Before anyone goes off on a cultural appropriation rant about my totes inappropes actions, I got this tattoo nearly 20 years ago before cultural appropriation was even a thing, apart from the fact that it’s obviously a huge thing even if 96.5% of people don’t completely understand it fully.
I’m now considering ancient languages so as not to offend. This sounds like I’m being a smart arse but I’m deadly serious. I’ve had some sanskrit tatts designed and I’m just deciding whether or not I actually want more tatts because these have to go on my arms.
‘Is that a Chinese symbol?’ He asked.
‘Can I have a closer look?’
‘What does that say?’ he asked very slowly….
I told him the Chinese word, and then I translated it –
‘You think it says that?’ He asked incredulously and my mind dashed to all of those pictures of dumb-ass bogans who get ridiculous tattoos without researching first.
‘Are you saying it doesn’t?’
‘Let me look again’
Then he laughed. And I laughed a nervous laugh because he was laughing and it could only have been eggier if one of us actually farted.
‘Tell me!’ I demanded.
The next few minutes were so awkward that they are hard to describe. He blushed, he tried to use his phone voice recognition and perform charades rather than actually speak the words.
I remember the exact moment I decided to get ‘integrity’ written on my body. I was on a bus in India. I spent a lot of time on buses for a few months in my early twenties and it gives you much time to reflect.
I had been thinking about the times I had been less than honest. I worked in bars, with drunk people everywhere and often I was drinking too, or worse.
Sometimes there was some loose ‘accounting’ that went down. Sometimes drunk people forget their change, or leave their wallet. I wasn’t always my best self in those moments.
One day one of my colleagues who I worked beside for months got busted fleecing the till. Her loose accounting involved taking a little bit extra and collecting it up over the night and taking a skim at the end… Clever if you can keep track so the till balances, not clever if you get caught.
I was shocked that my friend was a thief.
I was thinking about her in the dusty landscapes of India and I realised that any time I was less than 100% honest, I was no better than her and I decided that I would live my life with 100% honesty.
I would get the word integrity tattooed on my body to remind me that I could not live any other way.
When I told my mum about what I was doing and why she had a tear in her eye and she asked if she could get the same marking. I took her to The Illustrated Man where a huge, tattooed bearded guy inked my mum in the same spot.
Over the years, if I have been tempted to do something that I would not be proud of, I try to think of that mark on my back.
“Just tell me,” I demanded, cracking up at the ridiculousness of this situation.
“You have my full permission no matter how inappropriate it is to say to a client, what does my tattoo actually say?”
It still says integrity, if you look really closely. And squint a bit.
The thing is an almost 20-year-old tattoo that sees a lot of sun blurs like an old sailor’s tattoo and the blurring can make it look different.
He was too embarrassed to tell me what it means, but he indicated it means to kick someone somewhere.
“The bum?” I asked
“No, not the bum”
“The penis?” I thought by being anatomically correct he may spill the beans.
“Uh uh”, he replied shaking his head.
” I can’t tell you,” he said and the conversation was closed but he did not confirm or deny that I may or not have ‘vagina’ written in Chinese on my body.
I reckon it’s fairly safe to say that my tattoo that once had such a strong meaning now says something along the lines of “I want to kick you in the vagina” however knowing my luck it’s probably not vagina exactly but some fantastic Chinese slang for lady parts that is shocking to the average bear.
That’s freaking hilarious.
If you can translate this tattoo and you can confirm or deny this, please, please, please, help me out!
PS My mum’s tattoo never saw much sun so is still in pristine condition in case you are wondering.