I would still never get a tattoo myself. Getting a tattoo implies a religious-like belief that you will continue liking what you like at the time of the tattoo for the rest of your life. I just don’t have that kind of faith in my tastes.
If I were the type of person who was into body art, I would currently be regretting a seven-year-old tattoo of the entire West Wing cast on my back and a sleeve of Dido lyrics on my right arm.
But, as far as other people’s tattoos, I am completely over that phobia. Except, there was this one time when I was visiting home in Houston, Texas a couple of years ago when it came roaring back.
My older brother was, at the time, seeing woman who I was becoming increasingly wary of. There just seemed to be something off about her. So, when within an hour of my being home, she declared, “Noah, I am gonna get you laid,” I was very hesitant.
First of all, I’m not really a “gonna get me laid” kind of guy. I’ve certainly done things that would fall into the genre of one-night-stands (college!), but it’s not my favorite.
Sex is a time when everyone is sweating and saying stupid shit about the stuff they’re touching. It’s embarrassing to do that with a near stranger. And, on top of that, the very concept of one of my brother’s girlfriend’s friends could not have been less appealing to me. So, I responded, “I’m OK! Please don’t.”
Still, she pressed on and tried to sell me on her friend. “Number one,” she began, “she’s Asian!” (A little backstory real quick… One time I dated a Korean girl for 3 months and now my whole Jew-y family thinks I have an Asian fetish.) “And, number two” she continued, “she has a tattoo… of a gun on her neck!”
Every negative feeling I had ever had toward tattoos came flooding back. I just could not handle the thought of a neck tattoo that was also a gun. I imagined cupping my hand around the side of this girl’s face with my thumb just in front of her ear and my palm resting on the gun. It turned my stomach. That’s the type of tattoo you only get when you are positive you are never going to run for Congress.
I don’t think I’ve slept with anyone so far in my life who is actually going to run for Congress, but they all theoretically could. Not this girl, though. She can’t even run for state agriculture commissioner.
And, for some reason, that freaked me out in a very gastrointestinal way. I think the only way I could accept a neck tattoo of a gun as a net positive would be if the gun was on the front of the neck, pointed upward at the head to suggest an ironic self-awareness of how bad of a tattoo that is.
By way of pleading, I was able to convince my brother’s fiancé not to set me up with the gun neck tattoo woman, and the rest of my visit home went without incident. But, sometimes, late at night, the thought of that tattoo will pop into my head, and I feel like a neurotic, frightened child again.